Late Summer Nectar

A Tiger Swallowtail butterfly at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden feasts on annual Cleome, which flowers exuberantly for several months each summer in full sun and reseeds itself each year.

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I had an interesting chat with a local beekeeper on Saturday morning.  We were both at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden.  He was there as a part of the annual August Butterfly Count, and I was there wishing I was joining them.  I had my to-do list and a schedule to keep, but we spent a few minutes discussing some of the most generous and reliable nectar plants growing in that part of the garden.

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A Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly feeds on Verbena bonariensis in the Iris border of the WBG.  This South American native Verbena is a pollinator magnet, feeding many species from late spring until frost.  It is hardy in our area and also reseeds.

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I am absolutely delighted to learn that the team counted 25 different species of butterflies on Saturday morning in and around the Botanical garden.

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Pollinators find plentiful nectar in annual Zinnias, even after the petals fall.  Zinnas withstand full sun, heat and drought, lasting until frost.

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Whether you have bee hives to feed or simply want to support the wild pollinators in your area, planting late summer nectar plants in your pots and borders proves a win-win for you as the gardener and for the hungry creatures in search of a reliable buffet.

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This sunny spot in our Forest Garden supports many species of pollinators and birds.  Black-eyed Susans are just opening beneath this mixed planting of fennel, Verbena bonariensis and butterfly bush.

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Some beekeepers rent out their hives, moving them from place to place to take advantage of seasonal bloom.  The hives might be in an apple orchard for a few weeks, then in a peach orchard or near an agricultural field.  The bees follow the path of seasonal flowers.

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An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoys Agastache ‘Rosey Posey’ at the Heath family gardens at their Bulb Shop.  This native herb has been developed into many colorful cultivars and is very attractive to bees, butterflies and other pollinators.  Agastache is one of my top picks for a long season of bloom and high quality nectar.

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A beekeeper who wants to keep their hives at home must plan for that succession of bloom nearby so the bees are fed on local nectar year round.  That includes late summer, fall and winter when flowers grow more scarce.

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Many pollinators feast on the rich nectar of Buddleia, butterfly bush.  Newer hybrids are smaller than the species and many are sterile.  I started this one by sticking a pruned branch into the soil a few springs ago.  They are very easy to root from stem cuttings.  Butterfly bush is drought tolerant, grows in full or partial sun and blooms non-stop until late autumn.

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We are always delighted to watch butterflies, hummingbirds, hummingbird moths and many sorts of bees and wasps feasting in our garden.  We get just as much pleasure from watching a cloud of goldfinches rise up from the upper perennial beds as we draw near, or listening to the songbirds calling to one another as they glide from shrub to tree.  I saw a cardinal balancing on the swaying stem of a tall Verbena bonariensis on Friday, clearly finding something there tasty to eat.

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Goldfinches and other birds find as much joy here as the pollinators. After the nectar lovers enjoy the flowers, birds follow along to enjoy the seeds, especially Rudbeckia seeds.

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Selecting plants that will bloom reliably through the heat and dry spells of July and August rewards the gardener with ongoing color and garden interest.  Choosing nectar rich plants that prove both colorful and highly attractive to wildlife keeps the garden alive with flight and song.

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Tubular flowers, like these from Hosta ‘Fire Island’ please hummingbirds.  The Coleus, growing in the background, produces spikes of flowers loved by pollinators and hummingbirds, too,

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A diversity of plant species attracts a diversity of animal species.   By growing a diverse combination of trees, shrubs, vines, and herbaceous annual and perennial flowering plants, including herbs, it is possible to provide nectar rich plants throughout the year.  A reliable food source is key to attracting wildlife and encouraging them to raise their young in the garden.

Cultivating such a wide variety of plants is as much about ‘selecting’ as it is about ‘allowing.’  Many of the plant species growing in our garden were planted by a previous owner, or simply appeared; wild sown, and we chose to allow them to grow.  A few were gifts from gardening friends.  There are many sources for plant material at little or no cost.

