Friday, September 21, 2018

Monarch Mail Time!!


What a zany summer it has been! The temperature swings this season have been especially fickle, but once the September brought much-needed rain and we brought the comforter out from the cabinet it's hard to imagine Fall is here. The dahlias have only just hit their peak, and we have so many tomatoes still ready to ripen on the vine!

This Summer seems to have been especially disappointing in the Monarch world. No Monarchs appeared at Ross' old house in Tigard this year, and very few were even sighted in Washington. It's very alarming news. But where there is rain, there is a rainbow: Ross found several eggs at a new population of milkweed he cultivated at his son's elementary school, and 3 made it to adult Monarch-hood! We waited on pins and needles as he kept the Monarchs in his cool basement area to await identification tags to arrive in his mail; and arrive they did, right in the nick of time. Portland Community College tweeted about their release. At this time of year, the Monarchs are no longer interested in breeding, and are heading straight down to their breeding grounds in Mexico. Wishing them the best of luck!!

And it is that time of year again, for Monarch mail! We do ask to keep an eye on the weather - it looks like we are in for some warm days ahead, Fall isn't quite ready to settle in yet. We would advise starting seeds in the dead of Winter instead, perhaps through the stratification method to give the seeds the best chance. Generally we spread the word through craigslist, however this takes a good amount of time, and there are some individuals flagging our posts for removal. If you belong to any garden clubs, are educators, own large amounts of private land, we would love to send you lots of seed to share. Please read on!


What is Monarch Mail?
Monarch Mail is what started our whole campaign. When faced with the dilemma of absence/complete loss of Monarch caterpillar food and habit, what is the most effective way to bring the native milkweed back to the Pacific NorthWest?

Disperse seeds and plants for free or for cheap. 

We've found that many local nurseries and seed companies sell milkweed seed or plants for fairly cost prohibitive prices. Sometimes the seed was clearly harvested too soon and had poor germination rates. By distributing seed for nearly free, we hope that when people's plants mature in the future, they will 'share the seed forward' to friends and family or back to us to re-distribute. We have reached a point where we have funding to purchase soil and pots for plants. All proceeds go towards more materials and resources to grow our campaign.

It is that time of year for Monarch Mail!

Very Late Fall is a good time to plant native milkweed seed. When properly planted (do not surface scatter!), the seeds go through the natural stratification process they experience in the wild. After experiencing the cold and wet of our winter, the seeds send down deep taproots and emerge with the warm and sunnier weather. The only downside to this method however is the risk of a late frost and pests- we have heard reports of frosts killing tender seedlings. One of our recommended suggestions is to plant the seeds in flats, or with the ability to cover them so they can be protected during those frosts once the little green leaves emerge. Another method is to stratify them in the fridge on a moist (not wet!) paper towel in a plastic bag for a few weeks. Once removed, the warmth of the room is enough to get them to sprout. This can be done safely after the danger of frost, but the seedlings might be a little bit behind those naturally grown and slightly more tender. We recommend stratification as the most controllable and predictable way to grow and protect the seedlings. Feel free to experiment! One baseline however is that these plants do not like peat!

Get your envelopes in, for your free seeds.

Getting free seeds will cost two stamps - one on an envelope addressed back to yourself, and one on the envelope you mail to us with the first envelope inside (aka SASE 'Self Addressed Stamped Envelope'). One stamp each way is all you need. UNLESS it is a very large amount of seed (more than ten portions worth, in which case 3 stamps would do it, or contact us and we can weigh out and calculate the postage precisely.

 Please mail your SASE to:

Monarch Mail
PO Box 2304
Hillsboro, OR 97123


For those of you without access to post offices or mailing materials:

Due to the generosity of some folks donating stamps, we can send out a limited number of envelopes directly to you. Don't hesitate to ask if you fall in this category. We are happy to get seeds out to those willing to plant.

Plant seeds we are offering at this time: 

Asclepias speciosa aka 'Showy Milkweed'
It is the predominant native to much of the Pacific North West area (predominant in areas where they still exist anyway). They can get up to 3-4 feet tall, and have lovely silver green fleshy leaves. Takes two-three years to mature/bloom size. Drought tolerant once established.
    Asclepias speciosa (Showy Milkweed)



Asclepias fascicularis - aka 'Narrowleaf Milkweed'
Another PNW native, it can tolerate arid conditions a bit better than speciosa. In addition, since it is a smaller plant and fairly fast growing under the right conditions, it may bloom at the end of the first year, definitely in its second. 

Asclepias fascicularis (Narrowleaf Milkweed)

 Asclepias incarnata - aka Rose or Swamp Milkweed 
 We consider this plant an 'ornamental' as it is not native, but ideal for those with wetter growing conditions, and for those who want a plant that does not send out rhizomes/runners. It grows in a tidy but large shrub-like clump and has beautiful deep pink flowers. It can tolerate partial shade (will be leggier in these conditions).
Asclepias incarnata (Rose Milkweed)


Asclepias tuberosa - aka Butterfly Weed 
This is a classic east coast native, and thus an ornamental out here. It has a compact and tidy growing habit with bright orange flowers - a good alternative to the Mexican/tropical milkweed. Will not spread.



Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)

Asclepias syriaca- aka Common Milkweed 
This is the east coast cousin of Asclepias speciosa. The plants look very similar, however syriaca is *very* vigorous. We generally do NOT recommend growing this plant unless you have a fairly large amount of acreage so the plant will stay on your property and the plants are kept on a close watch to prevent spreading. This means removing seed pods, and perhaps even a physical barrier. Generally, we recommend not planting this in the PNW at all ! 









Happy Autumn everyone, get those envelopes in!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

"I saw a Monarch!" "Are you sure?"

It's that time of year for the Monarch Butterflies to make their way North to Canada! Keep your eyes peeled Oregonians and Washingtonians for them! One has been sighted in Vancouver, WA, so it's very possible we will catch a glimpse of them in the Willamette Valley.

We get a lot of people each year who insist they have seen 'a yellow Monarch'.  More often than not, these are Swallowtail butterflies, which are just as large and elegant looking, but morphologically quite different! There are many types of Swallowtails, but this is a good comparison photograph. Notice the swallowtail has little wing extensions while the Monarch has rounded off wings.


Monarch butterflies are very much a deep fiery orange, especially when viewed from above. If you saw them side by side with a Swallowtail butterfly, you would be certain of what you saw! Here is a photo of a  Monarch from the side - the side colors of a Monarch are a bit more subdued on the lower wings, but they are definitely a golden orange.
Photo by Jim Hudgins
Hope that helps with Monarch identification and good luck! Have you seen any Monarch butterflies this year? Let us know!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Spring Garden Show 2018 ! May 5th & 6th

Head to the website for more detailed info on who will be vending, and for a list of food court vendors (yummy!). https://springgardenfair.org/
We are in the same spot as last year, C5! Can't miss us ! :) We just got back from a much needed trip, and I am just a bundle of jetlag. We have some straggler envelopes to address, but after the Garden Fair you are best to wait until Fall to get the seeds going. We are still happy to send out seeds, but that is our planting advice for now.

In the meantime, rain rain, please go away! I think Oregon has had enough rain from now judging from how tall the grass got on our lawn, and how sleepy our little mason bees are! Crossing fingers it will be a warm Spring weekend, but not holding our breaths either. We will have a little gift bag goodie donated to the Fair's annual raffle. I am always a sucker for that raffle, but still no raffle or rototiller for me year after year. ;)

This year we will offer the same plants as last, in our deep mini tree pots. We have potted up our plants in a deeper, bigger pot this year though with this cold and dreary spring it hasn't given them too much of a boost. Sigh! But at least it will be less of a transplant shock, and they should do really well once they're in the ground. 

Native to the PNW are Asclepias fascicularis and Asclepias speciosa, and varieties for the small home garden, non-spreading ornamentals such as Asclepias tuberosa and Asclepias incarnata. 


We have seeds for Asclepias speciosa, A. incarnata, and A. tuberosa for sale this year, as well as our lovely PNW wildflower seed mix that has many nectar providing plants the Monarch butterfly adults absolutely love. 

Come say hello! We will have free stickers for kids and adults, and we will also have coloring sheets for the kids, wildflower seed bombs, cute and fun buttons and bookmarks for sale, and as always we are happy to chat about any and everything Monarch!

See you soon and tell your friends. :)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Just a little update......

We will be mailing out envelopes by early January. I know this might strike some as too late for planting, but that is far from the case. Many seeds planted in the fall seem to succumb to late frosts, both in the Fall and in the Spring. One of our seed experts has recommended planting as 'late' as February! The seeds only really need two weeks of cold and wet to stratify (either in the fridge or outside), and that is enough for them to sprout. The tender seed sprout is quite vulnerable, so the sooner you can time its appearance to comfortable non-frosty Spring temps the better! It does not need to endure a Fall through Winter experience, quite the opposite.

Thank you so much for your patience. This year it is just one of us stuffing the hundreds of envelopes we received this year. It was just too difficult to align our schedules to crank them out like we usually do, so one of us will be doing it over the next few weeks with what time he has in the evenings.

Happy Holidays to all, and to all a Happy New Year! Much luck with your plantings, and as always, thank you for helping the Monarchs and their pollinator friends.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

It's time for Monarch Mail!


The nip in the morning air around this time of year always brings mixed emotions. It feels too soon to be retiring flip-flops to the shoe rack, yet with the heavy smell of wildfire smoke in the air and not yet faint memories of 3-digit temperature days, the approach of mushroom season, fall planting and the prospect of curling up with hot tea brings a sense of relief and reflection of the past year.

And what a year it has been! Tomatoes that dwarf the hands that hold them sprung from our little garden, the long awaited and haunting total solar eclipse, and concern of drought-like conditions for wild populations of milkweed. And the perpetual question: Will I see a monarch this year? One of our plant experts, Ross, was quite fortunate to have a butterfly visit his tuberosa patch in Tigard. There is speculation that perhaps its progenitors may have paid the plants a visit in prior years, who knows? Our milkweed garden in Hillsboro however has been skunked again. Perhaps next year we may catch a glimpse of our winged, orange friends.

 We have heard disappointing stories and witnessed first hand giant swaths of wild milkweed populations destroyed by ODOT and private land owners. We are hoping for the 2018 season to propose to ODOT to allow plantings of milkweed along the 5. They grow well during the year, and die back in time for them to be cleaned up for the winter. This year we attended the Master Gardener Conference held at the Convention center, which has sent some gears whirring in our heads. Stay tuned for more developments as the year winds down. Speaking of winding down, it is time for our big envelope stuffing event of the year. Monarch Mail!


What is Monarch Mail?
Monarch Mail is what started our whole campaign. When faced with the dilemma of absence/complete loss of Monarch caterpillar food and habit, what is the most effective way to bring the native milkweed back to the Pacific NorthWest?

Disperse seeds and plants for free or for cheap. 

We've found that many local nurseries and seed companies sell milkweed seed or plants for fairly cost prohibitive prices. Sometimes the seed was clearly harvested too soon and had poor germination rates. By distributing seed for nearly free, we hope that when people's plants mature in the future, they will 'share the seed forward' to friends and family or back to us to re-distribute. We have reached a point where we have funding to purchase soil and pots for plants. All proceeds go towards more materials and resources to grow our campaign.

It is that time of year for Monarch Mail!

Late Fall is a good time to plant native milkweed seed. When properly planted (do not surface scatter!), the seeds go through the natural stratification process they experience in the wild. After experiencing the cold and wet of our winter, the seeds send down deep taproots and emerge with the warm and sunnier weather. The only downside to this method however is the risk of a late frost and pests- we have heard reports of frosts killing tender seedlings. One suggestion is to plant the seeds in flats, or with the ability to cover them so they can be protected during those frosts once the little green leaves emerge. Another method is to stratify them in the fridge on a moist (not wet!) paper towel in a plastic bag for a few weeks. Once removed, the warmth of the room is enough to get them to sprout. This can be done safely after the danger of frost, but the seedlings might be a little bit behind those naturally grown and slightly more tender.

