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Birds and Butterflies 172 Stories

The monarchs are beginning their migration south this month and will be in full tilt into September, ending up in central Mexico around the end of October. Over their thousands of miles, both in fall and again next spring, they will inspire gardeners and nature lovers all across the country. Many years ago I started...
3 Ways Native Plants Make Gardening So Much Better
Six years ago my wife and I married (on 7/7/'07, like so many others), and we immediately moved into our first home together. I told her I wanted a garden, and when she said, "Go for it," I'm not sure we knew what that would mean. Neither of us had any...
Butterfly Gardening: Delight the Eyes With Living Sculptures
Once we've laid out a landscape — installed the pavers and edging and mulch, placed the plants — we can sit back in deck chairs and admire the splendor of a beautiful vista. But there's another element just below the surface — a fourth dimension...
Great Design Plant: Low-Maintenance Calliandra Eriophylla
Pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla) pairs the ability to thrive in the hot, dry deserts of the U.S. with delicate, puffy pink flowers. This medium-size shrub takes center stage in spring (and occasionally in fall), when...
Great Design Plant: Lobelia Siphilitica Keeps Its Cool
You’re probably quite familiar with red cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), but there’s another version you might not know that’s easier to care for and tends to have a longer perennial lifespan. Great blue lobelia (Lobelia...
Great Design Plant: Ratibida Pinnata Flutters in the Breeze
You cannot have a prairie garden without including gray-headed coneflower (Ratibida pinnata). A staple in Midwest prairies, this tall, upright perennial is a reliable and carefree plant that thrives in most locations in full sun. The...
What’s in a Name? See 6 Wildflowers That Aren’t ‘Weeds’ at All
I don’t have many weeds in my garden anymore — there’s too much competition from mature and dense perennials. When I do see something out of place, its fate depends on my mood. Sometimes I yank it out immediately; sometimes I let it go to see what...
Great Design Plant: Annual Phacelias
Phacelias start their springtime display by uncoiling their curved racemes with flowers of blue, mauve, purple or lavender. As their eye-catching, bell-shaped flowers open, these annuals call pollinators for a yummy meal of nectar and pollen. The high...
Great Design Plant: Geum Triflorum
If you like troll dolls, I have a similar-looking plant for you. While prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) is nothing like a troll — it doesn’t keep asking you out when you clearly aren’t interested — ...
Great Design Plant: Staphylea Trifolia Shines in the Shade
The delicate branches of American bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia) are covered with clusters of nodding white flowers in spring. This underutilized, shade-tolerant, native shrub (small tree) is ideal...
Great Design Plant: Dicentra Eximia Brightens Shady Gardens
Wild bleedingheart (Dicentra eximia) was the first plant that I put in when I began using native plants in my home landscape. Breaking soil in early April, it is one of the longest-blooming eastern North American native plants. After an...
Celebrate Eastern Oaks for Wildlife, Longevity, and Seasonal Interest
Surely no tree captures our imagination more than an oak. Often living for hundreds of years, oaks support a diversity of life above and below the ground, a rhizosphere community, where a symbiotic relationship exists between diverse species. Native oaks...
Great Design Plant: Eupatorium Maculatum
I don’t remember how I got hooked on Spotted Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum) — maybe a friend hustled it to me at a bar or I gave in to peer pressure at some party. I know I’m not the only one who’s found this plant and...
Great Design Plant: Hibiscus Moscheutos
Crimsoneyed rosemallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) has a large native range in the southern and eastern United States and parts of the Midwest. It’s a prolific bloomer throughout the summer, with large, sugar-white petals and a crimson center....
Great Design Plant: Eurybia Macrophylla Fills a Void
Large-leaved aster (Eurybia macrophylla) is an extremely adaptable and reliable native plant that thrives in partial shade and average soil. Common throughout the deciduous woods around the Great Lakes, it can form substantial stands of large,...
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