When a plant doesn’t perform well or fit into the overall garden scheme, it should be removed to make room for something better.

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Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus, grows into a large shrub or small tree. Planted near windows, they invite bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to feed near the house, where you can observe them in comfort.  These bloom continuously from mid-spring until late fall, and produce tasty seeds to tempt birds through the winter.

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It may take a few years of close observation to develop a useful list of late summer nectar plants appropriate for your own climate.  What blooms happily in one area may prematurely shrivel and fry in another.

Or, there may not be enough hot sunny days to bring a particular plant to its full potential.

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Canna flowers thrill both humans and nectar lovers. They bloom reliably over a long season.  These heat lovers grow in full to partial sun, but like moist soil.  Many insects, including larvae of some moths, attack their leaves.  They may be a bit too messy for some gardeners to enjoy them.

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As our summers heat up, and precipitation patterns grow more erratic, we discover that popular plants may not do as well here as they once did.  A drive around town shows many commercially landscaped spaces looking derelict in mid-August.

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Lantana is one of my top picks for attracting pollinators. It blooms continuously from mid-spring until frost in full sun. It keeps pumping out flowers even during dry spells. Lantana develops woody stems and deep roots. Some varieties prove hardy and return bigger and better each year here in Zone 7.  It is native in warmer areas of the Southeastern United States, but is also considered invasive along the Gulf Coast.

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Our pollinators’ lives depend on a steady supply of nectar rich flowers.  Their lives depend on it, and future generations of them depend on habitat, host plants, and a steady food supply.  If you want to have a more active role in supporting the butterflies observed frequenting your area, spend some time poking around https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

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This established stand of Lantana in our front garden breaks my resolve to control it every year. There used to be roses and Iris here, and I planted out lots of annuals this spring. Once things heat up, the Lantana and morning glory vines just get ahead of me, but the butterflies flock here on hot afternoons.

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From the main page, click on ‘Regional Species Checklists.’ In the box on the left of the screen, click under region.  Choose your country, and then as menus appear keep choosing your own state, local, etc. until you land on the list of butterflies observed in your own area. 

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As you then click on any species name, you’ll learn about host plants required for its larvae to mature and nectar plants that feed the adults.  By providing nectar plants, you invite the adults.  Also providing host plants, allows you to support that species as it lays eggs in your garden for its next generation.  

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Fennel, an edible herb, serves as a host plant for swallowtails and its flowers attract many different types of pollinators. Parsley, a biennial, is another swallowtail host plant that produces similar flowers in its second year. Both produce seeds for the birds.

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Some gardeners prefer a professional, groomed appearance to their yards.  There is mulched space between carefully trimmed individual plants.  The plan is serene and green, with large blocks of a single plant species and few flowers.  That style might invite compliments from neighbors, but doesn’t necessarily invite wildlife or nurture species diversity.

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There are hundreds of different types of Salvia available.  Some are hardy in our area, some need warmer winters. All delight pollinators and hummingbirds while blooming in difficult conditions over many months.

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Butterflies, bees, wasps, and birds need a richer landscape that provides for their basic needs of shelter, water, secure movement and diverse food sources.  They’ll also seek out the native plants that sustain them and their young.

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Cutleaf coneflower, native Rudbeckia laciniata, draws in many different pollinators. Each plant grows to 6′ or more tall and wide, producing many flowers over a long season. it is just getting started in our garden, but will bloom from now until frost. Bees and wasps love it.

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The mulch in a wildlife friendly garden quickly disappears as plants grow together, coming and going as the season progresses.  There is a rich diversity of species with native trees, shrubs and perennials mixed in among the gardener’s choice of non-native plant species.

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Crape myrtle isn’t a native plant in Virginia, but it naturalizes here and is widely grown in our coastal region. It feeds pollinators and birds while brightening up the summer garden. Keep in mind that many butterflies use native trees as host plants. Allowing native hardwood trees to colonize is a way to support our butterfly and moth populations.  Many other insects shelter in hardwood trees.

