Farmers Market & Native Plant Sale

First off, we want to thank all of you who have already purchased plants from us this spring!  Your efforts to plant native plants and add more habitat for wildlife in your outdoor space is incredible!!!  We thank you, and so will the many bees, birds, butterflies, and other pollinators that will visit.

We are excited to announce that the Olathe & Lenexa Farmers Markets have reopened! For a list of our market dates, and the plants we are planning on having available for purchase, please click on the link below.

Spring Farmers Market Dates

For the second year, we will be participating in the Deep Roots KC – Native Plant Sale.  This will be a pre-order / prepay only sale, with pickup scheduled for Saturday, June 6th at the Prairie Village Pool parking lot.  For more information on this sale, and/or to order plants from us, please click the link below.

Deep Roots KC – Native Plant Sale

If you have any questions, or would like help picking out the right native plants for your outdoor space, please Contact Us … we’d love to help!

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Top Photo – Coral Honeysuckle (May, 2020)

Growing Milkweed for Monarchs

Growing Milkweed for Monarchs - Picture with Daniel & Elsie
We were asked by the Lenexa Farmers Market to let customers know what we’ve been up to during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order here in Kansas.  Growing Milkweed for Monarchs!  Pictured with me is our daughter, holding Swamp Milkweed plants, and our son, holding Butterfly Milkweed plants.   Their amazing Mama was our photographer!   

When we’re asked about the best ways to get Monarch butterflies to visit our yards we always start with Milkweed.  It’s simple.  Sure, Monarchs need more than just Milkweed… but without Milkweed their wouldn’t be anymore Monarchs.  Growing Milkweed for Monarchs is the answer.

We would love to chat with you if you have questions about Milkweed.  You can reach out to us by simply clicking the link below.  Due to the current stay-at-home order in Kansas, we won’t be able to see our customers at the farmers market and plant sales we had originally scheduled for this Spring.  Instead, we are taking orders on our website and are currently accepting orders for our second round of deliveries that will go out on Saturday, May 2nd.  For more information, and to see what we currently have available and/or to place your own order, please click the Order Plants link below.  We appreciate your support for our small business and sharing us with your friends!

Contact Us     –     Order Plants

If you live outside the Kansas City area, we would recommend ordering plants online from Prairie Moon and/or Prairie Nursery.  We have had great experiences with both in the past and would highly recommend each of them.

The weather these next few weeks should be great for planting more Milkweed in our outdoor spaces!

– Jay Parsons

Milkweed & Monarch Resources

Here are a few resources you may find helpful in learning more about the native Milkweed plants that are best for our outdoor spaces.

Butterflies Go Native in Your Garden! A great resource, created by Lenora Larson, provides great information on other native plants, other than Milkweed, you can add to your outdoor spaces to help create need habitat for many more butterflies.

Journey North’s For an update on the current status of the Monarch’s Northern Migration.

Milkweed for Monarchs Information from the National Wildlife Federation about Milkweed.

Monarch Population Status Here is Chip Taylor’s (Monarch Watch) thoughts about the current situation with Monarchs.

 

Spring 2020 – The Perfect Opportunity to Create More Habitat for Monarchs in Your Outdoor Spaces

EP - 3 years old - get your Milkweed the Monarchs are on their way!!!
Our daughter with one of the Monarch butterflies we raised, from a caterpillar, on the Swamp Milkweed plants we planted for them in our backyard. – September 2018

We love this time of year.  As the days get warmer we enjoying spending more time outside, seeing our favorite plants and insects come alive, and welcoming back migrating birds and Monarch butterflies to our yard.  For the past seven years, we have gradually been creating more habitat for bees, birds, and butterflies to our yard by planting more native plants.  Every year it gets better and better, and it’s been fun experiencing it all with our son and daughter!

