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Clippings: #Perennial #Plant of the Year: Butterfly Weed

Perennial Plant of the Year: Butterfly Weed

Perennial Plant of the Year: Butterfly Weed

What’s a garden without butterflies? As gardeners focus more on native plants that support pollinators, the Perennial Plant Association made a brilliant choice and named Asclepias tuberosa — butterfly weed — as its 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year.

Native to the continental United States, butterfly weed’s orange/red/yellow flowers are a show-stopper for people and magnet for pollinators in sunny flower beds with average to dry soils.

Here’s some information from the Perennial Plant Association:

Pollinators – Many bees, wasps, ants, butterflies, beetles and hummingbirds. Butterfly weed is a member of Apocynaceae, or milkweed family. All members of the milkweed family serve as larval food for the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus) and the Milkweed Tussock Moth (Euchaetes egle).

Hardiness — USDA Zones 4 to 9

Light – Butterfly weed grows best in full sun.

Soil – Grows best in well-drained soils and it is drought tolerant.

Uses – Butterfly weed is a perfect selection for full-sun meadow or prairie gardens as well as formal to semi-formal urban gardens. Flower arrangers and the plants make long-lasting cut flowers.

Monarch butterfly on butterfly weed

Unique Qualities – Asclepias tuberosa are butterfly magnets. Flowers are a nectar source for many butterflies and leaves are a food source for the monarch butterfly caterpillars.

Maintenance –  Plant in masses. Butterfly weed pairs well with summer blooming Phlox, Hemerocallis, Liatris, Echinacea, Salvia, and most of June/July sun loving perennials. Reaches 2-3’ high with a 2’ spread. Cut back in early spring. Mulch young plants to prevent frost heaving. Be patient since butterfly weed is slow to emerge in the spring. Cutting back once, early in growth cycle, will promote compact growth.

Butterfly weed has no serious insect or disease problems. Deer usually avoid it. Deadheading Asclepias tuberosa should prevent reseeding and promoting a second push of color later in the season.

The Perennial Plant of the Year program showcases a standout perennial.  For other recommended perennials to add to your garden, be sure to search the Plant Database.

Children’s Gardens: Luci and Ian Family Garden at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center


The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s new Luci and Ian Family Garden gives children and their families a wonderful place to discover nature and the beauty of native plants through “nature play.” Children are enticed to explore mathematical patterns found in Nature, wander a maze made of native shrubs or see how water flows around different Hill Country rocks.

Opening Sunday, May 4, 2014, the 4.5-acre Family Garden doubles the maintained garden acreage at the 279-acre Wildflower Center that is part of The University of Texas at Austin.

familyGarden_features dino

What’s Special

  • Nature’s Spiral, a mosaic–inlaid limestone wall that illustrates the spiral shapes found in nature
  • Creek with dinosaur footprints
  • Metamorphosis Maze
  • Giant tree stumps great for climbing
  • Giant bird nests made from native grape vines
  • Grotto with caves
  • Waterfall
  • Lawn designed with native turf
  • Water activities

“Luci and Ian” are Luci Baines Johnson, daughter of President Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, and her husband Ian Turpin, who are major donors of the $5 million attraction. The Family Garden, a model for eco-friendly landscaping, is a pilot project of the national Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) program. The Wildflower Center developed SITES in partnership with the U.S. Botanic Garden and the American Society of Landscape Architects and is the most comprehensive national system for rating the design, construction and maintenance of sustainable landscapes. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin is part of the legacy of the former first lady.


Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday

Noon – 5 p.m. Sunday

4801 La Crosse Avenue, Austin, Texas 78739.

Photo credit: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin

Austin: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

LBJ Wildflower_wfc_demostration

Austin, Texas

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Lady Bird Johnson, our former first lady, was known for her tireless campaign to beautify America. In recognition of her efforts, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and on it was inscribed this tribute: “Her leadership transformed the American landscape and preserved its natural beauty as a national treasure.”

Part of her legacy is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin that introduces visitors to the incredible beauty of native plants.

In 1982, Mrs. Johnson and actress Helen Hayes founded the National Wildflower Research Center to protect and preserve North America’s native plants and natural landscapes. Later renamed as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the 279-acre site is now an Organized Research Unit of the University of Texas at Austin dedicated to increasing the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes.

The Center’s gardens display the native plants of the Central Texas Hill Country, South and West Texas, while the Plant Conservation Program protects the ecological heritage of Texas by conserving its rare and endangered flora. The Native Plant Information Network is a database of more than 7,200 native species available online.

The cultivated wildflower meadows and gardens feature 12 acres with about 650 species of native Texas plants. The center is one of only three gardens nationally emphasizing native plants.

Other points of interest: A rooftop rainwater harvesting system, aqueduct, and observation tower.

The Little House Courtyard is designed to help young children ages two to six learn about shapes, smells, textures and colors through nature. There’s also a wikiup (a framed hut used by nomadic Native Americans), tree stump stools and large pots in which children can dig for plastic insects and lizards.

What’s Special

Working gardens such as the Hill Country Stream, Homeowner Inspiration Gardens, and the Ann and O.J. Weber Butterfly Garden serve as models for homeowners as they restore their own property to a more natural state.


Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

4801 La Crosse Ave.
Austin, Texas 78739
Phone: 512.232.0100

Photo credit: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

[ info ]

Evanston: Ladd Arboretum and Ecology Center

Ladd Arboretum

Evanston, Illinois

Ladd Arboretum and Ecology Center

The Edward R. Ladd Arboretum is a three-quarter mile strip along 23 acres of reclaimed land between McCormick Blvd and the North Shore Channel. Self-guided tours take visitors through the Aspegren Meadow; Oak Grove; Maple Knoll; Pine Knoll; legume trees; birches; and nut trees.

The arboretum’s collection is arranged by plant family (birch, legume, maple, oak, and pine). Gardens include the Meadow Garden, Prairie Restoration Area, Cherry Tree Walk, Nut Tree, Rotary International Friendship Garden (with All-America Rose Selections), Women’s Terrace, gazebo, and bird sanctuary.

The Evanston Ecology Center, located inside Ladd Arboretum, hosts a number of programs, including its popular ecology summer camps.

What’s Special?

The Ecology Center is home to a variety of “critters” — A rabbit, a hedgehog, gerbils, corn snakes, tortoise box turtles, a map turtle, a snapping turtle, a sand skink, leopard frogs, hermit crabs, fish, and Madagascar hissing cockroaches. The Center is always looking for volunteers to join the Critter Crew – either to sponsor an animal or volunteer to come in and help care for the creatures. For more information, call the Ecology Center at 847 448-8256


Evanston Ecology Center:

2024 McCormick Blvd, Evanston 60201

Phone: (847) 448-8256

Email: ecologycenter@cityofevanston.org

Hours: Mon – Fri, 8:30am – 5:00pm year round

Sat,  9 a..m – 4:00 p.m. – from after Labor Day through Memorial Day

[ info ]

Chicago: Chicago Botanic Garden

English Walled Garden, Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago Botanical Garden

The Chicago Botanic Garden is the second most-visited botanic garden of its size in the U.S., attracting more than one million visitors during 2013. While its 385 acres may seem like a lot to cover, from April to October there are tram tours for an enjoyable overview of the Garden’s highlights.

There are more than two dozen specialty garden areas, including a Children’s Growing Garden, Japanese Garden, Native Plant Garden, Rose Garden, and Waterfall Garden. Home landscape gardens are a source of inspiration for homeowners, demonstrating a variety of plantings that are most suitable. – including easy-to-grow for those of us with less than green thumbs.

What’s Special

English Walled Garden.  Designed by John Brooks, there are six garden rooms representing a variety of English garden design styles with plants best suited for the Midwest: a Cottage Garden, Vista Garden, Daisy Garden, Pergola Garden, Courtyard Garden and Checkerboard Garden. Plantings feature boxwood, catmint, clematis, foxglove, English lavender, roses, and yew.

Chicago Botanic Garden Model RailroadModel Railroad Garden. During the summer, the 7,500-square-foot Model Railroad Garden features fifteen trains—including the new Rock Island line, the Santa Fe Super Chief and a Napa Valley train—that travel through miniature scenes of America’s most treasured sites including a St. Louis Riverboat, a Midwestern farm, an old-fashioned main street and the Statue of Liberty.

Shoreline. Nearly one-quarter (81 acres) of the Garden is water. A 60-acre system of lakes winds throughout the gardens and research facilities, including the Great Basin, North Lake, and Skokie River Corridor, with about six miles of shoreline encircles the Garden’s lakes. It’s an excellent resource for erosion control and native plants recommended for shoreline habitats.

Birding. Approximately 255 species of birds have been sighted throughout the Garden. Good to know: April and May are when migratory songbirds are to be found.

Photo: Chicago Botanic Garden [ info ]


The Orchid Show February 15 – March 16, 2014


Admission is free, parking rates apply.

1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL 60022

(847) 835-5440

Chicago Botanic Garden photos

[ info ]

Decatur: Georgia Perimeter College Botanical Garden

Dixie Wood Lane

Decatur, Georgia

Georgia Perimeter College Botanical Garden

The four-acre Georgia Perimeter College Botanical Gardens is an extraordinary gem located behind a parking lot on the campus of Georgia Perimeter College.

Situated in a flood plain near a tributary of the South River creek, there are ¾ miles of easy walking trails and more than 20 beds of native Georgia perennials with more than 4,000 species of native and endangered plants indigenous to the Southeast. This site is especially lovely in spring, with shrubs such as native azaleas — Florida azaleas, Piedmont azaleas — Florida anise, magnolias, viburnums, and the ephemerals — trilliums, bloodroot, Virginia bluebells and more.

There’s also the Sun Garden and the Xeric fern bed that showcases sun ferns native to Georgia and the southwestern U.S. Here, instead of digging out the soil, raised beds were planted on the existing soil with agave, prickly pear cactus and ferns that thrive in the sun.

What’s Special: Ferns

IMG_20110612_151106Make your way back to the Ferns of the World Garden and you’ll feel like you’ve gone back to Jurassic Park. Here there are more species of ferns than any other garden in the U.S.  This extensive fern collection includes ferns from not only the U.S., but other temperate areas around the world. The shade fern beds contain the largest number of ferns, but there’s also an xeric fern beds for those sun-loving ferns. Fern Mountain will inspire rock gardeners who love ferns!


Open daily, free of charge

3251 Panthersville Road

Decatur, GA 30034

(678) 891-2668 [ info ]