Monarch zoo

Monarch on meadow blazing star

We can’t help but modestly gloat a bit right now, as the monarch loop we had written about a few weeks back is starting to pay off. There are now almost 15 monarchs living in the Joppa Avenue Landscape, hanging out mainly on the Liatris ligulistylis / meadow blazing star, but equally enjoying the Verbena bonariensis / Brazilian verbena, and the Eupatorium purpureum / Joe Pye weed. It’s a veritable monarch zoo, and it flittingly rocks the house.

Plant of the week!

Brazilian verbena / Verbena bonariensis in bloom

We are normally not huge fans of annuals, as they simply evoke extra WORK. Having to plant them every spring and tend to them until they get established rarely seems worth it, particularly when so many perennials, grasses, and shrubs can provide just as much visual appeal at a fraction of the effort. In any case, one annual in particular we have fallen in love with, and this is Brazilian verbena. While the springtime planting of them takes a bit of doing, they become established quickly and begin blooming early. Blooming virtually all summer long, they attract countless monarchs, honeybees, and other pollinators to their electric purple flowers. Form-wise, they provide a feathery but pronounced vertical accent within a landscape. When planted in drifts, they create a glowing purple screen that seems to float over the lower-growing plants nearby. Add high drought-tolerance to the list of pluses and you have what amounts to a perfect annual to mix in with your existing perennials and grasses. The butterflies will thank you for planting them, and your neighbors might too.

Creating a monarch loop

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), impossibly orange, in a PRAIRIEFORM landscape

Early July signals the blooming of butterfly weed, and, simultaneously, the opportunity to attract monarchs to the landscape. Monarchs lay their eggs on many kinds of milkweed, but we like butterfly milkweed/weed best, as its form is relatively tidy, it requires little to no supplemental water, and the impossible orange of its flowers is almost unreal. In order to attract butterflies to the plant in the first place, they need a source of nectar. Several plants fit the bill for this. Our preferred ones are meadow blazing star (Liatris ligulistylis), Brazilian verbena (Verbena bonariensis), and Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum). With these plants in place, and a milkweed too, you have created a sort of monarch loop whereby habitat and food are provided for the monarch during each of the stages of its life. As the recommended plants lean to the tidier side form-wise, this kind of butterfly loop would not be out of place within a more formal front yard landscape. For more photos of butterfly weed in the landscape, check out our Facebook page. While you are at us, “Like” us!