Even though we’ve all been forced to embrace a new normal this Spring, it is still a great time to add and create more habitat for wildlife.  By adding even just a few native wildflowers, we can help so many pollinators and birds, while reconnecting with nature at the same time.  Plus, with so many of us spending more time at home for the foreseeable future, Spring 2020 is turning into the perfect opportunity for each of us to create more habitat in our gardens and landscapes by planting more native plants!

But here is the big why for me… the Monarchs are coming!  As of this writing, the Monarch migration has been paused, due to the recent cold snap, and the leading edge is just to our south, according to Journey North.  I have a feeling that as the weather starts to warm up in the next week they will continue their journey and we’ll start to see Monarchs again!  However, for many of these Monarchs, their journey is coming to an end.  The first Monarchs we see are more than likely the ones that have left their overwintering homes in Mexico to move north and breed.  As the frail female Monarchs look to deposit their last eggs they are in need of only one thing… Milkweed.  This next generation of Monarchs, as well as all subsequent generations, depend on Milkweed.  Milkweed is the only type of plant that Monarch caterpillars will eat, and this is why it’s up to you and me to plant more Milkweed wherever we have space!

We would love to chat with you if you have questions about Milkweed.  You can reach out to us by simply clicking the link below.  Due to the current stay-at-home order in Kansas, we won’t be able to see our customers at the farmers market and plant sales we had originally scheduled for this Spring.  Instead, we are taking orders on our website and we’ll begin delivering orders starting the weekend of April 25. To see what we currently have available and/or to place your own order, please click the link below.  We appreciate your support for our small business and sharing us with your friends!

Contact Us     –     Order Plants

If you live outside the Kansas City area, we would recommend ordering plants online from Prairie Moon and/or Prairie Nursery.  We have had great experiences with both in the past and would highly recommend each of them.

Let’s take this Spring and decide to create more space for Monarchs by planting more Milkweed in our outdoor spaces!

– Jay Parsons

Additional Resources

Monarch Watch

Journey North

Xerces Society

The National Wildlife Federation

Deep Roots KC

Contain the Rain

 

 

Creating Habitat… One Plant at a Time

A newly emerged Monarch caterpillar on Swamp Milkweed 6.4.19

I can remember like it was yesterday… my dad and I had just completed a small pond project in his backyard.  After the last stone was put in just the right place, and the water started flowing once the pump was plugged in, we sat back and admired our work.  For the next few days, as I sat out in my parents’ backyard, chatting about this and that, it became obvious that we needed to add some plants to help put the finishing touches to this new water feature.

We had heard about a plant sale being hosted by a local garden club in Omaha and thought we’d give it a shot.  As we strolled through the myriad of Geraniums, Impatiens, Petunias, and other flowering annuals, we came upon a section of plants that weren’t in bloom.  At first glance, I didn’t notice anything noteworthy about these “not so pretty” plants, so I continued on to the next table.  But before moving on I noticed a tiny picture of a Monarch, sitting on a pink flower, printed on a small plant label that was attached to one of those “not so pretty ones.”  I decided to take a closer look.  Swamp Milkweed is what the label read.  Huh… Milkweed…  I had heard about how Monarch butterflies use Milkweed for their caterpillars’ food, but had never seen a Milkweed plant for sale before.  Despite being short and skinny plants, these Swamp Milkweeds looked really healthy, and the tag said they liked to grow in wetter soils in full sun.  “Bingo!”  I thought… these would work great around our pond.  So, I picked out three plants, and with a sense of curiosity, took them back to my parents’ backyard to plant.

I wasn’t too impressed with them at first.  After planting them, they grew slowly at first.  After a few weeks they grew really well, but didn’t produce any flowers.  In fact, the only color they seemed to sport was the yellowish orange hue from all of the Aphids that were feeding on the stems.

I had almost forgotten about these plants, but around late July, the following year, they started to flower and they smelled like vanilla to me.  Plus, there were several kinds of bees that I’d never seen before stopping by for a drink.  Lady Bug larva had found the Aphids and would make quick work of them… so much was going on in this small area around our pond.  But, it wasn’t until I spotted a black, yellow, and white stripped caterpillar hanging out on one of the Swamp Milkweed that I froze. I got lost in the moment… this chubby bug had my full attention and just like a child, I was full of wonder.  What to some might have seemed like a mere bug sighting, to me, was a “holy crap… it worked,” type of moment.  I hadn’t seen a single Monarch butterfly, nor did I even know what their tiny eggs looked like, but there was no mistaking that this was a Monarch caterpillar.  Questions started swirling… how did it get here?  Were there more?  How big do they get?  On and on it went, and then I spotted another one… and another.  Altogether, there were seven Monarch caterpillars munching on our Swamp Milkweed!

Needless to say, this initial experience with these Monarch caterpillars,  helped to awaken a passion in me that has lead me in learning about native wildflowers, grasses, shrubs, trees, and the important connections they have with wildlife.  These often “looked over” or “misunderstood” plants are not truly the “ugly” ones… they are simply the “needed” ones.

When I’m asked about why I grow, sell, and landscape with native wildflowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees, the answer seems to surprise others.  What they’re most surprised about, is just how important native plants are.  When others discover that without them, our native insects, birds, and other critters wouldn’t have the habitat they need to survive, they get it.  What we plant matters… and it matters to so much more than we often realize. This realization is the beginning to discovering how we can each create a place for wildlife in our own outdoor spaces.

I’d love to hear your story about how you’ve learned about native plants and/or added them to your outdoor space to help create a place for pollinators, birds, butterflies, and other critters. If you’re new to native plants, and the role they play in creating habitat, we’d love to help answer questions and lead you to just the right plants for your space.

Creating habitat… one plant at a time. It’s that simple! Happy planting!

Fall is for Monarchs

So many of my favorites come with fall.  Cooler weather, fire pit nights with neighbors, college football, apples, pumpkins, leaves that change color, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Monarchs.  Fall, for so many reasons, is my favorite time of the year.  What has made it even more fun for me is the annual Monarch Migration to Mexico.  Here in Olathe, Kansas, the peak of this migration hits around the middle of September.  We’re so excited to see some Monarchs!!!

To celebrate, and educate, about this amazing Monarach migration phenomenon, the Pollinator Prairie in Olathe (320 S Black St. Olathe, KS 66061) will be hosting their annual “Hasta Luego Monarchs” event on Saturday, September 22nd from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. This free event is great for kids of all ages!!!  This year, Parsons’ Gardens will be partnering with the Pollinator Prairie to host a Native Plant Fundraiser Sale.  We’ll be set up from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. / or until sold out, and for each plant sold, we’ll donate $2.50 to support the Pollinator Prairie!!!  For more info, check out the flyers below. Looking forward to a great event!  – Jay Parsons2018 PPG Hasta Luego Monarchs Flyer

Hasta Luego Monarchs - Native Plant Sale - Parsons' Gardens - 9-22-18

A Look Back at Fall

As the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, fall is fading away as winter starts to take center stage.  With the first day of winter upon us, Christmas right around the corner, and the beginning of a New Year soon to follow, many of us are caught up in the hustle of the season.  But, before I get completely immersed in the winter season, I wanted to take one last moment to remember my favorite season of the year, before it bids us farewell.

Fall has been my favorite season for as long as I can remember.  As a kid, I could remember how much I loved the start of a new school year, watching football with the family, playing outside with the neighbor kids in the cool autumn air, and getting excited for all of the Halloween and Thanksgiving festivities.  So many great memories.

As I look back on many of these memories, I’m amazed at how many of them include the sights and smells and sounds of fallen leaves.  Before long, I’m taken back to moments where leaves weren’t seen as those dreaded things that clog up your gutters or make a mess of your lawn.  Instead, these fallen leaves provided my friends and me with the materials needed to make a giant leaf pile… the kind all of your buddies would want to dive into.  I can remember at times getting so excited when we would get the chance to rake leaves into giant piles.  It didn’t seem like a chore, but rather a game.