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The list of late summer nectar plants offered here isn’t exhaustive.  But it is a good core list that offers choice and variety for gardeners in our region.  I hope you will perhaps find an idea here of something you’d like to try as you grow the buffet for pollinators in your area.

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Native mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinum, blooms over a long season in late summer and fall.  This easy native perennials spreads itself around and requires very little from the gardener.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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When allowed to bloom, Coleus provides abundant nectar and attracts many pollinators.

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Basil attracts many pollinators when allowed to bloom.  Goldfinches love its seeds.

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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is one of many pollinators attracted to native purple Coneflowers.  All of the Echinacea cultivars bloom over a long period during the hottest, driest part of summer.

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A bumblebee enjoys native Monarda fistulosa.  There are many types of Monarda available that perennialize here, blooming over many weeks. 

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Tiger Swallowtail on Monarda.

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Native milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa is one of many Asclepias species that perform well in our climate.  Monarch butterflies use Asclepias as their only host plant.

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Monarch feeding on Asclepias syriaca at the Stonehouse Elementary native plant garden.

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Asclepias incarnata, milkweed.

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Clerodendrum trichotomum, Harlequin gloryblower, is a small tree which attracts many pollinators to its nectar rich flowers.  It gets its common name from the electric colors of its blue seeds a few weeks later. (below)

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A male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoying the Joe Pye Weed.  This tough, native perennial feeds many sorts of bees and wasps alongside the butterflies.  The species grows quite tall, but there are shorter cultivars available.

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Alliums, like these garlic chives, are wonderful nectar plants. These edible herbs perennialize in our garden. You may also enjoy the flowers or the leaves in salads and other summer dishes.

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Most herbs, and certainly all of the types of mints, reliably feed pollinators. This Nepeta, cat mint,  blooms continually from mid-spring until frost.  If the flowers slow down, simply cut it back and let it regrow.

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‘Black and Blue’ Salvia is a special favorite of hummingbirds.

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Obedient plant and black eyed Susans are both native perennials, that quickly fill any open area with roots and seeds they drop. 

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Sunday Dinner: Small Delights

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“The great underestimates the small,
the leader underestimates the led,
the beautiful underestimates the ugly,
and you underestimate who?”
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Alan Maiccon
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“Smallness is subversive,
because smallness can creep into smaller places
and wreak transformation
at the most vulnerable, cellular level.
In a time when largeness is threatening to topple us,
I wish to remember and praise the beauty of smallness,
in order to banish the Goliath of loneliness.”
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Sarah Ruhl
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“Great man
is the one who is aware
of his smallness in this universe!
Greatness starts first of all
with accepting the reality.”
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Mehmet Murat ildan
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“All space is relative.
There is no such thing as size.
The telescope and the microscope
have produced a deadly leveling
of great and small, far and near.
The only little thing is sin,
the only great thing is fear!”
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David H. Keller
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“Express gratitude
for the greatness of small things.”
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Richie Norton
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“Just because our brains are limited in size,
does not mean our minds need be.”
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Jeffrey Fry
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“You may think I’m small,
but I have a universe
inside my mind.”
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Yoko Ono
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019
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“To see things in the seed,
that is genius.”
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Lao-Tzu

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The Williamsburg Botanical Garden is filled at the moment with butterflies!

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5th Annual Butterfly Festival

Williamsburg Botanical Garden

August 3 & 4  9-4

Admission Free, Donations accepted

Re-Weaving the Web

Viola papilionacea

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Our ‘lawn’ hosts many wildflowers, including the always beautiful violet, Viola papilionacea.  I’m happy to see these lovely wildflowers bloom each spring.  They are so common, and so elegant.  And I’ve always assumed that their nectar is a welcome source of nourishment for bees and other pollinators in early spring.

But I was surprised to learn, when browsing recently on the National Wildlife Federation’s website, that the common, native violet is a larval host to 30 different species of moth and butterfly.   By simply allowing these pretty spring wildflowers, rather than stopping their growth with a ‘broadleaf weed’ herbicide, I’ve been helping to support moths and butterflies.

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Monarch butterfly on hybrid Lantana, an excellent source of nectar.

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Once we begin to understand our own lawns and gardens as part of an intricate web of life; the daily decisions we make, and the actions we do, or don’t take assume an entirely new and more meaningful context.

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Spiders often weave large webs in our autumn garden.

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I certified our garden as a wildlife habitat some years ago.  Ever since, I get regular mailings and emails from the National Wildlife Federation offering me things if I’ll only send a bit more money to them.  I respect their work and detest the constant fundraising.  But an email last week somehow caught my attention, and in a spare moment I began clicking through to find a personalized list of native plants that thrive in our zip code and also support wildlife.

Imagine that!  A personalized plant list just for me and my neighbors to assist us in preserving habitat!

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Our native redbud tree, Cercis canadensis, supports 25 species of butterfly and moth larvae.  Our dogwood tree supports 110 larval species.

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Also on my list: Fragaria, Solidago, Aster, Geranium, Hibiscus, Rudbeckia, Achillea and good old Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium.  It’s the first plant on this list, Fragaria, that nudges that guilty sense that maybe I’m not as good as I want to be.

Common (weedy) ground strawberries, Fragaria virginiana, thrive in our garden.  They thrive and spread themselves over and around every bed I start and every other thing I plant.  Along with the ubiquitous Vinca minor vines, Fragaria are the plants I find myself pulling up and throwing away the most.  And to think that this common and enthusiastic plant; which feeds pollinators, songbirds, small mammals and reptiles; also supports 73 different species of larval moths and butterflies.  How did I ever miss that?

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Wild strawberries, Fragaria, mix with other wildflowers as ground cover at the base of this stand of Narcissus. Brent and Becky Heath’s display gardens, Gloucester VA.

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You may have read Dr. Doug Tallamy’s revolutionary manual, Bringing Nature Home.   Dr. Tallamy makes a clear argument for why including native plants in our home landscape matters, and offers simple advise about how to do this in the most practical and easy to understand terms possible.

The National Wildlife Federation has based their Native Plant Finder on his work, and will give anyone an individualized list of native plants that form the basis of the ecosystem in their particular area, down to their zip code.

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The American Sycamore tree, Platanus occidentalis, supports 43 species of larvae, including the beautiful Luna moth..

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The change in my sensibility came when I realized that I don’t really have to do anything special to grow a garden of native plants.  Rather, I need to allow it to happen, by understanding and respecting the natural processes already at work in our garden.

We modern American gardeners are often conditioned to feel like we need to go and buy something in order to be gardening.  Dr. Tallamy helps us to understand that going to our local garden center or nursery may not be the best way to heal our local ecosystem.

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How many of us already have an oak tree (or two or three) growing in our garden?  They are handsome shade trees, and I’ve always admired oaks.  Did you know that in addition to producing acorns, oak leaves support over 500 species of larval butterflies and moths?  A birch tree supports over 320 species.  That is a lot of mileage from a single tree, when it comes to supporting the insect world!

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Virginia Creeper, a native vine which crops up in many areas of our garden, provides nectar, berries, and it also supports 29 species of butterfly and moth larvae.

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Keep in mind that this is only a counting of butterflies and moths, and doesn’t even consider the hundreds of other insect species which live on our native trees.  Even a pine tree supports over 200 species, and the simple mistletoe already growing in several trees around our yard will support 3 species of moth larvae.

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 Zebra Swallowtail feeding on Asclepias tuberosa ‘Hello Yellow’ at Brent and Becky Heath’s display gardens in Gloucester .

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I keep returning to this conundrum about native vs. ‘exotic’ plants. I listen closely when experts, like the erudite speakers at our local chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society, speak on this matter.  I have also been doing a bit of reading about the balance between natives and non-native plants in our home gardens.

