September-October 2018

Birds and Summer Perennials

by cathym on September 9, 2018

by Liz Magnanti; photos by Jane Milliman

The approaching fall brings with it that magical time when garden centers put their perennials on sale! Now is a great time to get a head start on your garden for next year. Planting in the fall gives the plants a chance to get their root systems growing and can make for more successful growth the next year. Here are some of my favorite flowering plants that are both beautiful and will attract birds and butterflies.

Cardinal flower

Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
This plant attracts hummingbirds to it like no other plant or feeder I have in the garden. It has one- to three-foot-tall spikes of beautiful scarlet flowers that are a fantastic source of nectar. It thrives in wet conditions but will also do well in an average garden setting. The plant doesn’t live long, but because it self-sows it will reseed itself each year.

Joe Pye weed

Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium spp.)
I have always had success with Joe Pye weed no matter where I plant it. It thrives in sunny locations but will bloom even in shade. The plant can grow tall after several years—sometimes up to eight feet! Joe Pye is a wonderful source of nectar for bees and butterflies, and juncos and finches will eat its seeds over the winter. I suggest planting this in a place in the garden that has been unsuccessful in growing other plants. Just make sure to prepare for how tall it can get.


Coneflower (Echinacea spp.)
Coneflower is great because you can find it everywhere. There are many varieties in pink, purple, white, yellow, and orange—some tall, some short. There is a type of coneflower for any empty sunny spot you are looking to fill. The flower provides nectar for butterflies, especially monarchs, silver-spotted skippers, and swallowtails. When it goes to seed it’s a treat for goldfinches all winter long.


Milkweed (Asclepias spp.)
The milkweed plant is essential to the development of the monarch butterfly. The female monarch lays her eggs on the plant and, once those eggs hatch, the caterpillars are leaf-eating machines. The flowers milkweed produces contain nectar that feeds butterflies as well as bees and other pollinators. My favorite milkweed is the orange variety called butterfly weed. (Asclepias tuberosa.) Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is the other variety you will most often find in garden centers. This species can be pink, purple, or white in color. The common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) that is usually found in fields is great in large gardens, but can easily overtake other plants in a small one. Milkweed is easy to grow from seed. It has large, showy seed pods that can be collected once the pods  become dry and begin to split.

New England aster

New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
When gardening for pollinators it is important to plant a variety of flowers that will bloom throughout the season. Asters are small, fall-blooming flowers that tend to flower during the time many birds are migrating. Hummingbirds will sip from its flowers as they make their way down south for the winter. Butterflies such as the clouded sulphur, painted lady, and red admiral will also drink its nectar. Chickadees and finches will eat aster seeds throughout the winter.


Sedum (Sedum spp.)
Sedums like ‘Autumn Joy’ are another type of plant that blooms late in the season, giving honeybees and other insects a source of pollen and nectar at the end of the summer and fall. Wild stonecrop (Sedum ternatum) is a shade-tolerant species that makes a great ground cover in the garden. This variety blooms in April to May. It makes a wonderful garden edge and will grow in rock gardens.

Bee balm

Bee balm (Monarda spp.)
Bee balm is one of my favorites for a few reasons. It is an herb that has a great smell and can be used in cooking! Even better, its blooms attract hummingbirds and seem to be a favorite flower of the hummingbird clearwing moth. This day-flying moth gets its name from looking strikingly similar to the hummingbird and having very similar flying and feeding behaviors!

Butterfly bush

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia spp.)
Although not native, the butterfly bush is like a magnet to butterflies. I have yet to find another nectar-producing plant that comes close to attracting butterflies to the garden. This plant is very hardy and can even beplanted in containers. Many different colors are available, including some that are tri-color or rainbow. The leaves of the plant won’t offer nutrition to caterpillars, but the flowers attract enough butterflies to make up for that.

All of the plants listed here, with the exception of the butterfly bush, are natives. Not only is this good for our local wildlife, but it also means they often require less maintenance. Once established, these plants will need very little extra attention, be it watering or fertilizing. The next few weeks are a perfect time to fill in any holes you have in your garden, and you should be able to get perennials at a great deal! Take advantage of it and you will thank yourself come spring!

Liz Magnanti is the manager of the Bird House in Brighton.


Shoo Fly

by cathym on September 9, 2018

by Cathy Monrad

This summer we had an unusual number of flies congregating near our back door. In my search for a homemade fly repellent, I found solutions that included spraying pine scented cleaner, burning coffee grounds, and inserting whole cloves into lemon halves, all of which are purported to offend the olfactory systems of these annoying insects.

One method utilized in Latin America seemed ridiculous to me, but I gave it a go since I had the materials on hand: Place three to five pennies in a plastic zipper bag, fill it halfway with water, then hang outside where the problem occurs.

