Butterfly Gardens Enliven the Landscape
in this issue
C O A S T A L
N E W S
S T A T E
N E W S
Eastern tiger swallowtail
JC Raulston Arboretum
Sleepy orange skipper
JC Raulston Arboretum
JC Raulston Arboretum
nc state university NORTH CAROLINA COOPERATIVE EXTENSION Spring 2009
Growing a garden is a satisfying proj-ect.
When plants bloom and thrive,
they bring constant pleasure to the
gardener who has spent many hours on hands
and knees tending them. Added pleasures in
home gardens are the creatures that make their
homes among the flowers. One of the most
enchanting of these creatures is the butterfly.
A welcome visitor to any garden, the butterfly’s
whimsical frolic among the plants growing
there brings a smile to anyone who may be
There are many different butterflies through-out
the world, including the 160 species that
occur in North Carolina. When they enter a
garden, they are looking for two things: nectar
and host plants. Nectar is a major food source
for butterflies, and a host plant is a specific plant
upon which a butterfly will lay her eggs. This
host plant must also serve as food for hatching
caterpillars. To encourage butterflies in your
garden, these two requirements must be met.
What types of flowers appeal to butterflies?
Brightly colored blooms will attract them, and
fragrance is also a factor. Most butterflies must
land on a flower to drink, so they like those with
large petals or tight clusters of flowers. They also
seem to prefer mass plantings of single colors
rather than a hodgepodge of mixed colors. As
butterflies are present all season long, plants that
flower for a long time are preferred.
To ensure the presence of butterflies, plant
some host plants in or near the garden. Each
species of butterfly is very specific about the
types of plants its caterpillars will consume.
Become familiar with the types of butterflies
that frequent your area and the host plants they
require. Decide where you will put your butter-fly
habitat and how much space to devote to it
before selecting plants. Choose a sunny location.
Most butterflies are active only in the sun, and
many plants that host caterpillars or produce
nectar for adult butterflies grow well in sunny
habitats. Include some tall plants and shrubs
that will help to shelter butterflies from wind
Butterflies like to have a place to get warm
in the mornings, so flat, dark-colored rocks for
them to sun on will encourage them to visit.
Also, an area on the ground that can be kept
moist is helpful so that visiting butterflies can
drink water and absorb minerals from wet soil.
Enjoy your butterfly garden and the visitors that
it will attract. For a list of plants that attract
butterflies and more information about butterfly
gardens, see Butterflies in Your Backyard: www.
— Donna Teasley
Sustainable Gardening — Soil testing
JC Raulston Arboretum
Master Gardener Plant Sales
March 26 – March 31, 9 am – 5 pm daily, Wilmington, 910.798.7660
April 16 – 18, Burgaw, 910.259.1235
April 16 – 18, 9 am – 4 pm, Bolivia,
April 18, 7 am – 12 pm, Kinston,
April 25, 8 am – 2 pm, Nashville,
April 25, 8:30 am – 11:30 am, Beaufort, 252.222.6352
May 2, 8:30 am – 11:30 am, Beaufort , 252.222.6352
May 9, 8:30 am – 11:30 am, Beaufort , 252.222.6352
May 16, 8:30 am – 11:30 am, Beaufort, 252.222.6352
April 4, 9 am – 12 pm, Wilson – Alive with Color Spring Symposium,
April 18, 9 am – 6 pm, Ocean – Coastal Federation Native Plant Festival, 252.393.8185
May 1–2, 10 am – 4 pm, Wilson –
2009 Wilson Garden Tour, $25,
May 16, 10 am – 2:30 pm, Kill Devil Hills – Coastal Gardening Festival,
May 17, 2 pm – 5 pm, Greenville – Pitt County Arboretum Open House, 252.902.1700
Master Gardener plant sales
occur March through May.
Food Production — Weed control in vegetable gardens
Whether you are planting a vegetable or flower garden, or maintaining a lawn and landscape, your first step should be soil testing. Applying too much or too little fertilizer and lime without testing your soil can hinder plant growth and development. Correct nutrient applications lead to healthier, more productive plants.
Soil testing plays an important role in plant growth and quality, and it helps protect our environment. Gardeners who rely on soil tests are less likely to apply more fertilizer than plants can use, which wastes money and often results in water pollution. This is especially true during heavy rainfall, when excess fertilizers are carried in runoff and leach into groundwater. Fertilizing properly can reduce pruning needs because over-fertilization can lead to excessive growth.
