Help save the monarch butterfly, plant milkweed and other pollinator friendly plants, as seen on PTL

Monarch butterflies are in trouble and you can help them.
Monarch butterflies are in trouble and you can help them.

Monarch butterflies are in trouble.

Studies in the Mexican forests where the butterfly spends winters show a sharp decline in population, especially over the last three years. This year, the butterfly covered only 1.65 acres of woodlands compared with 2.94 acres last year, according to Monarch Watch. The species covered almost 51.81 acres at its peak in 1996.

There are many reasons for the troubling statistics, including habitat destruction in Mexico and severe weather conditions that have affected the butterfly’s favorite plants. Genetically modified crops, which can resist the herbicide Roundup, have also been an issue. Spraying does not affect GMOs but it kills weeds such as milkweed, which is the butterfly’s host plant.

In spring, Monarchs make a spectacular migration from Mexico to North America and return in the fall. On both journeys, they need host plants and nectar plants to feed on.

Advice for gardeners is simple: Plant milkweed everywhere. There are four major types:

Tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) — Grown as an annual here, it’s planted toward the end of May and succumbs to frost at the end of the season. The tender leaves make a great food source for the larvae and the flowers provide nectar for the adults.

Swamp milkweed (A. incarnata) — a perennial plant that will come back each year. It does like wet soil but will also grow in average garden soil despite its name. The pink blooms are beautiful and fragrant, too.

Common milkweed (A. syriaca) — Also perennial, it spreads through underground runners and will thrive in full sun and average to poor soil. The flowers are purplish with a sweet aroma.

Butterfly weed (A. tuberosa) is shorter than the other two perennials with deep orange flowers that appear in summer.

There are also other plants which help the monarch at the end of the summer to get ready for the migration south.

Showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa) is beautiful, clump-forming (and) extraordinarily polite. It has beautiful majestic strong spikes of yellow and it’s super late-blooming.

Liatris, also known as blazing star, blooms in July and August. Any of the cultivars will work, but meadow (Liatris ligulistylis), prairie (L. pycnostachya) and rough blazing star (L. aspera).

Asters that attract the butterfly include sky blue (Aster oolentangiensis), New York (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii) and white (S. ericoides). New England aster (S. novae-angliae).

The Audubon Center for Native Plants and Audubon Nature Store at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve are at 614 Dorseyville Road, Fox Chapel (15238). Information: (412)-963-6100 or They sell four different types of milkweed and have a very limited supply of free seeds for common milkweed. They are also holding a “Marvelous Milkweed” native plant workshop July 11, 1-3pm at Beechwood Farms and July 12, 2-4pm at Succop Nature Park.

Monarch Watch is a great web site devoted to saving the butterfly.

The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge asks gardeners to create pollinator gardens and register them. It’s fun, easy and important.

Just a few seats left for Doug’s Gardens of Paris tour this August

I shot this picture from the top of Notre Dame. It's quite a climb, but worth it for the view.
I shot this picture from the top of Notre Dame. It’s quite a climb, but worth it for the view.

I can’t wait to show you Paris. This is the first trip that I’ve helped build myself, and I did that since I’ve been there before.
I think it’s the most beautiful city in the world. One big bonus, is the fight is direct! It makes the journey so much easier.
You’ll eat dinner at the Eiffel Tower, tour Notre Dame Cathedral, see Monet’s garden, Versailles, the secret gardens of Paris and more.
On Friday come with me as we get lost in Paris. It’s one of the best ways to see the city and don’t worry, we’ll find our way back to the hotel. That’s also a day to kick back if you’d prefer. Sit at a street side cafe and people watch or check out the little shops near our hotel.
Here are all the details, sign up soon, like all my other trips, it’s going to sell out. I will only take a maximum of 32 people, that way we get to know each other. I’ve made many good friends as we’ve enjoyed traveling together.
This is the easiest way to travel as my friends from Collette provide us a local guide who cares for us through the whole trip.