Surprisely, it worked! But the execution wasn’t pretty—definitely not up to “Crafty Cathy” standards. Additional research uncovered that using an incandescent light bulb with tubes and filaments removed also works—and it looks trendy. I chose to hunt for a bulbous vase instead, and my shopping excursion netted a cool find: a light bulb–shaped glass jar.


Check out this post on the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation site:


1 small bulbous vase or jar*
3 or 4 pennies
20 gauge wire
S hook
Clear fishing line (optional)

Needle nose pliers
Wire cutter
Scissors (optional)
Drill and a 1∕16 inch bit (optional)

* Make sure the neck of vase is large enough to fit a penny through. If you decide to use an old light bulb instead, there are tutorials on the Internet showing safe removal of incandescent bulb insides.


1. Use needle nose pliers to bend wire into a nearly closed loop.

2. Hold loop in place and wind wire around vase. Slip wire through open loop and bend upward.

3. Create a looped wire handle, then cut and slip the end under wire as shown.

4. Use pliers to create a second loop. If desired, go on to steps 5 and/or 6 before completing project. To finish, fill vase with water nearly to top, add three pennies, then hang from desired location with S hook.

5. Optional: Wrap wire around top of vase. Create an unclosed loop of wire and hook it on loop created in step 1. Wrap as desired, finishing near starting point. Cut wire then slip the end through the first loop and bend backward.

6. Optional: Suspend a penny. Drill a hole in a penny as shown. Thread fishing line through hole and tie. Lower penny into vase to desired location, then tie other end of fishing line to one side of wire handle created in step 3.


Cathy Monrad is the graphic designer and the self-proclaimed garden crafter for the Upstate Gardeners’ Journal.



Gardening with Kids: Preserving the Bounty

by cathym on September 9, 2018

by Valerie Shaw; artwork by Andrew Monrad

Fully open dahlia bloom

As the scorching days of summer yield to the cooler, shorter days of early autumn, some of the most wonderful flower displays and veggie harvests are just beginning. The big favorites around here, squash, sunflowers, and tomatoes, are drowning us in their cheerful abundance. If you’re into preserving foods, you may have your shelves lined with colorful jars of pickles and jellies, or your freezers full of plump berries. Your kids might be delighted to discover that not only can you keep the yummy harvest over the winter, but you can keep parts of your beautiful garden preserved to enjoy later too! Here are some fun ideas for savoring all of your late summer gardening adventures.

Firework design created using unopened sedum blossom

Garden journals. These can be really fun for kids. Using a simple notebook, binder, photo binder, or any pre-made version, create a scrapbook or journal that documents all the great things about your garden. You can buy disposable cameras and let your kids be roving photographers, then “publish” them in a fun scrapbook. You’ll be able to see the garden from their eyes. Use stickers, scraps of
fabric, used seed packets, and doodles. Your kids will love pulling out their garden journal year after year, and be encouraged to try their hand at it again next spring.

Recipe Book. Whether it’s a five-page handwritten booklet or a chock-full book you have printed and bound at Staples, making a family recipe book is a great and delicious way to connect your garden to your table. Kids can be encouraged to make their own signature salads, vegetable dips, pizza sauce, or zucchini brownie recipes. Let them come up with fabulous names for their dishes! Having your kids choose the recipes will encourage them to get involved, try new veggies, and take pride in their hard work. They can include drawings or photos, and make a special cover for it too. If there are other gardeners or cooks in the family, your kids could collect favorite recipes from them as well, making it a truly memorable keepsake! These make terrific presents for grandparents and other family
members for the holiday season.

Succulent twirled to create a spiral

Painting with flowers. Head on out to the garden and snip a big bouquet of flowers or plants with interesting leaves. Using poster or acrylic paints, use the flowers as paintbrushes. For toddlers, this is a great activity to use with finger paints. Older kids might enjoy practicing on paper, then moving on to using the flowers with acrylic paints on canvases. My kids really like the mini canvases. They’re smaller and less intimidating. If you buy the canvases with thick wooden walls, you don’t need to worry about framing them; a tack on the wall and you’ve got a display! Simply have them paint on a solid background color (usually a pale color, like yellow or light blue works well), and then apply flowers dipped in paint to make patterns. Stiffer petaled flowers, like zinnia or mums, work very well, although don’t rule out anything until you try it! Again, these make great presents for your child to give to others, and telling the story from the planting of a seed to the making of a beautiful painting is a lovely way to build pride in hard work and dedication.

Another fun thing to try with flower painting is making flower shirts. Choose a plain tee or sweatshirt. Using the same technique as the canvas painting, dip the flowers into fabric or acrylic paints and make a fun pattern on the shirt. When the snow is up to their knees, they can wear their flower shirt and remember the time you all sat around in your tank tops and sandals, playing with petals! Spring might not seem so far away, after all.

Valerie Shaw is a gardener, YMCA youth coach, and homeschool mom in West Monroe, NY. She shares her garden with two adventurous children and a patient husband, to whom she has promised that this last goat, Flora, is the final addition to their herd. At least until spring.