I’m not sure when it started, but my dad would gather up the leaves we’d rake up and put them in a big pile beside his garden.  He’d use some thin garden fencing he had to construct a simple “leaf cage” so the leaves wouldn’t blow away.  It was a simple pile, nothing fancy, but boy would it grow.  In the following spring and summer, he would use these leaves to create the base for his compost pile.  The next spring, after the grass would start to green up and grow, my dad would catch some clippings while he mowed, and add it to the leaves to help get his compost pile started.  It didn’t take long before the leaves and grass clippings started to heat up and decompose, helping to create some rich, homemade, compost for his garden.

As a gardener now myself, my perspective on fall leaves has changed.  I no longer see them as just a mess to clean up, but rather a great source of organic material that can be used to make mulch and compost.  Over the years I’ve learned one of the most efficient ways to collect and reuse these “nature treasures” is to set the rake aside, and use our lawn mower.  Here are some simple things I do to shred, collect, and use these leaves in our garden and landscaping.

  1. First, I put on the side shoot attachment to our lawn mower.  If your current lawn mower doesn’t have one you can instead raise the height of your mower all the way to its highest setting.  What I like about the side shoot is it enables the mower to cut up the leaves and then spread them over to another area to the side so they can be easily mowed over again.  I like to make a few passes over the yard like this, making sure the side shoot is aimed toward the grass areas and not the landscaped areas.
  2. Once the leaves have been mowed over a few times, I take off the side shoot attachment and put the mower’s bag on.  If I have a lot of leaves I will leave the height the same… if there are fewer leaves I’ll lower the mower down a few notches.  As I mow over the leaves again to pick them up in the bag, they get one final cut.  After a pass or two, the bag will need to be emptied and I simply dump the leaves into a sturdy trash barrel and return the bag and continue mowing.  Once the barrel is full, I’ll carry it back to the leaf pile where I’ll dump them out.
  3. I’ll use these shredded leaves as mulch in our raised garden beds, as well as around our native wildflowers and grasses.  I’ve found that when I add a 3-4 inch layer of these shredded leaves to these areas before winter, the soil stays evenly watered while keeping early weed seeds at bay.  Adding an additional layer in June also ensures a good coverage throughout the hot summer months that will continue to retain the soil’s moisture, keep the soil cool, while also slowly adding organic nutrients to the soil as they decompose.  Not only that, but this leaf layer helps to create the perfect environment for earthworms and soil microbes to be active and beneficial to surrounding plants!
  4. The remainder of the leaves in our leaf pile will be used in our compost pile and will help to create some pretty amazing soil amendments that we’ll use in our garden and on our lawn.

Leaves Before
Before we started mowing over our neighbor’s backyard leaves a few times with our mower.

Leaves After
After we finished collecting the shredded leaves with our mower’s bag.

Leaf Pile - November 17
This year’s leaf pile!  We have been collecting our own leaves, as well as some of our neighbor’s leaves, and dumping them in this pile instead of setting them out on the curb to be picked up as yard waste.  We received these orange Jack o Lantern bags of leaves from another neighbor.  Our city won’t take leaves in these bags, so we gladly took them, dumped out the leaves, shredded them up with our mower, and then added them to our growing pile.  Definitely extra work, but for me, having all these leaves means I’ll be able to mulch around our native plant areas in our backyard this fall and have a great supply of organic material to add to our compost pile all season next year!

More helpful resources:

K-State’s Research & Extension – Solutions for Getting Rid of Fall’s Abundant Leaves

The Spruce – Using Autumn Leaves in the Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milkweed… Monarchs… & Migration

We are excited to support the Pollinator Prairie’s “Hasta Leugo Monarchs!” event on Saturday, September 16 from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m – 320 S. Blake St. Olathe, KS.  This is a free event that’s great for kids of all ages!  We have donated 30 Swamp Milkweed plants that will be given away at the “Bringing Nature Home” tent.   We planted these plants from seed in early June and they are ready to help create wildlife habitat in someone’s outdoor space.  Be sure to stop by to grab one before they’re gone!

