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GOOD WINTER READING FOR GARDENERS

GARDEN TIPS – written by – Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

published – December 19, 2014

Winter is a great time for gardeners to catch up on their reading. If you do not already have a stack of books waiting for you, here are a few suggestions for your winter respite.

Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies by David G. James and David Nunnallee could be classified as a ‘coffee table’ book because of all the beautiful color photographs of not only adult butterflies, but also each stage of their life cycle. You might not think of butterfly caterpillars as attractive, but this book reveals their unique beauty.

This comprehensive volume was ten years in the making and covers the life histories of the 158 butterfly species found in British Columbia, Washington, northern Idaho, and northern Oregon. Gardeners, hikers, amateur entomologists, and natural history buffs should not miss this book. James and Nunnallee also cover the biology, ecology, and rearing of each butterfly species included in the book.

A botanist at heart, I am intrigued by the book, The Drunken Botanist. Few botany books make it to the New York Times Bestseller list, but this one written by Amy Stewart, is a bonafide hit. It is subtitled ‘The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks’ and focuses on the herbs, flowers, trees, fruits, and even fungi that humans have used to make alcoholic brews and spirits. This book is said to be a mix of ‘biology, chemistry, history, etymology, and mixology’ and includes fifty cocktail recipes as well as growing advice on many of the plants used in the recipes.

This is not Stewart’s only book with an intriguing title. She is also author of Wicked Bugs – The Louse that Conquered Napoleon’s Army & Other Diabolical Insects and Wicked Plants – The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities.

Next on my list for reading is any issue of Green Prints – The Weeders Digest, but I would suggest subscribing and starting with the 100th issue of this literary gardening magazine. I recently received a copy and it reminded me of this wonderful little quarterly magazine. The editor started the magazine 25 years ago with the intent of getting to the human side of gardening, not the how-to of growing plants. In any issue you will find sweet short stories, heart-warming tales, anecdotes, pretty artwork and poetry about gardening that will make you laugh, smile, or cry. It will certainly cheer the gray winter days. To subscribe go to: www.greenprints.com.

If you want to make the most of these winter months, you might want to study one of the best references available for gardeners on the topic of pruning, American Horticultural Society Pruning and Training by Christopher Brickell and David Joyce. This book is subtitled ‘The Definitive Guide to Pruning Trees, Shrubs, and Climbers.’ The most recent edition was revised and updated in 2011. Dr. Ray Maleike, retired WSU Extension Horticulture Specialist, recommends this book to gardeners with pruning questions. Available only in paperback, it costs less than $20. Another good paperback tome on pruning, An Illustrated Guide to Pruning by Edward F. Gilman, costs over $100, but it is rich with diagrams and illustrations. If you read all 496 pages, you will be a pruning expert!

Published: 12/19/2014 12:37 PM

GARDENERS CAN HELP SAVE THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
Published 11/23/2012

As a little girl I can remember watching a green chrysalis turn into a beautiful monarch butterfly. It was amazing!

The distinctive orange and black monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) migrates each year from northern areas east and west of the Rockies to spend the winter in Mexico and along the California coast. There are two different groups or populations of monarchs, the eastern population breeds in the east and overwinters in Mexico and a few of the warmest southern U.S. states. The western population breeds in the west and overwinters in sunny California.

East or west, it’s only one generation of butterflies that fly south in late summer, some traveling as much as 3000 miles, but it takes three or four generations of the butterfly to make the return trip all the way back to the northern U.S. and Canada each year.

To enable this long trip back, the multiple generations of monarchs depend on milkweed they find along the way. Adult butterflies feed on the nectar of milkweed and other flowers, but monarch larvae only feed on milkweed. Without milkweed, they can’t reproduce.

Because of threats to its milkweed habitat and overwintering sites, there is concern over the monarch butterfly. While not yet an endangered species, monarch enthusiasts are worried because the monarchs aggregate in large populations in a limited number of sites when overwintering in Mexico and California. This makes them particularly vulnerable to logging, development, agriculture and other human activities.

There is also concern about the loss of milkweed habitat in this country, as well as the possible toxic effects on monarch populations from the pollen of genetically modified corn.

While USDA researchers at the Agricultural Research Service’s Research Unit in College Station, Texas were researching a better chemical lure to trap boll weevils, a serious pest of cotton, they discovered a lure that’s attractive to milkweed stem weevils. Stem weevils are a major milkweed pest. This serendipitous discovery will be used to develop a trap that will help scientists monitor the movements of the stem weevils and protect the prized monarch’s milkweed habitat.

Home gardeners can help too. The Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) is a partnership of federal and state agencies, non governmental organizations, and academic programs that are working together using a science-based approach to protect the monarch butterfly. They note that changing land management practices has led to a loss of native milkweed. The MJV is urging home gardeners to plant milkweed in their gardens.

Monarch Watch, a volunteer group of monarch and milkweed advocates, recommends planting milkweeds native to the region in which you live. They have identified the common species of milkweed that are found in different regions of the U.S., that are used by monarchs during their migrations, and that are easy to establish. A list of these milkweed species can be found on the Monarch Watch website (http://www.monarchjointventure.org/Milkweed/Milkweed info sheet.pdf).