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Hibiscus syriacus is not our native Hibiscus… but our bees and butterflies love it anyway.  It has naturalized in our area.

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Some landscape designers suggest planting exotic plants near our house and native plants towards the edges of our property.  This assumes, I think, that the native plants may not be beautiful enough or refined enough to plant along our daily paths.  Somehow, I know there must be a better way….

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Purists try to demonstrate to us that ‘native’ means the plants that have grown in our particular location for centuries, maybe even millennia.  It is the particularly adapted sub-species that have grown in symbiotic relationships with the local fauna and geo-forms which matter most.  They are adapted to our soil, climate and may not be truly ‘native’ 30 miles down the road.

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Asclepias incarnata, July 2017

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The problem with this analysis comes from understanding that there was a lot of movement of people and spreading of plants in North America before the earliest recorded European inhabitants.  It doesn’t matter whether you take that back to the Vikings, Sir Henry Sinclair, The Templar fleets or Captain Chris; the truth is that many different groups of native Americans carried plants around from place to place and established agriculture long before there was a European around to observe and record their activities.

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Muscadines are a native North American grape.  Vitis species support 69 larval species, and were cultivated long before the European migration to our continent.

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Many of us mail order an Asclepias or two and know we have done a good thing for the Monarchs.  But Asclepias only supports twelve larval species, while the Rudbeckia systematically colonizing our entire front garden support 20!

But Rudbeckia don’t feed Monarch larvae.  And neither do many of the Asclepias I’ve planted in recent years.  Their leaves remain pristine.  It is not just what we plant, but many factors in the environment that determine whether or not a butterfly will choose a particular plant to lay their eggs.

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I am happiest when I realize that the plants I want to grow anyway also qualify as ‘native’ and benefit wildlife.

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Native Hibiscus moscheutos grows in our garden, and has naturalized in many wetlands in our area.  Sadly, non-native Japanese Beetles feasted on its leaves.  Hibiscus supports 29 species of butterfly and moth larvae.

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I am content when the ‘exotic’ plants I want growing in our garden also offer some benefit to wildlife, whether it is their nectar or their seeds.  And I still stubbornly assert my rights as The Gardener, when I commandeer real-estate for those non-natives that I passionately want to grow, like our beloved Caladiums. 

As long as I find hummingbirds buzzing around our canna lilies and ginger lilies each summer, and find the garden filled with song birds and butterflies, I feel like we are doing our small part to support wildlife.

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Many of us enjoy watching pollinators gather nectar and pollen from the flowers in our garden.  We enjoy a variety of birds attracted to seeds, berries, and insect life in our gardens, too.  But how many of us relish watching caterpillars nibble the leaves of our garden plants?

We see nibbled leaves as damaged leaves, without taking into consideration that before we have butterflies flitting from flower to flower, we must shelter and support their larvae.

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Black Swallowtail butterfly and caterpillars on fennel, August 2017

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Assuming that you have read Doug Tallamy’s work, let me invite you to take the next step by reading Larry Weaner’s thought provoking new book,    Garden Revolution:  How Our Landscapes Can Be A Source of Environmental Change.  Where Doug Tallamy writes about plant choice, Larry Weaner is all about ecological landscape design.  He teaches how to begin with a tract of land and restore an ecosystem.  Weaner teaches us how to work with the processes of nature to have plants present their best selves, with minimum inputs from us.

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Restoring our environment, preserving our ecosystem, are holistic, systemic endeavors worthy of our energy and attention.  As we develop a deeper understanding and sympathy for these matters, our aesthetic, and our understanding of our own role in the garden’s evolution, also evolve.

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The Devil’s Walkingstick, Aralia spinosa provides nectar when in bloom, and thousands of tasty berries in the autumn.  It also supports 7 larval species. A volunteer in our garden, it is one of the most spectacular trees we grow.