Obtaining quality soil samples is a vital part of receiving accurate results. Inexpensive home soil-testing kits will not provide the detailed analysis reported by a professional laboratory. Professional soil testing is provided free to all N.C. residents by the N.C. Department of Agriculture. Boxes and forms for soil testing are available from any county Extension center. Prepared samples can be mailed to the soil-testing lab in Raleigh. Soil-test results and recommendations will be mailed back to you. You can also view results online: http://www.agr.state.nc.us/agronomi/sthome.htm
Soil samples can be collected anytime. Plan to test several weeks before planting so you will have your results back in plenty of time. Use a stainless steel or chrome-plated spade or shovel. Dig a small hole to the approximate depth you will be collecting. Scrape soil from the side of the hole, obtaining soil in one scoop from the top to the bottom of the hole. For lawns, take samples no deeper than 2 – 6 inches. For gardens, collect to a depth of 6 – 8 inches. For trees and shrubs, collect samples 6 – 10 inches deep. To find out more about soil testing and test results, contact your county Extension center.
A major chore in the vegetable garden is keeping weeds under control. Weeds compete with vegetables for sunlight, water and nutrients, and can also harbor insects and diseases. Get weeds under control with these methods.
Mechanical. Use a hoe to cut weeds off at soil level. This detaches the leaves from the roots, making it difficult for the weed to survive. Some perennial weeds will come back several times. Eventually, however, the energy stored in the roots will be depleted, and those weeds will die. Hand-pulling also falls in this category and is very effective. You will probably have to pull some weeds, no matter what other methods you use.
Mulches. Organic and inorganic mulches shade the soil surface to discourage weed growth. Products such as wheat straw, newspapers and shredded leaves are organic mulches: natural products that can be mixed into the soil at the end of the growing season to improve it. Spread these mulches in a 2- to 3-inch layer across the garden to help suppress weeds and conserve soil moisture.
Products such as landscape fabric and plastics are inorganic mulches because they are manmade. They are typically removed at the end of the growing season. Landscape fabric is porous, allowing the exchange of air and water between the soil and the atmosphere. Plastics are nonporous, so a water line will need to be placed under the plastic to provide plants the moisture they need. Black plastics warm the soil in the spring, allowing for earlier planting. Reflective plastics have been used to confuse insects so they can’t find plants to feed on.
Chemicals. Herbicides also may be used to control weeds. Keep in mind, however, that most of them will also damage vegetable crops. Use only herbicides labeled for use in vegetables, and follow label directions carefully.
For more information contact your county Extension center.
— Shawn BanksRegional News of the Coastal Plain
• Spring is here, but be cau-tious.
Plant tender annuals and
vegetables after the last spring
frosts (mid-April is usually a safe
planting date in coastal North
• Summer annuals and bulbs per-form
much better when planted
in well‑prepared beds. Before
planting, till and incorporate
organic matter, and add lime
and fertilizer based on soil test
• Prune spring-flowering plants
such as azaleas and forsythia
after they bloom, if needed.
• Apply slow-release organic or
coated fertilizers to landscape
beds in mid-spring. Read direc-tions
carefully, and do not over-fertilize.
• Plant cool-season vegetables
such as lettuce, broccoli, carrots,
beets, turnips, potatoes, spinach,
radishes, and cabbage in early
spring. Wait until the threat of
frost is past (mid-April) to plant
warm-season vegetables such as
beans, okra, eggplant, pumpkins,
tomatoes, cucumbers, squash,
peppers, melons and corn.
• Wait until May to fertilize Ber-mudagrass,
and zoysia, and until early June
to fertilize centipedegrass.
• Request a copy of the lawn
maintenance calendar for
your turf type from your local
Extension center to find out
what should be done to keep
your lawn healthy throughout
the year. Mowing height and
fertilizer rates and timing are
different for each grass.
Environmental Stewardship — Going native
Garden Spot — Wilmington’s Airlie Gardens
Eastern North Carolina is home to many
different kinds of plants, birds, fish, mam-mals,
insects and other creatures that make this
area a wonderful place to live. Unfortunately,
the rapid development our area is experienc-ing
threatens many of the species that attract
people to this region.
When forests and natural areas are cleared
to make way for our homes and businesses,
wildlife loses out because their homes are
destroyed. Altering natural areas to the point
that they can no longer support native wildlife
is known as habitat loss, one of the greatest
threats to native plants and animals. But there
is something you can do!
Begin to restore wildlife habitat in your
yard by planting and encouraging native plants
that provide food and shelter for native species.
A new Web site developed by NC State Uni-versity’s
Wildlife Extension Program makes this
Going Native: Urban landscaping for wildlife
with native plants offers expert advice and
step-by-step instructions on how to incorpo-rate
native plants for wildlife in your yard. A
searchable plant database can help you create
a list of native species for your landscape. The
site includes lists of nurseries that sell native
Discover more by visiting http://www.ncsu.
edu/goingnative/, or request a copy of Land-scaping
for Wildlife with Native Plants from
your county Extension center.
