Get unlimited digital access to $0.99 for 4 weeks.
Lifestyle Home & Garden

Bring back the magic of the butterflies

My butterflies were magical this year, there were so many! What did I do right so I can do it again?

Butterflies, especially the yellow-and-black Eastern tiger swallowtail, thrilled many Marylanders with their extremely high numbers this year. Population spikes mainly trace to food availability and pressure from predators (birds, insects and disease). Our lush spring and summer provided a plentiful and extra- nutritious diet for caterpillars (from which butterflies develop). Birds, the caterpillars' main enemy, may have been preoccupied by a plethora of other tasty insects, or some predator insect population may have crashed for some reason. Of course, avoiding pesticides and providing a variety of plants for caterpillars to feast on and good nectar-producing flowers to draw the butterflies all contributed to your butterfly extravaganza.

My community garden plot of many years has gotten more and more weeds and disease problems. Would moving to another plot in the garden be an improvement?

A newly created plot on soil not previously used should be helpful, but it really depends. Moving within the garden may help with persistent root rots and wilt disease but proably won't help with foliar disease or insects. It may help with weeds, depending on the type of weed and the gardening practices of your neighbor gardeners. Rotating crops to a new area in the garden is a common practice. Be sure you don't take any weed seeds or disease spores to a new plot on tools or garden pots, etc. Find out what is causing your current problems so you can try to avoid repeating them.

University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to the website at

Plant of the week

Wood spurge

Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae

Wood spurge makes a low-maintenance evergreen perennial groundcover for a wide range of conditions. Dark green, glossy, leathery leaves grow in tight rosettes on the stems. In early spring, lime-green bracts appear on stalks 12 inches above the foliage and almost glow in shady spots. It grows best in well-drained soils, shade to part-sun. Once established, the leaves form a weed-smothering carpet, spreading by underground runners. It can spread rapidly in moist rich soils and may require thinning. Like all spurges, milky sap in its stem may irritate skin, but this factor makes the plant pest-free and deer-resistant. It's worth seeking out for problem areas such as dry shade. — Marian Hengemihle

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • New plants for 2015: There's a lot for gardeners to love
    New plants for 2015: There's a lot for gardeners to love

    What's that rosy glow in the distance? It's the dawn of a new gardening year! The long trudge of winter may seem to go on forever, but the days are getting longer and it's time to start dreaming and planning.

  • Most expensive homes in the Baltimore region in 2014
    Most expensive homes in the Baltimore region in 2014

    A 10-bedroom Severna Park estate that sold for $6.75 million was the most expensive Baltimore-area home sale in 2014. Anne Arundel County dominated the market for high-end properties with 13 of the 20 most expensive homes. (Source: Data provided by MRIS)

  • Fallston man captures details of his home in model form
    Fallston man captures details of his home in model form

    Fallston resident Bill Tamburrino, 94, has spent more than 30 years building a model of his home in painstaking detail, down to replicas of kitchen cabinets and bathroom fixtures.

  • When hanging a hammock, avoid harming trees
    When hanging a hammock, avoid harming trees

    Our hammock has always been attached to an eye bolt screwed into a tree. When we took down the hammock this fall, we discovered the eye bolt has been completely engulfed by bark. Just swallowed up! We barely got the hammock off. How do we cut (drill?) out the eye bolt?

  • Agate objects are design rock stars
    Agate objects are design rock stars

    The allure of gemstones and minerals long has inspired designers captivated with their natural beauty. Slices of agate are particularly rocking home decor because of their mesmerizing crystal quality, swirling bands and range of subtle to brilliant hues. Aerin Lauder likes them; she has...

  • A house with a long history
    A house with a long history

    The Robert Long House, built by an up-and-coming merchant in 1765, is billed as the oldest known surviving urban residence in Baltimore's old city limits. This year marks its 250th birthday.