It’s a cold day in the Dakotas, but a great day to do catch up reading here at Plant Exchange Blog. These are some garden-related topics on attracting more butterflies in the yard, like this monarch on Agastache. Also there’s an item on free leaf mulch, attracting more kinds of birds and a possible perennial grass for the plains.
- If you want more butterflies in your yard, having a bigger yard is not as important as having more diverse plants. Plants don’t need to all be native plants either. A mixture of native and non-native plants that attract pollinators is preferred. Pollinators include flies, ants, moths, beetles and others along with butterflies that help pollinate flowers. Many of these are non-specific, meaning that lots of kinds of flowers will provide pollen and nectar. But some are obligate pollinators, visiting specific plant flowers. To attract more obligate pollinators, including their host plants is necessary. More blooming swamp milkweed or butterfly weed in late summer means more Monarch butterflies will be drawn to your garden. The Royal Horticulture Society and University of Sheffield in England studied these pollinator questions and found the answers: http://www.bugs.group.shef.ac.uk/BUGS1/bugs1-index.htmlThe Xerces Society provides information about plant/insect relationships. Article on this topic is found in November/December Horticulture magazine.
- Leaves are free mulch to conserve water in the soil, keep soil cool in the heat of summer, and suppress weed growth. Shredded leaves break down faster and take up less volume for storage. Leaves may be covered with designer wood mulch in the spring for appearance.
- To attract more birds to the yard, provide more variety in food options. As well as stocking feeders with an array of kinds of seeds, consider planting shrubs with berries, leaving seed heads on plants such as grasses, coneflowers, sunflowers. Birds congregate in trees and shrubs that give protective cover while they they wait their turn at the feeder. Water is a draw for birds, especially open water in winter, such as a heated birdbath. A welcoming habitat and enough space for territorial birds, draws a variety of birds. Monitor cats that track birds. Wait to clean up some plant materials such as butterfly weed and milkweed fluff and other nesting materials for next season. Article and bird photos are found in the November/December Northern Gardener magazine.
- For living on the Northern Plains, there aren’t so many distinctive perennial grasses that accent during the growing season and then add glowing color in fall. The invasive Miscanthus sinensis has drawbacks, but Molinia caerulea may become mainstays. Chicago Botanic Garden has held trials of cultivars of Molinia that appear to be promising for full sun, well-drained alkaline or clay-loam soil. In the trials of 16 forms of Molinia, they appear to be quite cold hardy, tolerant of a little less than full sun and slow enough growing not to require frequent divisions. Molinia is a deciduous grass that needs cleaning up in fall, so it does not provide winter interest, but the range of fall colors are broad. Trial results are available in the December 2018 Fine Gardening magazine.