Swamp Milkweed Plant
One of the Swamp Milkweed plants we’ll be giving away on Saturday, September 16 at the Pollinator Prairie’s “Hasta Leugo Monarchs!” event.

If you are able to snag one of these Swamp Milkweed plants, we’d love to see a picture of you with it!  You can message us on Facebook and/or Instagram @parsonsgardens or by contacting us.

Swamp Milkweed & Monarch Label Pic
A male Monarch butterfly grabs a sip of nectar from one of the Swamp Milkweed plants we have growing in our backyard.   August, 2017

If you are interested in purchasing more Milkweed for Monarchs we still have a few available.  We’ll be selling Milkweed, and other native wildflowers and grasses, at the Olathe Farmer’s Market on Saturday, September 23 & 30 from 7:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  For availability – Milkweed for Monarchs – Market List – Parsons’ Gardens – Updated 9-8-17

The Monarch migration has begun!  To learn more about this year’s migration check out these two great resources:

Monarch Watch

Journey North

Tagged Monarch
One of the Monarch butterflies we reared and released after finding her as a caterpillar on a Milkweed plant in our backyard.

Have questions about Milkweed?  Not sure which varieties to grow in your outdoor space?  Wondering how you can be apart of this year’s Monarch migration?  Simply complete the fields below… and share your questions with us… we’d love to help!!!

National Pollinator Week – 2017

So much going on this time of year.  Just celebrated Father’s Day… Spring turned into Summer… lots of people saying, “I do!”  June only has thirty days, but what it lacks in time it sure makes up for in opportunities.  For me, as an elementary teacher, I’ve grown to appreciate the month of June as like the Saturday of Summer vacation, a time for transitioning, a slow down, and a time for getting stuff done.  Just like any good Saturday, June can offer a reprieve from the normal grind and a chance to focus on other things.  Although, for many, June is a busy month… it’s “Go Time!”  The workload seems to have no end and so too the days.  The old saying, “busy as a bee,” never seemed more fitting.

Ah, a perfect segue!  “Busy as a bee,” a familiar idiom that can be traced back to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, way back to the late 1300s.  But even before Chaucer’s day, civilizations have noticed and appreciated these “busy” bees.  As early as 650 B.C., ancient Egyptians kept bees and even moved them along the Nile river to follow the fields in bloom.  The bees not only made the sweet honey the Egyptians so loved, but were also helping to pollinate their food crops.  Talk about multitasking!  Fast forward to today, and you’ll discover that the Honey bee continues to play a critical role, right here in the United States.  Many of our food crops, like California Almonds, require pollinators to visit their flowers, capture their pollen on their bodies, and redistribute it to other almond blossoms.  Without the Honey bee, millions of Almond blossoms would not be pollinated and never produce their seeds, the almonds.  Due to the shear number of Almond trees in need of pollination, honey bees are shipped out to California in February, much like the Egyptians did on the Nile river, to assist with the Almond bloom.  Once they are finished with this busy job of pollinating the Almond blossoms, these bees will be loaded back onto trucks once more to travel across the country to their next “pollination job.”  Without the help of these nonnative pollinators, we would see a significant decline in some food crops around the country and world.

IMG_7433
A Honey bee preparing to sip nectar from one of the Common Milkweed flowers in our backyard.  Notice the pollen around her legs.  Some bees, like Honey bees, have ‘pollen baskets’ on their legs to assist in gathering pollen, a major source of protein for the colony.  Other types of bees simply collect pollen on their hairy bodies as they move around and inside various flowers. (June 2017)

The task of pollination isn’t exclusive to the Honey bee though.  Many native bees, birds, butterflies, ants, moths, wasps, beetles, animals, and other flying insects, all play apart in pollination.  We rely upon them for so much, but due to several of the challenges they face each day, many pollinator species are in need of our help!

