Garden Tips

Butterflies, with their delicate wings and vibrant colors, bring beauty and enchantment to any garden. Not only are they captivating to watch, but they also play a vital role in pollination. If you’re looking to attract a diverse array of butterflies to your garden, creating a butterfly-friendly habitat is key. Whitney’s Garden Center is the perfect destination to find a wide selection of plants that will cater to the needs of these enchanting insects. With the right combination of annuals, perennials, and shrubs, along with optimal growing conditions, you can transform your garden into a thriving butterfly haven.

Creating the Perfect Growing Conditions:

To ensure a successful butterfly garden, it’s essential to provide the right growing conditions for both plants and butterflies. Here are a few key factors to consider:

  1. Sunlight: Most butterflies thrive in sunny locations, so choose a spot in your garden in Western Mass that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.
  2. Shelter: Butterflies seek shelter from wind and predators. Planting dense shrubs or adding trellises and climbing structures can provide both cover and roosting spots for butterflies.
  3. Water: Butterflies need a water source for drinking and puddling, so include shallow dishes or a birdbath with rocks for them to perch on while sipping water.

Choosing the Right Plants:

To attract a variety of butterflies, it’s crucial to offer a range of plants that serve as both host plants for their caterpillars and nectar sources for the adult butterflies. Whitney’s Garden Center offers a wide selection of plants suitable for a butterfly garden. Here are the top five choices:

  1. Milkweed (Asclepias spp.): Milkweed is a must-have for any butterfly garden, especially for attracting monarch butterflies. It serves as the sole host plant for monarch caterpillars, providing food and shelter for them to grow and develop. Additionally, the beautiful flowers attract adult butterflies with their abundant nectar.
  2. Butterfly Bush (Buddleja spp.): As the name suggests, butterfly bushes are highly attractive to butterflies. Their long, cone-shaped flower clusters produce abundant nectar, which is a favorite food source for many butterfly species. Varieties like Buddleja davidii offer a wide range of colors to choose from, adding beauty to your garden as well.
  3. Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.): Coneflowers are not only stunningly beautiful but also highly beneficial for butterflies. They provide a rich nectar source and act as host plants for various butterfly species, including the painted lady. The vibrant petals and central cones of coneflowers create a welcoming landing pad for butterflies.
  4. Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium spp.): Joe-Pye weed is a native perennial with large, fluffy flower heads that attract a wide range of butterflies. Its tall stalks provide a vertical element in the garden and serve as a valuable nectar source. Varieties like Eutrochium purpureum create a dramatic presence with their pink-purple blooms.
  5. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta): Black-eyed Susans are popular perennials that are loved by both gardeners and butterflies. Their bright yellow petals with dark centers make them a striking addition to any garden. These flowers provide ample nectar for butterflies while adding a cheerful touch to your landscape.

Mixing Annuals, Perennials, and Shrubs:

To create a dynamic and long-lasting butterfly garden, incorporate a mix of annuals, perennials, and shrubs. Annual flowers such as zinnias, marigolds, and cosmos provide quick bursts of color and nectar throughout the summer.

Perennials like asters, phlox, and black-eyed Susans offer reliable nectar sources year after year. Shrubs such as butterfly bush, lilac, and viburnum not only provide nectar but also offer shelter and breeding habitats for butterflies.

Maintaining Your Butterfly Garden:

To ensure a thriving butterfly garden, remember to:

  1. Provide a continuous bloom: Choose plants with different blooming times to provide a consistent source of nectar throughout the growing season. This will attract and support butterflies at different stages of their life cycle.
  2. Avoid pesticides: Minimize or eliminate the use of pesticides in your garden, as they can be harmful to butterflies and other beneficial insects. Instead, opt for natural pest control methods or integrated pest management techniques to maintain a healthy balance in your garden.
  3. Create caterpillar habitats: Incorporate specific host plants that caterpillars feed on, as they are essential for the reproduction and survival of butterflies. Encourage native plants that support the life cycle of butterflies in Western Mass.
  4. Add water sources: Butterflies require water for drinking and puddling. Create shallow pools or add a birdbath with stones or wet sand to provide a water source for them.
  5. Provide resting spots: Place flat rocks or boulders in sunny areas of your garden to provide warm resting spots for butterflies. They use these surfaces to bask in the sun, which helps regulate their body temperature.

