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The Blonde Gardener

Creating a Monarch Butterfly Garden

BrendaIf you have flowers in your garden, you already attract a variety of butterflies. 

Monarchs love pollen-filled flowers, too, but they will stick around longer if you plant a milkweed native to your area. 

A native milkweed for my area is Asclepias tuberosa

Milkweed is the only plant on which the monarch butterfly will lay her eggs. When the egg hatches, the caterpillar eats the milkweed leaf and grows quickly. In about 10 days to two weeks, the caterpillar will make a chrysalis and begin its transformation into a butterfly.

Monarch butterfly |


The chrysalis of the monarch is a beautiful green with gold trim. Ten days to two weeks later, the chrysalis will become transparent allowing you to see the butterfly.

When this happens, the birth of the monarch is very near.

More posts on monarchs can be see on my blog.

Or click on the following links.

The Plight of the Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly Update

flowers butterfly

Some of My Plants Need a Haircut

BrendaIn my Zone 7a garden, late winter is the season I do my pruning or cutting back of certain plants. The rule of thumb, for me, is to prune when the forsythia begin to bloom. This also signals that spring is almost here! 

First in line are the climbing roses. Climbing roses don't have to be pruned, but I always cut mine back to about 2 feet tall this time of year. In doing so, I can remove old, dead canes and keep them at a height that won't overpower my trellis.

Next, are the ornamental grasses. In the winter, grasses turn brown. By cutting off the old growth, this allows the new growth to emerge more quickly. Once again, this doesn't have to be done, but I don't like the look of all the brown, dead grass in with my new, green grass.

The last plant I prune is my hydrangea. Different species of hydrangea have different pruning schedules. Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' blooms on new wood, which means I can cut it back now and still get a great show of blooms in spring/early summer. Hydrangeas that bloom on old wood would not bloom if you cut them back in late winter. Again, this doesn't have to be done but it keeps the plant bushy and not scraggly.



Planning Your Garden

BrendaIf you are thinking about starting a vegetable garden or making a new flower bed, you need to think location, location, location. The amount of sun or shade in a certain location will determine what you can grow.

Most veggies need full sun.  In my Zone 7a garden, lettuce can be grown a little longer with some shade as opposed to full sun. 


The same goes for spinach and arugula. Summer favorites like tomatoes, squash, and corn love the heat so full sun is a must.

Different shrubs and perennials also have varied light requirements. Hydrangeas, for example, prefer some shade. Amsonia prefers full sun. The key is to know your site and know the requirements of the plant.

Hydrangea 'Annabelle' 

For more info, check out my blog post Planning Your Garden

Brenda/aka The Blonde Gardener

Wintertime and Bees

BrendaIn the winter, bees will cluster together in the hive to keep warm. The cluster is very tight and is concentrated around their food source.

However, not all bees get to stick around for winter.

Drones (male bees) are not allowed to stay during the winter. Their only job is to mate with a virgin queen in the spring. After that, they are allowed to stick around until the nectar supply runs out and then they are deemed useless and kicked out if the hive.

when times are good, all bees get to stay 

Guard bees stand guard ensuring the drones don't sneak back into the hive.

No Boys Allowed

On warm days of winter (usually above 50 degrees), bees will leave the cluster to take a cleansing flight or potty break. Bees are very tidy housekeepers and will not go to the bathroom in their hive. 

Housekeeper bees also take care of the bees that have died in the hive. On warm days, these bees drag the dead bees from the hive and dispose of the bodies right outside the hive.


So, if you see a bee in the wintertime, please let them go. They've been holding it for a long time!

Brenda (aka The Blonde Gardener)

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