Gardening for Monarchs

The northward spring migration of Monarch Butterflies from their wintering grounds in Mexico is well underway. By this time they are crossing Texas and Florida and hopefully moving into the lower Midwest.

In 2013 the Monarch population was reported to have declined to it’s lowest level, ever. Increasing losses in both Mexico and the US has put the survival of Monarch Butterfly in a perilous position. The American Midwest is a critical feeding and breeding ground in the life cycle of Monarchs, and the rapid expansion of farmland – more than 25 million acres since 2007 ­– has eaten away at the habitat and native plants that support them. The over-winter habitat in the forests of Mexico are also disappearing:

What Can We Do?

1. Plant Asclepias (Milkweed) plants. Plants of the Asclepias genus, such as Milkweed and Butterflyweed, are the only plants on which Monarchs lay their eggs, as a host plant for their caterpillar stage. Asclepias (Milkweed) Plants:
Butterflyweed for Clay
Sullivant’s Milkweed
Red Milkweed
Common Milkweed

2. Provide Nectaring Plants. Monarchs need nectar during their adult phase. Provide enough nectar sources so that you have blooms throughout the season, and each generation of monarchs has a food source. Fall-blooming asters fuel their fall migration to Mexico. Here’s a list of some favorite nectaring plants for Monarchs. Or, take a look at our Pre-planned Monarch Habitat Gardens…
New England Aster
Purple Coneflower
Pale Purple Coneflower
Prairie Blazingstar
Dense Blazingstar
Smooth Penstemon
Ohio Goldenrod
Stiff Goldenrod
Meadow Blazingstar
Smooth Aster
Rough Blazingstar
Scaly Blazingstar
Downy Phlox
Showy Goldenrod
Joe Pye Weed
Tall Joe Pye Weed
Queen of the Prairie
Marsh Phlox
Tall Ironweed
Wild Blue Phlox

3. Build Awareness through Certification Programs. Many good Monarch programs exist that help build awareness, spread the word, share information and educate the public about the decline of the Monarchs.

 4. Learn More, Raise Monarchs, Get Involved: Additional great resources, educational materials, tracking and research, and citizen science.




Great Native Plant Combos

To highlight a few of the new offerings in our 2014 catalog we’ve designed the following plant combos especially for visual impact. The plants in each of these combinations enjoy the same environments, bloom around the same time, and create harmonious color and texture in the garden. Create your own plantings using the Plantfinder tool to pinpoint the natives best suited to your location, that will bloom in sync or in sequence.

Goat’s Beard can become fairly large and bushy. In the garden it’s often planted in the background border. A wide-ranging native plant of moist, fertile woods it grows best in partial to full shade in a medium to wet soil.

Above combo:
Goat’s Beard –  Blue False IndigoCommon BluestarAnemone Canadensis
Combine Goat’s Beard with Blue False Indigo for a beautiful flowering pair in the back border. Add Common Bluestar to the semi-shade mix (or Wild Blue Phlox). Plant Canada Anemone in front or for ground cover.

Above combo:
Goats Beard –  Golden AlexandersSensitive FernIndian Pink
Combine Goats Beard with Golden Alexanders and/or Indian Pink using Sensitive Fern to tie it all together.

Red Beebalm combines well with so many other plants. Take your pick. Native to the Appalachian Mountains, Monarda didyma is a pollinator favorite.

Above combo:
Red Beebalm –  Purple ConeflowerWhite False Indigo

Above combo:
Red Beebalm –  Brown Eyed SusanPrairie Blazingstar

And yet another:
Red Beebalm –  Mist FlowerCulver’s Root

Spigelia marilandica looks delicate and intricate, but don’t be fooled, this is one tough plant. Indian Pink looks great with a fine-textured fern or sedge. Native to the south-central and southeastern U.S. it is a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds.

Above combo:
Indian Pink –  Lady FernVirginia Bluebells

The low-growing native Wintergreen is often found growing next to Lowbush Blueberry in the woods. Interplant this famous combo with Wild Strawberry for a completely edible low-growing trio. Add Plantain Leafed Sedge to fill-in and enhance the late-season colors!

Wintergreen –  Lowbush BlueberryWild StrawberryPlantain Leaved Sedge

A native of woodland edges, Bottle Gentian combines well sedges in the dappled shade.

Bottle Gentian –  Virgins Bower (vine)Long Beaked SedgeObedient Plant

The possibilities are endless. Let us know your standard favorite or your newest creation!

The Natural Resource Foundation of Wisconsin Tours Prairie Nursery

Each year the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (NRF) puts together an impressive schedule of field trips. The very low cost tours for members include birding, canoeing and hiking excursions that explore of the natural beauty of Wisconsin.

This May, NRF members interested in prairie restoration visited Prairie Nursery.

Neil Diboll led an exclusive tour through the Nursery that included the display gardens and growing facilities. He then teamed up with John Shillinglaw on an educational trip through the Shillinglaw property, one of the largest private restorations in Wisconsin – a 150 acre prairie & savanna restoration near Coloma.

NRF members gather before the tour:

The tour explores Prairie Nursery propagation and greenhouses:

After lunch, the group caravanned to the Shillinglaw restoration. Restoring habitat for the Karner Blue butterfly was one of John Shillinglaw’s early motivations. Over the years he has expanded his effort to include 150 acres of varied terrain and eco-systems.

Restoration area plan map:

It would have been a fine sight to see, but due to the lateness of spring this year, the Lupine wasn’t blooming. Standing in the Karner Blue Prairie:

John Shillinglaw (center) at the Birdsfoot Violet Savanna area:Birdsfoot violet in bloom: