Planting for the cause


Many of you have heard that 2017’s “Perennial Plant of the Year” is Asclepias tuberosa/butterfly weed. It’s not a surprising choice—attention to attracting and supporting pollinators, especially butterflies, especially monarchs, has been peaking for the past few years and shows no sign of declining. A good thing.

Normally, I pay scant attention to “plants of the year” and all the other marketing ploys (trends, predictions, surveys) put forth by the gardening industry. And, no, I will not be using a trademark symbol anywhere in this post.

But. In this case, the announcement happened to coincide with another email I received, this one from a local nature preserve, Reinstein Woods. Reinstein is holding a native plant sale to benefit the organization (a lovely preserve that features educational outdoor programs all year round, even now) and help spread the word about the benefits of native plants. Included in the sale is just about every type of milkweed, including this one. I suppose most people grow this from seed, but I don’t do well with seeds, so I am ordering several sets of three (swamp, butterfly, white, maybe common).

At this point, my garden is, as they say, what it is. I won’t be redesigning it, so I’ll just make room in a more-or-less sunny bed and hope for the best. Do I think it will thrive? Not really, not if these prerequisites hold: full sun, well-drained soil, good for meadow garden, best planted in large masses. None of that will be possible; the best sun bed—and it isn’t really full—I have is already well-inhabited by tall Joe Pye, double rudbeckia and other monsters. I’ll have to pull some out to make room for this. But we’ll see. I’m happy to try to please pollinators even more than I’m doing. At this stage, I tend to take plant failure or success with equanimity, so bring on the PPotY.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at