How to Create a Monarch Waystation

When you spot a monarch butterfly, you can hardly help but smile. This is is true now more than ever since monarchs have been in decline over the past decade. Pollinator Partnership estimates that there has been a 90% decline in the monarch population in recent years. Fortunately, we can all help reverse this concerning trend.

We work with several clients to establish monarch-friendly areas in their landscapes. These run from small vignettes in existing garden beds to certified Monarch Waystations.

What is a Monarch Waystation?

How to Create a Monarch Waystation

Monarch Waystations are places that provide the food and habitat necessary for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration. In many regions, development of neighborhoods and retail or industrial areas have decimated the natural habitat monarchs rely on for survival. Establishing Monarch Waystations is a way to restore their habitat and preserve the ecology necessary for monarch populations to recover.

Make it official! Did you know you can have your monarch habitat certified as an official Monarch Waystation by Monarch Watch? Your habitat will be included in the Monarch Waystation Registry, an online listing of Monarch Waystations worldwide, and you will be awarded a certificate bearing your name and your habitat’s unique Monarch Waystation ID number.

Why Should I Consider Establishing a Monarch Waystation?

How to Create a Monarch Waystation

By creating and maintaining a Monarch Waystation you become part of a wider monarch conservation effort. It is also a wonderful way to incorporate beautiful native plants and native cultivars that will draw more than just monarchs to your garden. You can expect to see a range of pollinators, including bees and birds—all of which benefit and add interest to your landscape.

Expert Advice to Establish a Monarch Waystation

American Landscape designer, Katie Jean Fedorski shares her process for working with clients interested in establishing a Monarch Waystation.

What is the first step when considering establishing a Monarch Waystation?

I always begin with a site visit to analyze the soil, site conditions, and surrounding areas. I actually also consider the whole neighborhood and any other natural areas that surround the site. I work closely with the client to understand the scope of what they are interested in establishing. There are many ways to go about creating a Monarch Waystation. Some clients want a simple version and some want a very elaborate pollinator habitat.  A Monarch Waystation doesn’t have to be a stand-alone garden, we can work them into an existing landscape and still achieve the accreditation.

We consult about options and what is possible for the conditions the landscape site offers. Monarchs need six hours of sun per day, so identifying the right location within the landscape is key. We need to consider any issues, such as drainage or proximity to outdoor living areas. For example, we might not want to locate the waystation next to a patio since it is likely to also attract bees.

What type of plants do you recommend for a Monarch Waystation?
How to Create a Monarch Waystation

Milkweeds are the most important plant to consider. To be certified, you must have at least 10 plants, of two different milkweed species. It’s where they lay their eggs and is their nectar source. Milkweed is the sole food source for developing caterpillars. This type of garden is built with native plants. In Wisconsin there are four different types of native milkweeds, so that is where our plant selection begins.

Other types of plants provide shelter, so we might include evergreens or large shrub or perennial. Conditions on the site (soil, sunlight) will dictate the specific plant selection.

How do design considerations factor into plant selection?

I always take into consideration the wishes of the client. Some prefer a wilder look and others want to keep their garden tidy. In that case I might use cultivars, which are usually more ornamental. For example, purple coneflower has many types we can choose. There is a native species, which is weedier looking, whereas the cultivar (echinachea purporea/sombrero) gives a range of colors (even red!) and a tidier appearance.

How to Create a Monarch Waystation

I can select from several perennials (e.g., coneflower, black-eyed susans, bee balm) to populate the garden.  Then, depending on how much time the client enjoys spending in the garden, we can fill in space with annuals (e.g., zinnias, verbena, marigolds), which typically require a bit more effort from the homeowner.

Another consideration is to use a color palette that complements the client’s landscape and aligns with their wishes.  We need to consider blooming times so we pick a plant palette that will have successions of bloom periods – a Spring, Summer, Fall look. This is aesthetically pleasing and also creates a diverse ecology for the monarchs to thrive. It has the added benefit of having a positive ecological impact by drawing birds, insects, and bees. It’s one reason why I love the monarch waystation because it gives people an easy entry to drawing all types of ecology to their yards.

Lastly, I may suggest a paver walkway through the waystation to make it more interactive.

Design is done. What is next?