This is the itinerary-

Spotlight on Paris

Day 1: Monday, August 10, 2015 Overnight Flight
Set out for captivating Paris. Come to know this city famous for its world-renowned art, food and fashion. Its rich history will astound you while its style dazzles.
Day 2: Tuesday, August 11, 2015 Paris, France
Arrive in the “City of Light.” Take this day to meander two of Paris’ most well-known gardens. First, visit Luxembourg Gardens, spanning 60 acres, which was created beginning in 1612 by Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France, and inspired by the Boboli Gardens in Florence. Next, you will visit the Jardin des Plantes, a 17th-century royal garden complete with a natural-history museum, greenhouses, alpine garden, iris garden, rose garden, remarkable trees, and a menagerie. (B)
Day 3: Wednesday, August 12, 2015 Paris, France – Tour Begins
Today you travel to Bois Richeux. Feel like you have stepped back in time when exploring the medieval gardens, established more than 2000 years ago. After this visit, you travel to another of France’s famous gardens in Giverny. The tranquil gardens here combine flora and water elements, and also inspired Monet’s greatest works when he lived in Giverny for more than 40 years. Tonight, enjoy breathtaking views of the city during a dinner featuring delicious French cuisine at the Eiffel Tower. Following dinner, get a different perspective on the city during a Seine River cruise. As you glide along, admire Paris’ glittering skyline. (B, D)
Day 4: Thursday, August 13, 2015 Paris
Come to know the dramatic highlights of Paris – the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, Champs-Elysees, Place de la Concorde and the magnificent Place Vendome are just some of the amazing landmarks you will see while on a locally-guided tour. Your day continues with a guided tour at the famous Louvre. Dine this evening at one of Paris’ fine restaurants. (B, D)
Day 5: Friday, August 14, 2015 Paris
The entire day is yours to enjoy the city in your own way. You may choose to get a new perspective and leave the city to explore the surrounding countryside. Your tour manager will be on hand with suggestions on exciting ways to spend your free time. (B)
Day 6: Saturday, August 15, 2015 Paris – Reims – Épernay – Paris
Today our journey takes us to Champagne country. Make a stop in ancient Reims to visit its towering centerpiece, the Notre-Dame de Reims. This UNESCO World Heritage site was once the place where French kings were crowned. Discover Reims’ pedestrian streets lined with art galleries and cafés during an included walking tour. Next, travel a short distance to the village of Épernay. Set on the banks of the river Marne, it is home to the world’s leading champagne makers. Stroll down the most famous street in Épernay, the Avenue de Champagne, before making a visit to one of the cellars dug here between the 4th – 15th centuries. Here we see the traditional equipment and enjoy a guided tour and a tasting of the notable champagne varieties. (B)
Day 7: Sunday, August 16, 2015 Paris
During your free afternoon, enjoy an interesting visit to the incomparable Palace of Versailles. The palace and gardens of Versailles reflect the extravagant tastes of King Louis XIV, the “Sun King.” On this excursion travel by coach to Versailles, where your local guide will recount the history of the palace and lead you through the various rooms of the State Apartments. Of particular interest are the Queen’s bedchamber and the famous Hall of Mirrors. You then have leisure time to explore the incredible gardens, some of the most famous in the world, which took over 40 years to complete. Celebrate the end of a fabulous trip with a special dinner at the Paradis Latin*, Paris’ oldest cabaret theatre. Enjoy a sumptuous dinner complete with wine, champagne and a delightful cabaret show. (B, D)
Day 8: Monday, August 17, 2015 Paris – Tour Ends
Your tour comes to a close today. Head home with many wonderful memories of your Parisian adventure. (B)

Cool new plants as seen on KDKA’s Pittsburgh Today Live

Digiplexis is a cool new cross breeders have created.
Digiplexis is a cool new cross breeders have created.

