focus on one sunflower in front of a field of sunflowers lit from behind by sun

Nothing says summer like a brightly blooming sunflower (Helianthus annus). Often considered a weed in a farmer's field, many homeowners find joy filling their landscape and gardens with these majestic giants. The colorful, sunny blooms elevate a garden display and double as a snack for you and your garden wildlife.  

butterflyweed with orange flowers and green leaves

Roadsides and ditches are drawing the eye of humans and butterflies alike as common milkweed plants (Asclepias syriaca) return to the summer scenery. While this plant proves unpopular for its weedy habit, it is a necessity for the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) as the sole food source of the monarch caterpillar. The good news is, with twenty-two species of milkweed native to Illinois, every gardener can find a favorite alternative to common milkweed.

Monarch on a flower

Thank a pollinator for that warm cup of coffee in your hands, or for that chocolate sundae you indulged in the other day. National Pollinator Week is June 21-27; celebrate pollinators and support their health this year. Did you know that that pollinators like bees and butterflies, provide 1 out of 3 bites of food we eat? Over 80% of flowering plants are pollinated by these small, but busy animals.

calamint and Echinacea

Sun-loving, season-long blooming, low maintenance, dependable and pollinator-friendly. Sound like a perfect perennial to add to your garden?  

sphynx moth

With everything going virtual this year, Illinois’ Master Gardener conference followed suit, hosting only one speaker. So she must have been good.

butterflies on sedum by Candace Hart

A few years back, Illinois gardeners learned that there is more to monarch decline than a lack of milkweed to support larvae, or habitat destruction in their overwintering home. Another contributing factor is a lack of floral resources for adult monarch butterflies to make the journey in the fall. University of Illinois Extension pushed a campaign to plant more of these fall bloomers.

aster, purple with yellow centers. credit: pixabay.

When thinking of fall bloomers for your garden, everyone's usual go-to is the mum, but don’t rule out the gorgeous asters sitting next to the mums. There are 180 species of aster, many of which are native to Illinois. New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) and aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) are two easy-to-find favorites.

Black Swallowtail by Deanna Frautschi

Are you ready for a break from the garden? Breaking some old habits in your usual fall garden clean up could make a huge difference to butterflies, moths, bees, and other beneficial insects that overwinter in the Illinois landscape, and be a more environmentally sound practice.

Get your gardens buzzing next spring by planting bee-friendly bulbs and spring bloomers this fall.

Bumblebee queens, honey bees, and solitary bees start emerging from their winter homes ready to feast on the landscape as early as March. Feed them from your garden by planting a mix of crocus, snow drops, Siberian squill, grape hyacinth, bluebells with spring flowering hellebores and primroses to ensure many sources of nectar.