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Woodland Gnome 2018
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“The wild is where you find it,
not in some distant world
relegated to a nostalgic past or an idealized future;
its presence is not black or white,
bad or good, corrupted or innocent…
We are of that nature, not apart from it.
We survive because of it,
not instead of it.”
.
Renee Askins
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Hummingbird moth on a hybrid butterfly bush growing among native Rudbeckia. 

Signs of Autumn

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There are signs of autumn everywhere in the garden.  Never mind that it went over 90F here today.  As the days grow shorter, plants have a sense of the change of season and respond.  This is one of the great mysteries entertained by those of us who live in gardens.

Of course, leaves began to turn and drop in early August from our searing drought.  But now, even plants I’ve kept well-watered have joined in. Most of our Japanese painted ferns have dropped fronds now, modestly disappearing from the bed as leaves of Italian Arum begin to emerge.

Why is that?  How do they know it is time to rest?

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Oakleaf Hydrangea

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Some dogwoods and maple trees sport reddish leaves now.  It makes for pretty sightseeing on a drive.  The Aralia seed heads have been purple for weeks.  Even perennials, like our milkweed, have turned yellow and dropped most of their leaves.

As spring unfolds over many months here in Williamsburg, so too, does autumn.  And autumn leaves me feeling a bit melancholy and nostalgic.

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Although my birthday comes each spring, I never really feel that year older until fall creeps across the garden.   My steps slow a bit;  my enthusiasm wanes a little, too.  I’m ready to settle and just ‘let things be’ for awhile.

I look around and see that our garden is entering its final acts of the year, preparing for a few months of rest .  I suppose that like naps, a few months of rest allows the garden, and us, to store up the vibrant energy we need to greet another spring.

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Aralia spinosa with pokeweed

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Even so, there are still a few perennials and herbs just coming into bloom.  The Mexican sage is in bud, and goldenrods are just opening.  The pineapple sage is covering itself in scarlet flowers now, and tender fresh leaves have emerged on some of our spring bulbs.

I could try to fool myself that this is a ‘second spring;’ the preponderance of the evidence says otherwise.

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Pineapple Sage

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We are swiftly entering back into restful darkness, now that the autumn equinox has passed.  I feel it most in the evenings, when it’s noticeably dark earlier each evening.

I go for a walk, and darkness has gathered before I return.  A thin sliver of moon mocks me, nestled in its soft, moist cloudy cloak.

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Mexican bush sage

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I’m beginning to catalog the autumn chores ahead, and doing the math to decide how much time I have to procrastinate before lifting tubers, carrying pots indoors, and starting the round of fall planting.    I have flats of little shrubs stashed behind the house, waiting for autumn’s cool and damp.  I’ve ordered daffodils and more Arum, and will soon buy Violas for winter pots.

I expect at least another month of frost-free days and nights; maybe another six or seven weeks, if we’re lucky.  Today it felt like summer.  The sun was intense, the air humid and dense.

Hurricane Maria still swirls off of our coast, though far enough away that we had no rain and only a little wind.  We were glad it stayed away.

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Goldenrod coming into bloom

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And yet, I see the signs of autumn everywhere in the garden.  Huge spiders spin their webs on the deck.   Monarchs as large as birds visit our baskets of Lantana, floating above the garden in their vivid orange finery.

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  Goldfinches swoop and dive, stopping to snack on ripe seeds on the Rose of Sharon shrubs.    Their bare branches and yellow leaves make the message clear:  “Get ready.  Change is in the air.”

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Crape Myrtle with its last flowers of the year, just as its leaves begin to turn orange and red.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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Blossom XXXI: Lantana

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“For it is in giving that we receive.”
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Francis of Assisi

Lantana proves a most generous flower.  It’s prolific blooms, full of sweet nectar, nourish butterflies from May until November.

As each flower fades, a small berry forms in its place.  These delight our hungry birds.