The plant world is being turned upside down by breeders figuring out how to cross different species and introducing new varieties too.
Digiplexis is a cross between digitalis (fovglove) and isoplexis. It looks a lot like a foxglove, but grows as an annual in our climate blooming until frost.
Echibeckia is a cross between Echinacea (coneflower) and Rudbeckia (black eyed Susan). It’s a long blooming perennial with an interesting look and toughness of the coneflower.
‘Ketchup ‘n’ Fries’ is a plant that grows tomatoes on the top and potatoes below ground. They are a little pricy, but certainly a conversation piece in the garden.
‘Bounce’ impatiens are a cross between our regular variety and New Guinea impatiens. It’s highly resistant to downy impatiens mildew.
I love the new variegated lavender called ‘Platinum.’ You get the pretty purple blooms over green and white foliage.
‘Tractor Seat’ Giant Leopard Plant, Farfugium japonicum ‘Gigantea’ is grown in the shade outside during the summer and brought back inside to live on the windowsill all winter.
All the plants on the show came from Chapon’s Greenhouse in Baldwin.

13th Annual Plant Swap and Giveaway with Doug Sunday 12 noon North Park

Get free plants of 'The Limbaugh Legacy Potato Top' tomato on Sunday with Doug
Get free plants of ‘The Limbaugh Legacy Potato Top’ tomato on Sunday with Doug

This will be the 13th year I’ve held the Post-Gazette Backyard Gardener Plant Swap. Although there’s some dispute with participants about how many years this has been going on. The first couple seasons I actually held the event at my house. It quickly grew and that’s when we moved to North Park.

On Sunday June 7th, 2015 the event is back to the old location in North Park across from the Ice Skating Rink on Pearce Mill Road from 12 noon until 2 p.m. Come at 12 noon, the event is usually over in about a half hour and I just wait for others to come so they

Bring divisions from your garden to trade with other gardeners. Be sure plants are labelled and please don’t bring anything invasive.

Thousands of gardeners attend every year and it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet like minded people.

I’ll also be giving away ‘Limbaugh Legacy Potato Top’ tomato plants. The Pittsburgh heirloom tomato was introduced to me by the late Fred Limbaugh, here’s the whole story. The plants produce large (1-2pound), pink and meaty tomatoes.

Usually they are the last fruit picked in the garden, so grow other varieties too. There are a limited supply of plants, they will be given away on a first come, first serve basis, one to a family please.

Mindy Schwartz of Garden Dreams Urban Farm and Nursery in Wilkinsburg will have lots of plants to give-a-way too.

Tips and tricks for growing great roses as seen on KDKA’s PTL

Roses have a reputation for being hard to grow, but make them happy and they will thrive.
Roses have a reputation for being hard to grow, but make them happy and they will thrive.

Roses are really pretty easy to grow if you make them happy. First thing is to find the right place for them. Most like full sun, but they will limp along with less than nominal light. My garden doesn’t have full sun, so I plant them where they get as much as possible and also choose varieties that don’t mind a little shade like ‘Zephirine Drouhin.’That’s the thornless climber I brought on the show. Decades ago I saw it in a Park Seed catalog and fell in love with the plant. Sometimes those early crushes capture us for a lifetime. I’m compelled to grow the rose in my garden. I planted a second one this spring, but baby rabbits have done a number on the plant. Hot Pepper Wax will prevent any further damage.
Flower Carpet roses are tough and beautiful. Knock Out roses are pretty easy to grow too. One of the most popular roses this year is Anna’s Promise, named for a character from Downton Abbey.

Roses should be planted in good soil amended with compost and fed monthly with Rosetone, an easy to find, inexpensive, organic granular fertilizer.

Chewing insects like Japanese beetles can be easily controlled with an organic product called Capt. Jack’s Dead Bug Brew from Bonide. Most good garden centers will carry it. It can’t harm us, our pets, good bugs or the environment.

The most problematic disease is called black spot and it’s easily prevented using a homemade remedy called the Cornell Mixture. Take one gallon of water and mix in a tablespoon of baking soda, tablespoon of horticultural oil (available at garden centers) and a drop of unscented dish soap. Put the mixture in a sprayer and treat the plant every couple weeks if the weather is wet, cold and or humid.

Serenade is a commercially available organic fungicide which also works great.

Find the right rose for you to love, it will return the affection time and time again in the form of flowers and fragrance.

All the plants on the show came from Hahn Nursery.

Stop and smell the roses might be a cliche, but it’s more relevant today than ever.