By implementing these strategies and selecting the right plants, you can create a haven for butterflies in your garden. Whitney’s Garden Center offers a wide variety of plants suitable for butterfly gardens, ensuring that you can find everything you need to attract and support these beautiful creatures in Western Mass. With careful planning and maintenance, you’ll be able to enjoy the delightful presence of butterflies fluttering through your garden throughout the seasons. Whether it’s the monarch butterfly, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, painted lady, or black swallowtail, your butterfly garden will become a haven for these incredible creatures, providing them with food, shelter, and a welcoming home in the natural beauty of Western Mass.

As June rolls around, we also honor National Pollinator Month—a time dedicated to recognizing the significance of pollinators and promoting their conservation efforts. Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators play a critical role in our ecosystems. At Whitney’s Garden Center in Western Mass, we invite our community to join us in supporting these invaluable creatures. In this article, we will explore the importance of pollinators, highlight pollinator-friendly plants available at Whitney’s Garden Center, and provide resources for further information.

The Importance of Pollinators:

Pollinators are essential for the reproduction of flowering plants. By facilitating the transfer of pollen, they enable fertilization and the production of seeds and fruits. Without pollinators, many plants would struggle to reproduce, leading to a decline in biodiversity and ecological balance. Additionally, pollinators contribute significantly to our food production, ensuring the availability of fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

Pollinator-Friendly Plants at Whitney’s Garden Center in Western Mass:

Whitney’s Garden Center offers a diverse selection of pollinator-friendly plants suitable for Western Mass gardens. Here are some noteworthy options:

  1. Bee Balm (Monarda spp.): With vibrant blooms and nectar-rich flowers, bee balm is highly attractive to bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. It thrives in sunny locations with well-drained soil, making it an excellent addition to gardens in Western Mass.
  2. Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa): This native plant entices butterflies with its striking orange flowers and serves as a host plant for monarch caterpillars. Including it in your garden supports the conservation of these beautiful pollinators.
  3. Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.): Resilient and colorful, coneflowers are irresistible to bees and butterflies. With various shades available, they add diversity and beauty to gardens in Western Mass.
  4. Butterfly Bush (Buddleja spp.): True to its name, the butterfly bush is a magnet for butterflies. Its long, cone-shaped flower clusters provide abundant nectar, making it a must-have plant for attracting pollinators.
  5. Lantana (Lantana spp.): With vibrant flowers in a range of colors, lantana is highly appealing to butterflies. It thrives in sunny locations and well-drained soil, adding a splash of color to Western Mass landscapes.

Resources for Further Learning:

To delve deeper into the world of pollinators and discover additional ways to create pollinator-friendly environments, here are some valuable resources:

  1. ( This website provides a wealth of information on pollinators, their conservation, and creating habitats to support them. It offers resources, planting guides, and educational materials for individuals interested in fostering healthy ecosystems.
  2. The Xerces Society ( The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of invertebrates, including pollinators. Their website offers resources, guides, and information on creating pollinator-friendly habitats.
  3. National Wildlife Federation ( The National Wildlife Federation provides valuable information on pollinators and their conservation efforts, along with resources for creating wildlife-friendly gardens and landscapes.

By tapping into these resources and incorporating pollinator-friendly plants into our gardens and landscapes, we can make a positive impact on the well-being of pollinators in Western Mass. Let us celebrate National Pollinator Month by creating welcoming spaces that provide food, shelter, and a thriving environment for these essential creatures.

Together, let us recognize and appreciate the vital role that bees, butterflies, and other pollinators play in our ecosystem. By taking action and supporting their conservation, we can ensure a brighter and more sustainable future for our planet.