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“Generosity does not come from wealth.
Wealth comes from the flowers of kindness and love.”
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Debasish Mridha

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Lantana asks little for itself.  It thrives in poor soil.  It tolerates weeks of drought as its deep, sturdy roots seek out water to fuel its prolific blossoms.

It covers itself in flowers continually, growing ever larger, week by week, until it is touched by frost.

Its sturdy, green leaves soak in every ray of summer sun without wilt or burn.

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“When a person becomes aware of their genius
and they live it and they give generously from it,
they change the world, they affect the world.
And when they depart
everyone knows something is missing.”
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Michael Meade

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Many of the Lantana that we planted five or more years ago have firmly established themselves in our garden.  Their woody bones burst into life in late spring, and they quickly grow back to enormous proportions.  We leave their skeletons in place through the winter, where they offer shelter and food to the birds who hang back in our garden.

Their drying berries provide a long lasting source of food.  Their dense branches and soft, fallen leaves give shelter from wind and snow.  Small birds play in their structure,  flying in an out of openings in the canopy as they search for insects.

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We wait to cut the Lantana back until the Crocus are blooming.  Once we see these signs of spring, we cut them hard, nearly back to the ground.  Their beds are opened once again to the warming sun.

Bulbs bloom, roses bloom, grass greens, spring settles; and finally, the Lantana re-awaken;  their first blossoms opening in time to greet a new generation of visitors to our garden.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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“The Universe blesses a generous heart.”
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Eileen Anglin
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Blossom XXV: Elegance
Blossom XXVI: Angel Wing Begonia
Blossom XXVII: Life 
Blossom XXVIII: Fennel 
Blossom XXIV:  Buddleia 
Blossom XXX:  Garlic Chives

A Royal Visitor

October 8 Parkway 052

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We have been watching for a Monarch butterfly to visit our garden for the last several weeks.

We still have Yellow Sulphurs and Painted Ladies.  But most of the Swallowtails took off before our storms.  We miss them.  The garden has felt quite lonely and empty without them flying around.

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October 8 Parkway 051

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But we started spotting Monarch butterflies on our errands this morning.  We saw them hovering over flowering shrubs at the shopping center.  We saw them flying about near the Colonial Parkway.  When would one turn up at home, we wondered?

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October 8 Parkway 049

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And then at dusk, as I was bringing a pumpkin around to set on the front porch, I spotted our first Monarch butterfly of October, feeding on the Lantana in our front garden.  What a thrill!  After the joy of simply watching it for a while, I quietly retreated back inside to tell my partner about our visitor, and to grab my camera.

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October 8 Parkway 050

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Wondering whether our Monarch would still be around when I returned, I powered up the camera and quietly approached the Lantana again.  And yes, our visitor was enjoying the feast too much to mind my presence.  I was happily snapping photos as my partner approached, watching from a distance.

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October 8 Parkway 041

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Maybe it was the socks….  Today I chose a pair of Monarch butterfly socks my partner had given me in late August.  All stages of a Monarch’s  life from egg to adult are woven into these wonderful socks, which we found in the shop at Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester.  I pulled them on this morning hoping to soon finding Monarchs visiting us on their fall migration.

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October 8 Parkway 042

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Now that the storms have passed, and clear cool days have brought a new freshness and vitality to our garden, we observe renewed activity from birds devouring ripening berries and bees enjoying Goldenrod and autumn Salvias.

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Salvia leucantha, Mexican Bush Sage

Salvia leucantha, Mexican Bush Sage

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And now our garden has finally hosted the long awaited royal visitor:  a lone Monarch butterfly feeding in our garden as it travels to warmer destinations further south.  We hope this is the first Monarch of many who find our garden this month. We hope to find it alive again with the flutter of brilliant wings, as they taste each  blossom filled with sweet autumn nectar.

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October 8 Parkway 039

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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October 8 Parkway 005

Sunday Dinner: Spirit Swans

September 26, 2015 swans 001~

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.