Get your envelopes in, for your free seeds.

Getting free seeds will cost two stamps - one on an envelope addressed back to yourself, and one on the envelope you mail to us with the first envelope inside (aka SASE 'Self Addressed Stamped Envelope'). Please mail your SASE to:

Monarch Mail
PO Box 2304
Hillsboro, OR 97123


For those of you without access to post offices or mailing materials:

Due to the generosity of some folks donating stamps, we can send out a limited number of envelopes directly to you. Don't hesitate to ask if you fall in this category. We are happy to get seeds out to those willing to plant.

Plant seeds we are offering at this time: 

Asclepias speciosa aka 'Showy Milkweed'
It is the predominant native to much of the Pacific North West area (predominant in areas where they still exist anyway). They can get up to 3-4 feet tall, and have lovely silver green fleshy leaves. Takes two-three years to mature/bloom size. Drought tolerant once established.
    Asclepias speciosa (Showy Milkweed)



Asclepias fascicularis - aka 'Narrowleaf Milkweed'
Another PNW native, it can tolerate arid conditions a bit better than speciosa. In addition, since it is a smaller plant and fairly fast growing under the right conditions, it may bloom at the end of the first year, definitely in its second. 

Asclepias fascicularis (Narrowleaf Milkweed)

 Asclepias incarnata - aka Rose or Swamp Milkweed 
 We consider this plant an 'ornamental' as it is not native, but ideal for those with wetter growing conditions, and for those who want a plant that does not send out rhizomes/runners. It grows in a tidy but large shrub-like clump and has beautiful deep pink flowers. It can tolerate partial shade (will be leggier in these conditions).
Asclepias incarnata (Rose Milkweed)


Asclepias tuberosa - aka Butterfly Weed 
This is a classic east coast native, and thus an ornamental out here. It has a compact and tidy growing habit with bright orange flowers - a good alternative to the Mexican/tropical milkweed. Will not spread.



Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)

Asclepias syriaca- aka Common Milkweed 
This is the east coast cousin of Asclepias speciosa. The plants look very similar, however syriaca is *very* vigorous. We only recommend growing this plant if you have a fairly large amount of acreage so the plant will stay on your property, and in fact, would rather not recommend planting this in the PNW at all ! 









Happy Autumn everyone, get those envelopes in!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Spring Garden Fair May 6-7

Admission is now $5, but trust us, it is worth every penny! I might also be slightly addicted to the kettle corn that makes an appearance at the Good Thyme Food Court every year. ;)
I can't believe it is next weekend! It has been a scurry of activity around here getting new signage printed, designing new artwork, and some last minute brain-storming on how to freshen up our booth!  As you can see in the map below, we are just a row away from the front entrance.

This year we will offer the same plants as last, in our deep mini tree pots:
Native to the PNW are Asclepias fascicularis and Asclepias speciosa, and varieties for the small home garden, non-spreading ornamentals such as Asclepias tuberosa and Asclepias incarnata.


We will also have seeds! We have seeds for Asclepias speciosa, A. incarnata, and A. tuberosa this year. We are also expanding to include education on the importance of nectar plants, so we will offer very easy to grow native Pacific Northwest wildflower seed mix. It was a great joy working on this artwork. My husband Josh prints the milkweed seed packets lovingly with wood block ink, as the stamps sometimes are not so receptive to normal ink pad ink.

Unfortunately we could not offer wildflower plants at this time. With the long winter, even the milkweed is several weeks behind last year's growing rates!

Come say hello! Free stickers for all, and we will also have coloring sheets for the kids, seed bombs, buttons and bookmarks for sale, and as always we are happy to chat about any and everything Monarch!  See you next week and tell your friends. :)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Spring Garden Fair!

It is almost time for our biggest event of the year! The  Spring  Garden Fair!

 Mark your calenders for May 6-7! It is an amazing must go-to event for plant lovers. We just got our booth assignment, C-5, so come by if you want plants and seeds for the monarchs!! More details to come soon. Check out their site in the meantime. :)