We begin with site prep.  We do a lot of soil amendments, with composting and natural fertilizers so the waystation starts off on the right foot. If the soil is amended properly, it is more self-sustaining. Wisconsin has a lot of clay and a lot of plants don’t do well in that type of environment. We amend the soil with compost to break up the clay. It then creates the blank canvas where we can play.

Looking beyond the specific waystation area, I also consider a client’s lawn care program to ensure it will not negatively affect the monarch habitat.  It important to avoid using harmful chemicals. As a side benefit of establishing a Monarch Waystation, often the whole property evolves into using a more sustainable, natural approach, which supports the entire ecology of the property.

Once the site is ready, we install the plant material and finish it with shredded bark mulch to keep weeds out, help with hydration and protect the soil from sunlight.

How do you properly maintain a Monarch Waystation?

First, we provide thorough guidance on plant care and recommendations. Since we eliminate pesticides, maintenance revolves around weed control, thinning and dividing plants as necessary and watering.

Watering is critical.  We offer suggestions on creative ways to water and keep the waystation healthy—from hand watering to soaker hoses laid underneath mulch and wrapped through the garden. I tend to steer clients away from sprinklers because those wet the leaves and can cause fungal issues.  I like to set people up with timers so watering can take care of itself.

How to Get Started Creating a Monarch Waystation

To be a certified Monarch Waystation, a landscape needs 100 square feet in total. This means you can have vignettes of monarch-friendly plants throughout your landscape, provided the square footage adds up to 100. We can help you identify areas within your landscape that would be ideal for a monarch habitat. We have designs ready to go for nearly any size footprint. Get in touch today to schedule time to discuss your wishes for a Monarch Waystation in your landscape.

For more information on the certification program for Monarch Waystations, visit Monarch Watch at


2023 Landscaping Trends

We’re taking a look at what we expect to be the top  FIVE 2023 landscaping trends. Before you know it the growing season and hardscape construction season will be running full steam ahead and we want you to be on top of all the exciting landscaping happenings!

1)  Blurring the Line Between Indoor and Outdoor Spaces

Indoor and Outdoor Landscaping Spaces

The trend of creating fully-functional outdoor spaces is not new, but continues to explode in popularity. In 2023, we will see even more homeowners incorporating outdoor kitchens, grills, bars, sinks and refrigerators.  Interest in built-in patio planters to hold kitchen and herb gardens is also on the rise.  Providing shade through pergolas and extending the outdoor season through fire pits and other heating elements will be a landscaping goal for many this year.

2) Outdoor Lighting

Path lighting for safety, bistro lights for character, up-lighting for aesthetics…the choices of how you can use lighting in your landscape are endless. With new technology comes new products. LED fixtures and bulbs allow for an array of colors at your fingertips.  Bluetooth allows you to control it all with your phone.  Innovative new outdoor lighting designs and lights embedded into pavers and seat walls are cutting-edge and something you will see a lot of in 2023.

3) Rain Gardens

Rain Garden Installation

As development continues to expand and houses are built closer together, green space naturally shrinks. That means it is more important (and necessary!) than ever to find places for the rainwater to go. Rain gardens provide an attractive way to minimize that problem. You can read about the rain garden we installed at a commercial property in Delafield, Wisconsin.

4) Native Plants for Wildlife

It’s a hot and necessary trend to provide welcoming and nurturing environments for birds and pollinators. Incorporating native plants and native cultivars into the landscape can reap huge rewards for the homeowner and the environment. Ornamental grasses and perennial seeds can increase the number of birds coming to the yard and designing eco-friendly landscapes is a growing request of our clients.  From full, certified monarch waystations to creating a special bed or area in the yard dedicated to bees, butterflies and birds, you have many choices in how to encourage more wildlife through your landscape planning.

5) Low Maintenance Landscaping

Most people with their busy lifestyles are not hardcore gardeners that enjoy spending hours each week maintaining their yard. Newer varieties of old favorites are now on the market that stay smaller (less pruning) and still bring impact to your yard. While all yards require some maintenance to keep up a polished appearance, a good landscape designer can help you create a plan that reduces the number of hours you spend working on your yard.

Landscaping Professionals

Landscaping Professionals

Our team has experience in executing all of these five landscaping trends. If you are ready to get started dreaming of your own landscaping project, now is the perfect time to work with our designers. Get your planning done now, so you can hit the ground running when the Wisconsin snow is gone and sunny days re-appear! Contact us here.


