The Weekly Gardener 1

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Memorial Day

Almost Summer

Purple Irises

Memorial Day brought with it warmth and sunshine, as it is fitting for a holiday that marks the beginning of the summer.

The vegetation is in overdrive, and it makes me feel very small when I walk among the waist high asters and the giant broad leaved hostas.

In the kitchen garden the peppers are in the lead, with dark green, sturdy stems; I don't usually get plants this large from seed at this time of year. The potted basil grew tall, to provide a nice accent against the colorful neighboring lantana and heliotrope.

The cucurbits developed the second set of leaves, but are surprisingly small, considering the amount of water they received this month.

In the sun garden, the irises and red hot pokers dominate the landscape, picking up where the roses and the peonies left off. I'm waiting for the bee balms and lilies to start blooming. So grateful for summer!

I came back from vacation to a few pleasant surprises: the tomatoes grew another foot, the formosa lilies that I started from seed have sprouted in their pot and look like they're going to hang around, all the morning glories germinated and the rhizomatous begonia, which is supposed to bloom only in winter, apparently decided to spring flowers all year round.

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In the Butterfly House

Butterflies

A visit to the butterfly house reminded me that the garden is a miniature ecosystem to which insects, birds, animals and invertebrates bring important contributions. You always know a healthy landscape by the buzzing of bees, the birdsong, and the hidden life of earthworms and spiders, and last, but not least, colorful butterflies.

How to attract butterflies to your back yard? First of all avoid pesticides, if in any way possible, and include plants that provide food and shelter for them, not forgetting the umbellifers on which they like to lay their eggs.

The colorful meadow flowers, especially the orange ones, are butterfly favorites, and you will find you already have at least one or two in your garden: lantana, asters, honeysuckle, mallow, cone flowers, zinnias, garden phlox, milkweed, pentas, bee balms, butterfly bush, yarrow, sunflowers.

Don't forget the herbs - anise, dill and parsley inflorescences make great homes for caterpillars.

Include a water source, if you can, and provide shelter from the wind. Monarch butterflies only lay eggs on milkweed, but there are many other beautiful butterflies that favor a wider variety of plants. For instance, the black swallowtail will make itself at home in your herb garden if you plant dill, anise or parsley.

Butterflies prefer sunshine, but partial shade is acceptable during the summer, when it's really warm.