IMG_7434
A native Leafcutter Bee drops by one of the Butterfly Weed flowers in our backyard for a quick sip of nectar. (June 2017)

National Pollinator Week, established by the U. S. Senate on September 21, 2006, was first recognized during the week of June 23-30, 2007.  Overwhelming evidence and support for greater education and action prompted this resolution.  It is believed by many that pollinators play an important role in providing as much as 1/3 of every bite of food we eat.  But, due to habitat loss and pesticide use, many of these pollinators are in danger.  They need our help… and we need theirs!  So, what do we do?  The fix is pretty simple, but far from easy.

A movement has begun in the U.S. by many farmers, ranchers, businesses, organizations, churches, schools, and homeowners, to do two simple things.  First, add pollinator friendly habitat within our outdoor spaces, and second, reduce, and in some cases eliminate, the use of pesticides.  See, not so difficult… but for many, we are left without a clue on how to add this pollinator friendly habitat to our outdoor spaces.

A great place to start is by checking out the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge initiated by the National Pollinator Garden Network.

Join the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge

The Pollinator Partnership is another great resource as well!  Here is their free Ecoregional Planting Guide for Ecoregion 251, that includes Eastern Kansas & Nebraska, as well as Western Missouri & Iowa.  –  Prairie Parkland – Pollinator Partnership – Ecoregion 251 Information Guide

Here is a very informative TED Talk by Danielle Bilot entitled “How Parking Lots Could Save the Bees.”  Worth the watch!

IMG_7307
A native Bumble Bee diving in for some nectar on one of the Wild Bergamot flowers in our backyard. (June 2017)

If you are like me, you probably still have many questions, but are up for the challenge.  If you’re not sure where to start we’d love to help!  We have added pollinator friendly habitat to our landscape and garden areas and would love to share our knowledge and experience with you about how you can too.  By simply adding some native wildflowers and grasses to your outdoor space, you can add critical habitat for many pollinators.  Contact us and let us know how we can help you… help the pollinators!!!

– Jay Parsons

 

 

 

 

The Monarchs are Back!

I find myself reacting to things differently as I get older.  One would expect that someone in their late 30s would have a decent level of maturity… especially when around children.  I keep surprising myself with the composure I can wield around my students at times when funny things happen, but, on occasion, I find myself acting as if I never grew past four years old.  Like when you walk into the teachers’ lounge and there are doughnuts sitting out, waiting to be eaten, or that moment when your favorite song comes on the radio while driving home from a long day, there is a joy that surges up from somewhere inside you and you can’t help but smile, like the kind of smile that makes your cheeks hurt, and you express your deep excitement by blurting out a “Wooo!” or “Yes!” or my favorite, “Yeah Buddy!” while simultaneously fist pumping.  It’s as if you’ve forgotten there are other people around… because at that moment it doesn’t matter.  Well, this such occurrence happened to me yet again on Wednesday, April 12.

After leaving the gym to head up for lunch around 11:30 a.m. I looked out the window to see if the recess equipment was out for students to play with during their upcoming recess.  As I did I instantly saw a flash of orange that caught my eye and I noticed a kindergartner running after what appeared to be an orange butterfly.  As I walked outside to take a closer look I realized it was a Monarch butterfly.  I instantly yelled, “It’s a Monarch!” which got the attention of several students close by.  I said, “You guys keep watching it… I’ll be right back!”  I quickly ran back inside and grabbed my cell phone with the hope of catching a quick pic.  As I walked briskly back out onto the playground, and around a corner of the building I saw that one of the kindergarten students did keep an eye on the Monarch and pointed to which way it went.  I waited for a moment and found it again, flying across the grass that connects our school property and the adjacent park.  I walked as fast as I could, without running, because running after a butterfly at my age would be way over the top.  After a couple of moments of slowing to a stop and waiting, the Monarch found a dandelion to land on and I was able to get close enough to snap this grainy picture…

IMG_6929 As I checked my phone to see if I was successful, the Monarch caught a warm breeze and was off again.  My cheeks were squeezed in a big smile as I discovered I got the pic!  Walking back to school I realized how crazy I must have looked had someone been watching.  But just like finding doughnuts in the lounge or hearing my favorite song come on the radio, it didn’t matter what anyone thought, because seeing my first Monarch butterfly of the year has become one of these things for me.

It didn’t take long before I had another “Monarch Moment,” as I’ve started calling them.  On Friday, April 14th, as I was spending time with our kids out in our backyard after school I saw another Monarch flying overhead.  I whipped out my phone and was able to snap this picture…

IMG_6961But, what made this encounter so grand was that as I watched this Monarch flying around us, she started flying lower around some of our Purple Milkweed plants that had emerged from dormancy only a couple weeks earlier.  To my surprise, the Monarch started to lay eggs.  So, as you can imagine, I was frozen with excitement.  I kept thinking “Nah ah!” as she continued to lay egg after egg.  I knew I was watching something special.  This female Monarch butterfly had made the long flight back from overwintering in Mexico and was now laying some of her final eggs on our Milkweed!!!  After about five minutes of pure amazement, I was able to take this picture…

IMG_7045

Wow!!!  She laid eggs on several of our Milkweed plants we had planted in our backyard and even found many of the potted Milkweeds we are preparing to sell at the Market.  I’m sure I missed a few, but the count I came up with is 23-24 eggs in all!

As I reflect upon these “Monarch Moments,” I can’t help but think about how glad I am that we had Milkweed available for this weary female Monarch to lay her eggs on.  I kept thinking… where would she have gone had she not found our Milkweed… would she have had the energy left to look?  I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I know that our Milkweed was just what she was looking for.  This is what fuels our passion as we add Milkweed to our backyard and to as many spaces as we can.  Monarchs need our help.  They are looking for Milkweed and finding it in fewer places.  To help stop, and even reverse this trend, it’s as simple as adding more Milkweed to our outdoor spaces.  If you are interested in helping the Monarchs click this link Milkweed for Monarchs to see what we are growing and selling this year.  If you are interested in creating a Monarch butterfly garden, then our Monarch Magnet Butterfly Garden is perfect for you!  Simply click this link, Monarch Magnet Butterfly Garden, to learn more!  Oh, and the eggs have hatched, and now we have our first Monarch caterpillars of 2017!

IMG_7107

Contact us and let us know if you have any questions…  here’s to many more “Monarch Moments” this year!     – Jay Parsons

Butterfly Weed for the Win in ’17

The Perennial Plant Association has named Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) the Perennial Plant of the Year for 2017.  This native perennial wildflower has become one of our favorites for its size, shape, color, length of bloom time, low maintenance nature, and ability to attract all sorts of bees and butterflies to our outdoor space.  You may have seen these bright orange flowers basking in the sun around town before.  Their bright orange color makes them easy to spot from May to July, and they compliment so many other native plants as well.  When going turkey hunting each year in May, I keep my eyes open for a certain field whose corner has been allowed to grow wild.  If I’m lucky, and the timing is just right, I can see a magnificent Butterfly Weed in full bloom growing 20 or so yards away from the fence line.  Surrounded by various shades of green, this orange eye candy pops off the landscape, just like the Golden Arches, beckoning numerous pollinators to pay it a visit.  With so many great characteristics, and widespread availability in local nurseries and home improvement stores, it’s no wonder why Butterfly Weed has become such a popular addition to so many gardens and landscapes… as well as earning the title of top perennial plant in America for 2017.