Planting regional milkweed species is ‘easier said than done’ because you can’t find packets of milkweed seed at any garden store. To help you locate sources of regional milkweed seeds and plants, Monarch Watch has also put together a list of vendors for each region. (http://monarchwatch.org/bring back the monarchs/resources/plant seed suppliers)

You can be part of the effort to protect the awesome monarch butterfly, both by planting some milkweed in your garden and by learning more about the attempts to protect it. Every child should have the chance to see this awesome creature turn from striped caterpillar, to chrysalis, to beautiful butterfly.

Published: 11/23/2012 1:16 PM

ATTRACTING BUTTERFLIES

written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

“Build it and they will come.” I know you’ve heard that quote from the movie “Field of Dreams” applied to a variety of situations and I’m shameless enough to use (or misuse) it too. However, I’m going to modify it to “plant it and they will come.” If you plant the right plants, you can attract butterflies to your yard and garden.

The butterfly bush is one plant that is truly a butterfly magnet. The butterfly bush attracts various butterflies with its many spikes of purple to pink flowers. This shrub is not a particularly neat plant and perhaps not well suited to smaller landscapes and gardens. Buddleia davidii is the most common species of butterfly bush grown by local gardeners. It grows into a large arching, somewhat rangy shrub, 5 to 10 feet tall. During our milder winters it survives intact, but during more severe winters like this past winter, they usually die all the way back to the ground. Even if the winter doesn’t take them back to the ground, many gardeners prune them back to just above ground level to maintain their shrubs at a smaller, more manageable size. This doesn’t cause a problem since the flowers form on the new wood that grows each spring.

Buddleia davidii is easy to transplant and grow. It thrives in well-drained soils, but will also grow in alkaline soils and other rather tough or polluted situations. Butterfly bush needs full sun for the best growth and flowering. Buddleia davidii has purple-lilac colored flowers, but there are also various named cultivars of it with deep pink, mauve, lilac, blue, reddish-purple, or deep purple flowers. It has few pest problems with mites and earwigs sometimes causing minor trouble.

While Buddleia davidii is the most common form of butterfly bush, there are over 100 species and cultivars in the Buddleia genus. Some species bloom earlier in the season on the previous year’s wood, such as Buddleia alternifolia, B. asiatica, B. colvilei and B. globosa. They’re pruned when flowering is over in the middle of summer, not in late fall or early spring. Prune these types to maintain shape and remove the oldest wood. Blooming earlier in the season, these species provide for butterflies that also make an early summer appearance.

The different species are a bit different than Buddleia davidii. B. alternifolia has small lilac color flowers on drooping branches with willow-like leaves and grows to 12 to 15 feet tall.

B. asiatica has white flowers and big and grows to 15 feet. B. colvilei has big, tubular, dark pink flowers and grows to 15 feet tall. B. globosa has round clusters, instead of spikes, of orange flowers. The leaves are big and leathery and the plant grows from 10 to 15 feet tall.

There are also other species and numerous Buddleia hybrids being offered by the nursery trade. Buddlleia davidii and many of the Buddleia species are native to China, but B. globosa is native to Chile. Horticulturists and plant breeders are still seeking out new species and trying to develop new cultivars and hybrids. I recently purchased a yellow-flowered butterfly bush to serve as a companion to my Buddlleia davidii cultivar ‘Harlequin’ which has variegated leaves with a creamy white edge and red-purple flowers. By the way… I thought my ’Harlequin’ was dead this spring and was prepared to dig it out. My patience (or procrastination) was rewarded when it started to sprout at the base and grow new shoots in late spring.

As much as many gardeners appreciate the ability of Buddleia davidii to attract butterflies and bees there is concern that it’s become a weed problem and it has even been declared a noxious weed in Oregon. Tim Butler, supervisor of the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Noxious Weed Program, notes that this popular ornamental “has extreme invasive qualities. Like other noxious weeds, it is very competitive with native plants .” Buddleia davidii has been placed on Oregon’s “B” list of noxious weeds. Washington’s Noxious Weed Board is also considering declaring butterfly bush a noxious weed because it has become invasive, displacing native plants in a variety of natural areas such as coastal forests, roadsides, abandoned railroads, streams and river banks.

Butterfly bush is a tough plant that can even get started in the cracks between sidewalks. The many little flowers produce an abundance of seeds that seem to find their way about on the wind. Many local gardeners have not noted that their buddleias are invasive, but the bushes located in the Bird and Butterfly Garden in the Master Gardener Demonstration garden located in Kennewick, have been know to sow their seed in nearby parts of the garden. While many gardeners still want to include this plant in their gardens to attract butterflies, we should take care not to let them become weedy. This can be accomplished by removing the fading flowers as they fade and before they shed their seed and by destroying “volunteers” that come up from seed.

There are also other less invasive garden plants that we can use to attract butterflies. Some of these are daylily, petunias, lavender, phlox, aster, cosmos, zinnia, yarrow, lilac, thyme, ornamental milkweed, and liatris.

Published: 7/10/2004 2:20 PM

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