Plants to Attract Birds in Winter

We went to the experts for their favorite selection of plants that attract birds in winter. Here are a few ideas you can consider for your own landscape to draw our feathered friends to your yard!

Sparrow eating black chokeberryRyan and John both suggest chokeberry. Older varieties were often large and unruly, but the newer cultivars are smaller and tame. Ground Hug, Low Scape Mound and Low Scape Hedger are three varieties that fit well in the suburban landscape. They are native cultivars and birds love the berries over the winter. Depending on the chokeberry variety you select, the berries will be red or black. If you need more convincing that this plant is a winner, they also deliver flowers that attractive native pollinators and they give your landscape a fabulous pop of fall color. If you’re a bird watcher, chokeberry is a must have in your winter landscape. Watch for cedar waxwings, chickadees and cardinals to visit your shrubs.

Cedar Waxwing Eating Berries

Steve loves to use crabapples trees to attract birds. Crabapples once had a bad reputation because they would drop their fruit and often get fungal diseases. The newer varieties on the market hold their fruit through the winter and are more disease resistant than ever. Cedar waxwings and robins are common visitors to the trees and they rely on them for food as they migrate back in the spring. Best of all, the flowers put on a show every spring and are an important food source for pollinators in the spring.

Finch on Coneflower

Left undisturbed in the garden, the seedheads of various perennials and ornamental grasses provide sustenance for many birds in winter. Wendy likes to leave specific perennials up in the garden over winter to attract birds. Native grasses like little bluestem and native coneflowers and rudbeckias are favorites for seed-collecting birds. Finches, juncos, grosbeaks, and cardinals all enjoy visiting these plants over winter.

Katie Jean takes the novel approach of repurposing annuals left in the garden to help attract birds in winter. Sunflowers, amaranth, tithonia & zinnia are some favorites of the birds. You can either leave them up in your garden beds or gather the stems into a bouquet and attach it to a tree or post in your garden. Clever! These types of seeds are a particular favorite of finches, chickadees and juncos.

To attract a wide variety of birds, we recommend having multiple food sources available to entice whomever might be wintering nearby. A source of water and a nearby evergreen for protection will make your yard the perfect hangout for your feathered friends! And don’t be discouraged if you don’t have immediate sightings. It might take a little time for the birds to find your new plants, but keep an eye out and soon you will see them gathering in the haven you provided!

Our experts are ready to help with all your landscaping needs. Get in touch!

How Do I Prune Hydrangeas?

“How do I prune hydrangeas” sounds like a simple question, right? But, to do it correctly, this question needs to be tackled in three parts.  We first have to answer:

What kind of hydrangea do you have?

When is the right time to prune the type of hydrangea you have?

What is the best way to prune your hydrangea?

Identifying Hydrangeas

There are SIX different species of hydrangea commonly found in gardens and to know when and how to prune them correctly, you’ll need to determine which type you have.  The species will let us know if it blooms on new or old wood, which is critical information to have before getting your pruning shears out. Lop off the buds and you will risk having a subpar showing of flowers in spring! You can identify your hydrangea species through the flowering and leaf pattern.

Identifying Hydrangea Species and Types

When to Prune Hydrangeas

Once you have successfully identified the type of hydrangea you have, you need to know whether it blooms on new or old wood. This information will guide the timing of your pruning.

New growth: Shrubs that bloom on new growth should be pruned in late fall once the plants have gone dormant or in early spring before new growth has started. This will maximize the amount of new growth and the number of flowers your shrub produces.

Hydrangeas that bloom on new wood:

  • Smooth hydrangeas
  • Panicle hydrangeas

Old growth: Shrubs that bloom on old growth, should be pruned immediately after their flowers have faded. This gives the plant plenty of time to develop wood that will be “old” by the time the next season’s flower buds emerge.

PRO TIP: Most experts agree that hydrangeas that bloom on old wood do not need aggressive pruning. Rather, you should aim to prune only when needing to shape or maintain their size.

Hydrangeas that bloom on old wood:

  • Oakleaf hydrangeas
  • Bigleaf hydrangeas
  • Mountain hydrangeas

When to Prune Hydrangeas

How to Prune Hydrangeas

In general, flowering woody shrubs that bloom on new wood thrive on somewhat aggressive pruning, while those that bloom on old wood require more careful restrained pruning. Hydrangeas are no exception.