Not only is Butterfly Weed a top notch native nectar source, it is also a member of the Milkweed family.  Monarch butterflies rely solely on Milkweed for their survival since it is the only family of plants the Monarch will use as their larval host.  In our experience, Butterfly Weed isn’t the Monarch’s Milkweed of choice, rather preferring instead to lay their eggs on other types of Milkweed… like Common and Swamp.  However, we have found a few Monarch eggs and caterpillars on the Butterfly Weed plants in our backyard.  It is an easy plant to grow when planted in dry to medium soils in full sun.  Butterfly Weed doesn’t like it supper wet, and if you have heavy clay, like so many of us do, Butterfly Weed can struggle.  To help with this, we prepare our spaces by first digging up and loosening the soil down to about a foot deep and then lightly amending the soil with the compost we’ve made using our fall leaves and grass clippings.  These two important steps enable the soil to drain well while also allowing for faster root growth.  Due to its tap root, Butterfly Weed becomes very drought resistant while also becoming difficult to transplant successfully.  Preparing the site is an important part in making Butterfly Weed a happy camper in your outdoor space.  With a little planning and preparation, Butterfly Weed can find a happy home in your outdoor space as well.

One way to add Butterfly Weed to your own outdoor space is by growing it from seed.  This of course takes time and patience, but can also be a fun learning experience, especially for those who have kids.  One note of caution, Milkweed plants, and their seeds, are toxic and should not be ingested.  While working with our own kids we use extra care to ensure none of the seeds wind up in their mouths.  Below you’ll find the steps we use in preparing our Butterfly Weed seeds when using the “Paper Towel” method of cold stratification.  Our one year old daughter Elsie agreed to lend a hand and join in on the fun for this one.

  1. We begin by purchasing our seed packets from a local garden center.  Many large home improvement stores have Butterfly Weed among the seeds they have for sale.  For each seed packet you’ll need one paper towel, one quart sized resealable plastic bag, and a sticky note or small strip of paper and tape.  I also recommend using a spray bottle with water, a cookie sheet, and a regular old pencil, for you’re when ready to label your bag(s).img_3839
  2. Once you get set up, start by spraying the paper towel with water.  You want to get it damp, but not dripping wet.  Open up a seed packet and pour out all of the seeds on one half of the paper towel.  I usually spread them out so they aren’t overlapping each other.img_3856
  3. Next, we spray the seeds until their damp… but be careful… your young assistant might turn the spray bottle on you!img_3871img_3866
  4. We then fold the paper towel over and spray the top a few more times before patting the two layers together, ensuring good contact between the seeds in the middle and the outside paper towel.img_3880
  5. After that, we carefully slide the paper towel into the quart sized bag, seal it up, and place a label on the outside.  The bag will then go into our fridge for 30 days in an attempt to “trick” the seeds into thinking it’s winter.  This process is called cold, moist stratification, and many native plants require a cold dormancy period before they will germinate.  We check the bag(s) about once a week to ensure they are staying damp and if any of the seeds have started to germinate we’ll plant those as soon as possible.img_3981img_3990
  6. Once 30 days have passed the seeds are ready to plant.  We simply remove the paper towel from the bag, spray the seeds with warm water, and plant them in our seed starting trays.  img_3900 For better germination success, place your planted seeds in a warm place and continue to spray the soil with water when needed.  Once seeds have sprouted, give them as much light as you can.  We place our seed trays on a seedling heating mat and under fluorescent lights for the first month or two, continuing to mist and water as the new seedlings start to take off. Once plants have grown a few inches, and had a chance to grow their first few sets of leaves, plants are ready to transplant into a larger pot and begin the hardening off process where plants transition from growing inside to outside.

If growing Butterfly Weed, or other native plants, from seed interests you and you’d like more information on how to get started, we’d love to help.  If you’d rather skip the work of growing your own plants we can sell you some of ours and let you take all the credit.  Contact us and let us know how we can serve you.  Join the movement… more Milkweed… more Monarchs!!!

– Jay Parsons