A thriving garden begins with healthy soil, and using the right fertilizer is essential for nourishing your plants, trees, and shrubs. With so many options on the market, it can be overwhelming to determine which fertilizer is best for your garden. In this blog post, we’ll explore the basics of garden fertilizers, including understanding the NPK ratio, the benefits of organic options, and tips for application.

Understanding the NPK Ratio

The NPK ratio on a fertilizer package refers to the percentage of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) contained in the product. These three nutrients are essential for plant growth and development:

  1. Nitrogen (N): Promotes healthy foliage and overall plant growth. It is particularly important for leafy vegetables and lawns.
  2. Phosphorus (P): Supports strong root development and is crucial for flowering and fruiting plants.
  3. Potassium (K): Helps regulate water and nutrient movement within the plant and improves resistance to pests and diseases.

A balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, contains equal parts of each nutrient, while a specialized fertilizer may have a higher percentage of one nutrient to target specific needs. For example, a 5-10-5 fertilizer would be higher in phosphorus to support flowering plants.

Organic Fertilizer Options

Organic fertilizers are derived from natural sources and can offer several benefits for your garden:

  1. Improved soil health: Organic fertilizers help build soil structure, increase water retention, and promote beneficial microbial activity.
  2. Environmentally friendly: They are typically slower to release nutrients, reducing the risk of nutrient runoff and water pollution.
  3. Enhanced plant health: Organic fertilizers provide a wide range of micronutrients, resulting in more robust and resilient plants.

Popular organic fertilizer options include:

  • Compost: Rich in nutrients and beneficial microorganisms, compost can be made from household and yard waste.
  • Aged manure: Well-rotted animal manure, such as from cows, horses, or chickens, can provide a nutrient-rich, organic option for your garden.
  • Bone meal and blood meal: These byproducts from the meat industry are high in phosphorus and nitrogen, respectively, and can be used to target specific nutrient needs.
  • Fish emulsion: A liquid fertilizer made from fish waste, which provides a balanced nutrient profile and is easy to apply.

When and How to Apply Fertilizers

The timing and method of fertilizer application depend on the type of plants you are growing and the specific needs of your garden. Here are some general guidelines:

  1. Annuals and perennials: Apply a balanced fertilizer in the spring, just as new growth begins. Repeat every 4-6 weeks during the growing season, following the recommended application rate on the product label.
  2. Trees and shrubs: Fertilize in early spring, before new growth starts. Use a slow-release granular fertilizer, spreading it evenly under the canopy, and water thoroughly.
  3. Vegetable gardens: Apply a balanced fertilizer at planting time, mixing it into the soil. Side-dress with additional fertilizer as needed throughout the growing season, depending on the specific crop requirements.

Understanding garden fertilizers, including the NPK ratio and organic options, can help you provide the essential nutrients your plants, trees, and shrubs need to thrive. By selecting the right fertilizer for your garden and applying it properly, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a lush, productive garden all season long.

Creating a Versatile Kitchen Garden: Garden Beds, Raised Beds, and Containers.


A kitchen garden is a fantastic way to grow your own fresh, delicious vegetables, herbs, and berries right in your backyard. With various gardening methods available, such as garden beds, raised beds, and containers, you can easily find the perfect approach to suit your space and needs. In this article, we’ll discuss how to start a kitchen garden using these methods, focusing on ideal vegetables, herbs, and berries for zone 6. We’ll also cover companion planting and the best times to plant.

Starting Your Kitchen Garden: Garden Beds, Raised Beds, and Containers

  1. Garden Beds

Traditional in-ground garden beds are a popular choice for growing a variety of vegetables and herbs. To begin, select a sunny spot with well-draining soil, and prepare the area by removing any weeds, rocks, or debris. For zone 6, vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, spinach, and carrots will thrive, as well as herbs such as basil, parsley, and rosemary.