The two species that bloom on new wood—panicle and smooth hydrangeas—do well with an aggressive annual pruning that removes as much as one-third of the shrub. So, for example, if your hydrangea is six feet tall, you can safely prune as much as two feet off the top and sides. Be wary of pruning more than 30% of the shrub to avoid removing too much of its framework needed to keep it upright. For best results, prune back stems to just above (1/4”) a fat bud or a healthy set of leaves.

We have experts on our team who know exactly when and how to prune your shrubs to keep them healthy and producing beautiful foliage and flowers. Call (262) 252-4260 or complete a contact form here.

Download Fall Landscaping Checklist

Fall is a perfect time to set your landscape up for success in spring and summer. Follow this guide for our top tips on how to care for your flowers, lawn, trees and shrubs in fall.

Download Checklist


  • Divide & transplant perennials (while ground temperatures are still warm)
    Cut the tops and stems down to a few inches above the crown at the base of each plant. Once you’re done, make sure you rake the beds and dispose of dead plant material so your garden still looks fresh during the winter months.
    Note: leaving a few inches of plant material and mulching above the crown is better for the plants. If any critters decide to nibble over the winter, they’ll eat the few inches above the crown instead of eating the crown and killing the plant.
  • Plant fall bulbs (before the ground freezes)
    When you plant your bulbs, unless the label says differently, plant the bigger bulbs 8” deep and the smaller bulbs at 5”. Place the bulb in the hole with the roots facing down. Once planted, cover the hole with soil but don’t pack it. Water it once. Read our guide on planting fall bulbs.
  • Clear leaves from flower beds
  • Treat perennial weeds with herbicide
    Spray perennial weeds (bindweed, creeping Jenny, clover, etc.) before the first freeze to allow the weeds to take in the herbicide and prevent a weedy garden in spring.


  • Aerate your lawn – fall is the best time! The benefits are numerous:
    • Improve air exchange between the soil and atmosphere.
    • Enhance soil water and fertilizer uptake.
    • Reduce water runoff and puddling.
    • Strengthen turf grass roots.
    • Reduce soil compaction.
  • Fertilize your lawn
    Apply before the first freeze to ensure it looks its best come warmer weather.
  • Clear leaves from lawn
    Mulching the leaves helps return nutrients to the soil. If that’s not an option for you, raking the leaves and keeping your lawn clear of debris can prevent your lawn from being smothered and stunting new grass growth.


  • Continue watering trees and shrubs until the first frost
  • Protect your trees & shrubs
    Wrap trees up to the lower branches using hardware cloth or tree wrap to prevent damage from deer rubbing. Cage small trees and shrubs in hardware cloth to prevent rabbit/rodent damage. Be sure to bury the cloth 2-3” beneath the surface.
  • Do NOT prune evergreens until spring
  • Remove leaves from under diseased plants and trees
    If your tree/shrub had a disease issue, such as apple scab, powdery mildew, tar spot, etc., disposing of the diseased leaves will help prevent a recurrence next year.

Note: do not compost diseased leaves.

Prevention is best, so consider getting on a spray program

  • Fertilize your trees and shrubs
    Fertilizing in fall encourages root growth by restoring nutrients to the soil and allows for lush, healthy growth and flowering the following season.


The Ultimate Guide to 2022 Landscaping Trends

As we creep closer to spring here in the Midwest, thoughts start turning to the landscape.  Did you know that a good, updated landscape can increase a home’s value?  Have you been considering fixing up the yard or investing in a new patio, firepit, or outdoor kitchen?  If so, keep reading.  We’ve compiled a list of what’s going on in the industry and a forecast of where landscapes are heading in the future.

Maximizing Outdoor Living Spaces

We have all been affected in one way or another by the pandemic.  Its effects on the landscape industry have been impactful.  People are staying home more and looking at and using their yards.  This is leading to an increase in changing our outdoor spaces from simply something to look at to an extension of our living space.  We are using our homes more and more often to socialize, relax, and work allowing outdoor living spaces to create value in many ways.

Outdoor Electronics & Lighting

Outdoor lighting is huge if you want to expand your outdoor living space.  With the new technology in lighting you can create a multitude of scenarios with your lighting.  Path lighting for safety, bistro lights for character, up-lighting for aesthetics…it’s all there.  LED fixtures and bulbs allow for an array of colors at your fingertips.  Bluetooth allows you to control it all with your phone.  Add an outdoor Bluetooth speaker system and you’ll be ready for anything.  

Speaking of outdoor electronics, how about an outdoor TV?  Imagine sitting around your firepit at night and watching football games in the fall.  The grill is going and there are drinks at the bar.  

Creative Spaces for Living, Working & Entertaining Outside

For those of you working from home, how about a secluded nook in the corner of the patio?  There’s a pergola with vines protecting you from the sun.  Background music is on the speakers and you can comfortably enjoy a change of pace from your desk in the basement office.  Or maybe you’re reading your favorite book, nestled in big wicker chair in the warm sun and a water feature is gently gurgling in the background.  The birds are singing and the flowers are blooming.  Can a relaxing moment get any better than that?

Outdoor Kitchens: Grills, Bars, Sinks & More

Outdoor kitchens have been popular in the past and they are not going away.  Renovations to patio space to include grills, bars, sinks and refrigerators is going full steam ahead.   In addition, we’re seeing built in patio planters to hold kitchen and herb gardens.  Turning away from high-maintenance decks to concrete or natural stone patios is the way to go.  While up front the cost may seem higher, the long-term benefits of durability and low maintenance will ultimately save you both time and money.  

There are constantly new innovations in composition, as well as new styles and colors to work with.  Whatever your style, there is something that will work for you.

Grow Your Own Food

Along with patio gardens, more and more people are turning to including edibles in their landscape.  Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, gooseberries, hops, apples, plums, pears, peaches, and several herbs…all of these and more will come back in our landscapes year after year.  People are finding that growing their own food is economical and provides them a sustainable alternative to mass produced food.

Sustainable Landscapes    

Adopting eco-friendly practices in landscaping has been at the top of trends lists for years and continues to be a priority in landscaping for both commercial and residential customers.  More and more communities are moving towards incorporating environmentally-friendly solutions to mitigate some of the unpleasant side-effects of urbanization.  Using things like permeable pavers, green roofs, planting natives, increasing biodiversity, minimizing irrigation usage, building rain gardens or bioswales, and using battery powered equipment are trends that are not going away.  Learn more about how you can create a sustainable yard here.

Proper Landscape Maintenance & Design

As we focus more on and spend more time in our landscapes, landscape maintenance is more important than ever.  Well-tended shrubs, mowed lawns, and beautiful plantings are now expected in both commercial and residential spaces.  With proper design, you can even start to incorporate sustainable practices, without sacrificing a high-end look.  While all landscapes require maintenance, trusting your landscape professional to choose the right plant for the right place can minimize the work you have to put in to keeping your landscape looking fabulous.

A Varied & Exciting Garden in Every Season

As we expand our living spaces to the outdoors, considering asking your designer to incorporate succession planting.  Successional gardening and planting mean that you have a thriving and interesting garden all year round.  A well-balanced landscape is going to have something to look at, no matter the season.  Aside from the well-known interest in flowers and fall color, you can find beauty in winter with colored or textured tree and shrub bark, berries, seed heads and seed pods that hold on until spring.

Gardening to Attract Birds, Butterflies & Bees

Leaving ornamental grasses up and seeds on your perennials can increase the number of birds coming to the yard and eco-friendly landscapes are definitely hot right now.  Finches love to visit the coneflower seed heads over winter and robins and waxwings are huge fans of crabapples.  You can go wrong with a special bed or area in the yard dedicated to bees, butterflies and birds.

In a nutshell, in 2022 we are going to see a continuation of expanding our outdoor living spaces in a multitude of ways.  We’re going to cook more, work more, and enjoy more time in our yards.  We’re becoming increasingly aware of our environment and our co-existence with it, therefore finding ways to interact with it instead of controlling it.  Technology will continue to be our friend in the landscape as we find balance between personal comfort and enjoyment and using our outdoor living spaces.

The American Landscape team is ready to help you make any one of these popular landscaping tactics part of your 2022. Get in touch today to start planning! Call (262) 252-4260 or reach us at: