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Garden Q&A: How to draw monarchs to your garden?

I used to have dozens of monarch butterflies in my garden — now almost none. How can I attract them again?

Research showed that the precipitous decline in monarchs a couple of years ago was mainly because of extreme weather, illegal logging in Mexico and herbicide use, which have almost wiped out the food source of monarchs — milkweed. We can't counter the first two causes but we can plant milkweed or ornamentals in the milkweed family such as butterfly weed. Without a food source for monarch caterpillars to eat, there can be no monarchs.

Our bag of mulch was full of termites. I didn't realize it until after my teenager had already spread it all over the yard! Should the store pay for treating our yard for termites?

Not to worry. To survive, termites must have a moist environment at all times, so occasionally they set up housekeeping in bags of mulch. As soon as the bag is opened or mulch is spread, the termites dry up and die. Remember that termites are native insects, and we all have some in the vicinity of our homes naturally. That is OK as long as your home is constructed to properly discourage them and you haven't allowed any new conditions to develop that favor them, such as letting water accumulate or burying wood near the house. If you haven't had termite problems in the past, you won't suddenly start getting them now. Please visit our website for more information about termites.

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 hgic.umd.edu.

Plant of the weekFringed bleeding heart

Dicentra eximia 'Luxuriant'

An all-summer bloomer is about as good as it gets. Fringed bleeding heart — a native, no less -- blooms its heart out for months, beginning in April, with little to no demands on you. The 15- to 18-inch ferny foliage in a blue-green tone makes a nice cool accent to the summer garden. While the pink flowers are interesting and charming, they're no great shakes individually. Together, though, their cheery color and persistence endears them to the hearts of gardeners. The cultivar 'Luxuriant,' probably a hybrid, is excellent. Be careful to plant it in moist, well-drained soil that is rich in nutrients and organics. Fringed bleeding heart needs shade but will tolerate some direct sun. Don't plant the crown any deeper than it is in the pot.

—Ellen Nibali

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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