  1. Raised Beds

Raised beds offer a more controlled growing environment, making them an excellent option for gardeners with limited space or poor soil quality. Choose a location with ample sunlight, and build or purchase raised bed frames to create a well-defined growing area. Fill the beds with a mix of high-quality topsoil, compost, and aged manure. In zone 6, you can grow a variety of vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, beets, and peas, and herbs like oregano, thyme, and mint.

  1. Containers

Container gardening is perfect for those with limited space, such as balconies, patios, or small yards. Choose containers with drainage holes and fill them with a high-quality potting mix. Opt for compact vegetable varieties like cherry tomatoes, dwarf peppers, and bush beans, and herbs like chives, cilantro, and sage. Make sure your containers are placed in a sunny location and monitor them closely for proper watering.

Companion Planting and Berries

Companion planting is the practice of growing specific plants together to enhance growth, deter pests, or improve flavor. Some effective companion plantings for your kitchen garden include:

  • Tomatoes with basil, parsley, or marigolds
  • Carrots with chives, rosemary, or sage
  • Lettuce with spinach, radishes, or dill
  • Peppers with onions, basil, or oregano

Incorporating berries into your kitchen garden adds a delightful pop of color and an additional source of homegrown fruit. In zone 6, consider growing:

  • Strawberries: Plant in a sunny spot, either in the ground or in containers. They make excellent companions for spinach and lettuce.
  • Raspberries: Choose a sunny location with well-draining soil, and provide a trellis or support for the canes. Good companions include marigolds, chives, and garlic.
  • Blueberries: Plant in acidic, well-draining soil, in full sun or partial shade. They can be grown in containers or raised beds and pair well with thyme, sage, or mint.

Planting Times for Zone 6 Gardens

Zone 6 has a relatively short growing season, with the last frost typically occurring in mid-to-late April and the first frost in mid-to-late October. Use these guidelines for planting your kitchen garden:

  • Cool-season vegetables like peas, lettuce, and spinach can be sown outdoors in early to mid-spring, about 4-6 weeks before the last frost.
  • Warm-season vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and beans should be planted after the last frost date, when the soil has warmed up


Hydrangea macrophylla, commonly known as bigleaf hydrangea, is a popular garden staple beloved for its large, showy blooms that grace gardens from late spring through summer. To keep your hydrangeas healthy and thriving, it’s essential to understand when and how to prune them, as well as the optimal times and methods for fertilizing. In this blog post, we’ll explore these topics to help you maintain your hydrangeas and achieve those gorgeous blooms every season.

When and How to Prune Hydrangea macrophylla

The first thing to know about pruning Hydrangea macrophylla is that the timing depends on the type of hydrangea you have. There are two main categories: mopheads (with rounded flower clusters) and lacecaps (with flattened flower clusters). Both types bloom on old wood, meaning the flower buds form on stems that grew the previous year.

  1. Pruning Mophead Hydrangeas

For mophead hydrangeas, the best time to prune is in late summer, right after the flowers have finished blooming. This allows the plant enough time to develop new growth and set buds for the following year’s blooms. Follow these steps to prune your mophead hydrangeas:

a. Remove any dead or damaged stems at their base. b. Cut back one-third of the oldest stems to the ground to encourage new growth. c. Prune the remaining stems just above the top set of healthy buds to shape the plant and control its size.

  1. Pruning Lacecap Hydrangeas

Lacecap hydrangeas require a slightly different pruning technique. Prune these in late winter or early spring, just as new growth begins to emerge. Follow these steps:

a. Remove any dead or damaged stems at their base. b. Cut back the previous year’s growth to the first or second pair of healthy buds. c. Lightly trim the remaining stems to shape the plant.

When and How to Fertilize Hydrangea macrophylla

Feeding your hydrangeas at the right time and with the right fertilizer can significantly impact their health and blooming potential. Hydrangeas generally need to be fertilized once or twice a year, depending on your soil quality.

  1. Timing

The best time to fertilize hydrangeas is in early spring, just as they begin to show new growth. If you live in a region with a long growing season, you can also apply a second feeding in mid-summer to boost growth and blooming.

