Spring Cleanup in the Perennial Garden, Step-by-Step

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Our garden on May 8, 2015: a mat of Common Chickweed with Common Milkweed fighting its way through

Hi Gang,

I was away for a week in West Virginia in late April (we were leaders and presenters at our favorite festival, the New River Birding and Nature Festival).

We left in winter conditions and returned to summer conditions. Tackling the next part of garden cleanup has been quite a task in the heat and gnats. I wondered how you all were faring with your own gardens especially since some of you are quite new to wildlife gardening.

I thought it might be timely to step-by-step explain how I wrap up the garden cleanup in spring.

My May 18, 2015 post
for Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens covers
“Spring Cleanup in the Perennial Garden, Part Two”
the down-and-dirty final stages of Garden Cleanup

I hope my post helps guide you.  Please share your comments and questions in the comment section following the post (rather than write to me directly), that way everyone can benefit from your questions, my answers, and all the additional sage advice that others share.

Is my garden cleanup done yet? Not nearly. Heading back out as soon as I send this off. Good luck with yours and please wish me some luck and stamina with mine. It will all be worth it when it’s done.

Happy Gardening,

Eupatoriums in the Wildlife Garden

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Monarch nectaring on Joe-pye-weed with Boneset in the foreground – TWO great Eupatoriums

If you’re looking for some fun plants to add to your wildlife garden, seriously consider the Eupatoriums:

1.  They are stunning 2.  A selection of them can cover a good part of the growing season 3.  They are pollinator magnets 4.  Monarchs LOVE them and Monarchs need all the help they can get


Enjoy my latest post on Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens Eupatoriums – Butterfly Magnets to learn  more!

Red-spotted Purples are waking up

Red-spotted Purple caterpillar on its first walkabout, April 15, 2013. Notice its hibernaculum, the home where if safely survived winter.

It’s Spring

It’s spring and Red-spotted Purple caterpillars are venturing out of their winter hibernaculums.  Partially grown caterpillars created these safe retreats last fall by silking a tiny leaf shut, silking the leaf to the tree, then crawling inside and going to sleep for the winter.  All the other leaves fell from Black Cherry trees and Beach Plum bushes, but the hibernaculum leaves remained still attached – a tell-tale sign to a keen naturalist that some creature might be inside.

From late June on this lovely butterly is a regular in our garden, especially if we maintain a dish of gooey fruit – which they favor over flower nectar


As temperatures warm, these teeny tiny caterpillars (about one-quarter inch long) are venturing forth, sunning in the warmth and looking for tasty buds on their host plant (Black Cherry, Beach Plum, . . .).

To learn more about the neat life history of this stunning butterfly, read my April post on Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens.

Invasives – Be Gone !

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Purple Loosestrife is planted with abandon as if there is no problem with it being an invasive species and finding its way into nearby natural areas

Cape May County, where I live, has more invasive species than any other county in New Jersey: 366 as of March 2013.  Gardeners here are bombarded with invasvies every day in nurseries, plantings by landscapers, neighbor’s yards, school plantings, natural areas.  It’s quite overwhelming.  I delved into the problem in my latest post on Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens.