Suckin’ Daphnes

I’ve been surprised to see the black swallowtails regularly enjoying the nectar of the summer-flowering daphnes…in this case, Daphne x napolitana ‘Bramdream’. Our plants are thriving, growing in our full sun rock garden.

Monarch Bait

As gardeners around the country are encouraged to plant more asclepias to encourage monarch butterflies, many folks are finding out that not all species of asclepias make good garden plants. As a genus, asclepias consists of running and clump forming species. There are number of horribly weedy garden plants like Asclepias speciosa, Asclepias syriaca, and Asclepias fasicularis. These plants are fine in a prairie garden, but are disastrous in more controlled home gardens.

One of our favorite clumping species is the easy-to-grow, Arizona-native Asclepias angustifolia ‘Sonoita’. This superb species was shared by plantsman Patrick McMillan. It has proven to be an amazing garden specimen, thriving for years, despite our heat and humidity. Did I mention it flowers from spring through summer?

Swallowing Stokesia

This is the time of year when the tiger swallowtails feast on our many patches of the amazing native Stokes aster. Our favorite clone is the upright growing Stokesia laevis ‘Peachie’s Pick’. Moist soils are best, but stokesia tolerates some dry conditions on a short term basis as long as it has 2-6 hours of sun.

Redring Monarch food

One of the little-known native asclepias, milkweed, is flowering in the garden this week. Asclepias variegata, redwing milkweed, is a widespread native, ranging from Canada and Virginia south to Florida, and west to Texas. So, why is this virtually unavailable commercially? Our plants typically range from 1.5′ to 2′ tall, although 3′ is possible. For us, it performs best in part sun to light shade.

The specific epithet “variegata” which refers to two colors on the flower was certainly a poor choice, since most asclepias have multi-color flowers. Of course, Linnaeus didn’t have the benefit of the internet back in 1753.

Cooking up a Joe-Pye

We wanted to create a buffet for local butterflies by our patio, and a mass planting of Eupatorium purpureum ‘Little Red’ did just the trick. Not bad for a highway ditch native.

Baptisias: Great American Natives!

Baptisias, commonly known as false indigo, are North American native members of the pea family and quite drought tolerant once established. They provide amazing architectural form in a sunny garden or perennial border, and are deer-resistant and a butterfly magnet (See the top 25 flowers that attract butterflies here.).

image of Baptisia 'Blueberry Sundae'

Not only do baptisia come in blue, which many people are familiar with in the most common species, B. australis, but they are also available in a wide array of colors such as white, yellow, purple, and pink, and new breeding efforts are producing bicolor flowers such as those of Lunar Eclipse.

Baptisias have long been one of our favorite groups of sun perennials here at PDN. Through our trials of new varieties introduced  to the market, as well as our own breeding program, we continue to select for improved structure and habit as well as flower color. In 2017, we have introduced 2 new varieties in our Tower Series, Yellow Towers and Ivory Towers. These join our previous introduction, Blue Towers, all having a vigorous upright habit to 4.5-5′, terminating in 18-20″ spikes of flowers, true show-stoppers in the garden.

image of Baptisia 'Yellow Towers'

Baptisia ‘Yellow Towers’

Due to high demand, we quickly sold out of finished stock of Ivory Towers, but don’t fret, we have another crop coming along and they should be ready just in time for our Spring Open Nursery & Garden Days April 28-30 and May 5-7. And be sure to join us on Sunday May 7 at 2pm for our Gardening Unplugged garden chat series, where Tony will be talking about baptisias. You can also read Tony’s more in depth article about baptisias, here.

Surprise Lily and Butterfly Season

Lycoris x rosea with Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

There are few times of year more exciting for us than lycoris (surprise lily) season, and we are right in the midst of that now.  We’re also enjoying peak butterfly season at the same time, which is really great since butterflies love to drink surprise lily nectar.  It’s hard to put the camera down with so many great photo opportunities, so we thought we’d share one of our favorites from this week…an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Lycoris x rosea. (See more flowers that attract butterflies). See the top 25 flowers that attract butterflies here.

Butterfly bush – Buddleia ‘Blue Heaven’

Buddleia Blue Heaven clump in flowerLooking especially great in the garden today is Buddleia ‘Blue Heaven’.  This amazing butterfly bush was hybridized to have a perfectly rounded, compact shape throughout the growing season without any clipping.  Here’s our amazing plant in the garden this week.

Also, check out our in-depth article about Butterfly Bush and our article on the top 25 butterfly garden plants. Check out our quick guide on How to care for Buddleia

Butterflies have been busy

Pipevine swallowtail larvae on aristolochia

We know it’s hard for some folks to wrap their mind around being excited when insects eat your plants, but that’s how nature works.  In the best scenario, the insect eating the plant is as beautiful or more so than the plant their eating.  I just snapped this photo of the larvae of the Pipevine Swallowtail devouring all of our aristolochia (pipevines) in the garden.  This actually doesn’t harm the plants, and before long, your garden will be filled with these beautiful butterflies below.  No spraying, please. See the top 25 flowers that attract butterflies here.

Lantana camara Star Landing with butterfly (62966)A pipevine swallowtail enjoying a lantana nectar snack here at Juniper Level.

 

Centrosema vine

Centrosma virginiana flowers closeup

I just snapped this photo yesterday in the garden of the native (Illinois south to Florida) Centrosema virginianum (butterfly pea) vine.  We don’t currently offer this, but if we did, would you buy it? See the top 25 flowers that attract butterflies here.

Aristolochia fimbriata

Aristolochia fimbriata foliage5

One of my favorite foliage perennials is unquestionably Aristolochia fimbriata.   While the flowers are insanely cool and produced all summer, the foliage is just so hard to beat.  Even where it isn’t winter hardy, Aristolochia fimbriata makes a great summer container spiller, sprawling to about 2′ in width.  Here’s how it looks in the garden today. See the top 25 flowers that attract butterflies here.