  1. Type of Fertilizer

Choose a slow-release granular fertilizer with a balanced formula, such as 10-10-10 (indicating equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium). This will provide your hydrangeas with the essential nutrients they need for optimal growth and flowering.

If you want to influence the color of your hydrangea blooms, you can manipulate the soil pH. For blue flowers, apply a fertilizer high in potassium and low in phosphorus, or use a soil acidifier to lower the pH. For pink flowers, use a fertilizer high in phosphorus and low in potassium, or add lime to raise the soil pH.

Endless Summer hydrangeas are a unique variety of Hydrangea macrophylla that are well-loved for their ability to produce blooms on both old and new wood. This characteristic makes them more forgiving when it comes to pruning, as even if you accidentally remove some buds, the plant can still produce new flowers on the current season’s growth.

While the pruning process for Endless Summer hydrangeas is similar to that of other bigleaf hydrangeas, there are a few adjustments to keep in mind.

  1. Timing: The ideal time to prune Endless Summer hydrangeas is in late winter or early spring, as new growth begins to emerge. This allows you to assess any winter damage and make more informed decisions about which stems to remove. You may also lightly prune after the first flush of blooms to encourage a second wave of flowers.
  2. Technique: Follow these steps when pruning your Endless Summer hydrangeas:

a. Remove any dead or damaged stems at their base. These can be identified by their dry, brittle, or discolored appearance.

b. If your plant is older or overgrown, cut back about one-third of the oldest stems to the ground to promote new growth and rejuvenate the plant.

c. For the remaining stems, trim them back to a healthy set of buds. Be cautious not to remove too many buds, as this may reduce the number of flowers produced in the coming season.

Remember that Endless Summer hydrangeas do not require heavy pruning, and it’s better to err on the side of caution. The goal is to maintain the plant’s overall health and encourage an abundance of blooms throughout the season.

Spring is the perfect time to start a garden and enjoy the outdoors. However, as we become more aware of the impact of our actions on the environment, it’s important to consider sustainability when planning our gardens. Creating a sustainable spring garden is not only better for the planet, but it can also help you save money, reduce waste, and improve the health of your soil and plants. Here are some tips for creating a sustainable spring garden:

  1. Use Organic Gardening Practices: Organic gardening is a method that focuses on using natural materials and practices to create a healthy and sustainable garden. Use compost instead of chemical fertilizers, choose organic seeds and plants, and avoid synthetic pesticides and herbicides. These practices will help protect the environment and create a healthier garden.
  2. Choose Native Plants: Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions, making them easier to grow and maintain. They also provide food and habitat for local wildlife, which helps to support biodiversity. Choose plants that are native to your region and climate, and avoid invasive species that can harm local ecosystems.
  3. Conserve Water: Water is a precious resource, so it’s important to use it wisely in your garden. Install a rain barrel to collect rainwater for watering your plants, and use drip irrigation systems to conserve water. Choose plants that are drought-tolerant, and group them together based on their water needs. This will help you reduce water usage and save money on your water bill.
  4. Practice Companion Planting: Companion planting is a method of planting different plants together that benefit each other. For example, planting beans with corn can help fix nitrogen in the soil, while planting marigolds with tomatoes can help repel pests. This technique helps to improve soil health, reduce pest problems, and promote biodiversity.
  5. Create a Natural Pest Control Plan: Chemical pesticides and herbicides can harm beneficial insects and other wildlife, so it’s important to use natural pest control methods. For example, you can attract beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings by planting flowers like daisies and sunflowers. You can also use physical barriers like row covers to protect your plants from pests.

By following these tips, you can create a beautiful and sustainable spring garden that benefits both you and the environment. Not only will you save money on water and fertilizers, but you’ll also create a healthy and diverse ecosystem that supports local wildlife and protects the planet. So, get outside and start planting!

Spring is the perfect time to get kids interested in gardening! With the weather getting warmer and the days getting longer, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to get outside and get their hands dirty. Not only is gardening a fun activity, but it’s also a great way to teach kids about the environment, the life cycle of plants, and the importance of healthy eating. Here are some spring gardening projects that are perfect for kids of all ages:

  1. Plant a Flower Garden: Kids love bright, colorful flowers, and planting a flower garden is a great way to get them excited about gardening. Choose easy-to-grow flowers like marigolds, zinnias, or sunflowers, and let your kids help with the planting, watering, and weeding. They’ll love watching the flowers grow and bloom throughout the spring and summer.
  2. Start a Vegetable Garden: Growing your own vegetables is a great way to teach kids about where food comes from and the importance of healthy eating. Let your kids help choose what to plant, and then show them how to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, and care for the plants. They’ll love watching their vegetables grow and harvesting them when they’re ready to eat.
  3. Build a Birdhouse: Spring is a great time to attract birds to your garden, and building a birdhouse is a fun and easy project for kids. You can buy a pre-made birdhouse kit, or make your own from scrap wood. Your kids will love decorating the birdhouse and watching the birds move in.
  4. Create a Butterfly Garden: Butterflies are a beautiful addition to any garden, and creating a butterfly garden is a great way to attract these colorful creatures. Choose flowers that are rich in nectar, like daisies or lavender, and let your kids help with the planting. They’ll love watching the butterflies flit around their garden.
  5. Make a Fairy Garden: Fairy gardens are a fun and whimsical way to get kids interested in gardening. Choose a small container, like a terrarium or a flowerpot, and let your kids decorate it with small toys and trinkets. Then, plant tiny flowers and succulents around the toys to create a miniature garden that will enchant your kids.
  6. Decorate a Garden Stepping Stone: Garden stepping stones are a fun and easy craft project for kids. Buy a pre-made stepping stone kit, or make your own from cement mix and a mold. Let your kids decorate the stone with paint or colored glass, and then place it in your garden for a personalized touch.

These are just a few of the many spring gardening projects that are perfect for kids. By involving your children in the gardening process, you’ll teach them valuable lessons about the environment, healthy eating, and the joy of growing things. Plus, you’ll create lasting memories that your kids will cherish for years to come.

Dahlias are a beautiful and versatile addition to any garden, with their stunning flowers and wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes. They are easy to grow and care for, making them a great choice for both beginner and experienced gardeners.

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to plant and care for dahlias:

  1. Choose the right location: Dahlias need a lot of sunlight, so choose a spot in your garden that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. They also prefer well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter.
  2. Prepare the soil: Before planting, loosen the soil to a depth of about 12 inches and add compost or well-rotted manure to improve the soil’s fertility. Make sure the soil is moist but not waterlogged.
  3. Plant the tubers: Dahlias are grown from tubers, which look like small potatoes. Plant the tubers about 6 inches deep and 18-24 inches apart. If you’re planting multiple dahlias, space them at least 3 feet apart.
  4. Water regularly: Dahlias need regular watering, especially during hot and dry weather. Water deeply once or twice a week, making sure the soil stays moist but not waterlogged.
  5. Fertilize regularly: Dahlias benefit from regular fertilization throughout the growing season. Use a balanced fertilizer, applying it every 4-6 weeks.
  6. Pinch and stake: Pinching the growing tips of young dahlias will encourage bushier growth and more flowers. As the plants grow taller, stake them to prevent them from falling over.
  7. Deadhead and prune: Deadhead your dahlias regularly to encourage more blooms. Prune off any dead or damaged foliage to keep the plant healthy.
  8. Overwintering: In colder climates, dahlias need to be dug up and stored over the winter. After the first frost, cut back the foliage and carefully dig up the tubers. Allow them to dry for a few days, then store them in a cool, dry place for the winter.

Dahlias are a great addition to any garden because they are easy to grow, come in a variety of colors and shapes, and produce stunning flowers throughout the growing season. They are an essential plant to add to any cutting garden.

By following these simple steps, you can enjoy the beauty of dahlias in your own garden. Whether you start from tubers, or from our selection of potted dahlias, you’ll be blown away by these prolific bloomers.