Saturday, May 16, 2015

The amazingly drought tolerant monarch waystation

Yes, you read that right: drought-tolerant monarch waystation. Unless I'm adding a new plant I never water my waystation. In fact, our outdoor water spicket has been broken for two years. I have rain barrels but I only use that sacred water for my veggies, my milkweed seedlings, and when I'm establishing a new plant in the garden.

Last summer Ipswich, MA had a water ban for months and it seems like we're headed that way again this summer. I've been obsessively watching the radar and every blob of precipitation seems to fizzle out before it hits the north shore of Boston. I'm already preparing for a dry summer but I'm not worried. Pretty much every single one of the 80 native plant varieties in my yard is drought tolerant. Yes, almost every single one! 

To the right are the gardens in front of my house at the end of July. Even the red cardinal flower in front of the trellis doesn't need water, although it's generally considered a wetland plant.

Swamp milkweed and butterfly weed in full flower, July 2014.
it wasn't watered once all spring or summer. 

Native plants that have evolved here in New England are highly adapted to the crazy weather swings we have. Even the swamp milkweed in my way station (left) that grows naturally along our stretch of the river can go from being flooded in the spring to bone-dry come September.

If you're planning on putting in a garden this summer, please consider native plants. Most local nurseries carry them now, and the more you ask the more they will stock them. And don't forget the milkweed for the monarchs! See photos below for my favorite drought tolerant native perennials and visit here for a more complete planting list for New England.

My monarch waystation in high summer, blooming
strong and never watered. 

My monarch waystation in September, two months into a
water ban and still blooming. 

"Ice ballet" swamp milkweed

Garden phlox

Joe-pye weed

Butterfly weed

Cardinal flower
Black-eyed susans

White chocolate snakeroot, three months into a water ban
and in full flower early last October.