Historic Airlie Gardens
in Wilmington offers
visitors the opportunity to
smell the roses, admire the
azaleas, and stand in the
shade of the 450-year-old
Airlie Oak. Trails within this
67-acre garden paradise lead
visitors around the garden’s
lakes, through natural areas
and cultivated gardens, and
past historic garden struc-tures
and tidal creek views.
This mixture creates a unique
environment for guests to
Sarah Jones, wife of
industrialist Pembroke Jones,
began planting the 155-acre
estate in 1901. In 1906, she
commissioned a German
landscape architect, Rudolf
Topel, to turn the property
into a garden.
The Corbett family
purchased the property in
1948 and used the gardens as
their residence. The Corbetts
opened the garden to the public seasonally,
especially in the spring. In 1999, the fam-ily
sold the property to New
Hanover County. Now the 67
acres that remain are preserved
for public use.
Operated by New Hanover
County, Airlie is open to the
public throughout the year by
admission. To find out more
about the spectacular gardens
and their history, visit www.
airliegardens.org or call 910.798.7700.
The Pergola garden at Aerlie
(top) includes a lakeside
JC Raulston Arboretum
JC Raulston Arboretum
Chinese fringe flower Lorapetalum chinense ‘Ruby’ is an evergreen (or should we say “ever-red”) shrub that adds pizzazz to any landscape. Its ruby-red new growth in spring darkens to a deep-burgundy by autumn. Each April, bright pink clusters of fringe-shaped flowers appear to complement the colorful foliage, making this plant a true Showstopper.
Loropetalum or Chinese fringe flower will grow in sun or part shade. Most will easily grow 8 feet tall and wide. ‘Ruby’ is considered to be one of the more compact cultivars, reaching a mature height of only 5 feet. If another variety is overgrown, prune it into a small, spreading tree.
Use this versatile shrub in an informal hedge, to screen an undesirable view, or with other plants in a shrub border. Once established, ‘Ruby’ and the other loropetalums are very drought tolerant. —John Vining and Mark Blevins
Extension Gardener provides timely, research-based horticultural information. We publish 4 issues per year. Send comments about Extension Gardener to
Editor and Team Leader
Lucy Bradley, Ph.D., Extension Specialist, Urban Horticulture
Box 7609, NC State University
Raleigh, NC 27695-7609
Managing Editor Will Strader
Content Editor David Goforth
Coastal Plain Anne Edwards,
Piedmont Carl Matyac, Mark Blevins
Mountains Donna Teasley,
Production Editor Barbara Scott
Designer Karl Larson
The use of brand names does not imply endorsement by N.C. Cooperative Extension nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned.
Distributed in furtherance of the acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation. North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.
©North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Extension Gardener may not be reproduced without written permission. Any news media using sections of the newsletter should credit “Extension Gardener, N.C. Cooperative Extension.”
Blueberries are a wonderful addition to any North Carolina yard! They can be incorporated into the landscape as hedges or planted in mixed borders. You can find out which varieties are recommended for your area from your local Extension center. Regardless of variety, all blueberries require acidic soils to grow well. Testing your soil to find out your pH before planting is critical to success. Blueberries prefer a soil pH of around 4.5. They also need good drainage, but don’t like to dry out. Mix composted organic matter into your soil to help retain enough moisture to keep plants healthy. Plant on a mound to improve soil drainage. Blueberries produce best in full sun. They will also do well in part shade, as long as they get at least 4 hours of sunlight each day.
Around the State
Pest Alert — Fire Ants Must Be Monitored
North Carolina’s imported fire ant infestation continues to expand, partly because of recent mild winters. Increased residential and industrial development and infestations of fire ants in sod and nursery stock are also factors.
Although red imported fire ants are a nuisance, ants in general are beneficial insects that help to degrade waste and eat other insects. Researchers recommend spot-treating each mound instead of trying to eradicate all fire ants by broadcasting baits over large areas. Native ants will defend their territory and help to prevent red imported fire ants from spreading.
Control is designed around killing the queen. While she lives, she will lay hundreds of eggs daily. It can take several weeks to kill all
Red imported fire antthe ants in a mound. Fire ant baits and liquid drenches are effective when properly applied. Apply drenches in high-use areas where people are likely to be stung. Ants that come in contact with the liquid pesticide die immediately. There are no guarantees, however, that the queen will come in contact with the pesticide. If she does not die, the mound will survive.
While you may be successful in destroying a fire ant mound, monitoring for future mounds is very important. Don’t expect 100% control. New queens will always develop and start new mounds. For more information about fire ants, visit www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/Urban/ifa.htm
JC Raulston Arboretum
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