We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

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Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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“One thing: you have to walk,

and create the way by your walking;

you will not find a ready-made path.

It is not so cheap, to reach to the ultimate realization of truth.

You will have to create the path by walking yourself;

the path is not ready-made, lying there and waiting for you.

It is just like the sky: the birds fly,

but they don’t leave any footprints.

You cannot follow them;

there are no footprints left behind.”

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Osho

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“I once listened to an Indian on television

say that God was in the wind and the water,

and I wondered at how beautiful that was

because it meant

you could swim in Him

or have Him brush your face in a breeze.”

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Donald Miller

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“We are all connected;

To each other, biologically.

To the earth, chemically.

To the rest of the universe atomically.”

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Neil deGrasse Tyson

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“The power of human thought grows exponentially

with the number of minds that share that thought.”

.

Dan Brown

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

Jones Mill Pond, along the Colonial Parkway, near Yorktown, Virginia

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“The Way is not in the sky;

the Way is in the heart.”

.

Gautama Buddha

WPC: Orange

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Orange does liven things up a bit.  Its warmth and energy feel like the perfect foil for the icy garden outside our windows.

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Just as orange juice brightens up a wintery morning, so a collection of orange photos might make us all feel a bit warmer as we close out this first full week of March.

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When I think of orange, I think of October.

Today’s collection of photos, all from October of 2014, take us back to butterflies and roses; leaves changing color on the trees and warm autumn sunsets.

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I hope you will soak up a little of their warmth as you enjoy this photographic retrospective.

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Inspired by the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Orange

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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The Butterfly Effect

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After a summer spent watching for butterflies, we celebrate each one which crosses our path this October.

I say, “Crossing our path” intentionally.  We  cringed each time a Monarch came fluttering towards the windshield as we drove along  the Colonial Parkway this weekend.

We believe they all survived, carried in the wind over the roof of our car and safely on their journey.

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Often, as I stopped to take photos, familiar orange and black wings lit somewhere nearby.

Monarchs and Painted Ladies  delight us as they flutter around our garden on these warm, late October afternoons.

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A Painted Lady enjoys nectar from Lantana in our garden.

 

Paging through the new “Winter” issue of Arts and Crafts Homes,  I was a little surprised to see a photo of Monarch butterflies crowded on an evergreen branch.  Since the butterfly is a common motif in “Arts and Crafts” decor, the decline in our butterfly population rated an article even here.

Artist Amy Miller is raising Monarch butterflies in her kitchen!

The article explains how Amy set up a “mating tent” made of mosquito netting in her home,  stocked with nectar flowers and fresh milkweed.  Amy brings pairs of butterflies to the tent, releasing the males back into the wild after mating.  Females are kept until they lay their eggs on the milkweed.

Amy carefully raises the caterpillars until mature butterflies emerge.  Thus far, Amy has released more than 500 adult monarchs back into the wild.  Her 27 acre property along Wisconsin’s Trimbelle  River, is a natural habitat for Monarchs.

 

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Also mentioned was fellow blogger Kim Smith, who initiated the Cape Ann Milkweed Project  in Gloucester, Massachusetts.  Kim distributes milkweed seeds and  encourages homeowners to create more habitat for Monarch butterflies.

Kim often blogs about Monarchs and her efforts to support gardeners around the country willing to grow their host plant.  Milkweed is the only plant on which Monarch butterflies will lay their eggs. Monarch larvae eat only milkweed as they grow.  Often considered a weed, few homeowners include it in their landscape.

Monarcch on Staghorns umac along the Colonial Parkway this weekend.

Monarcch on Staghorn Sumac along the Colonial Parkway this weekend.

As natural areas, and the native plants they support, disappear; and roads, neighborhoods and shopping centers proliferate across the landscape; we see the direct consequences in our dwindling butterfly populations.

Many of us in the blogging community have written about our search for Monarchs and other native butterflies this season.

Many of us share the concern that they haven’t visited our gardens in their usual numbers this summer.

This male Monarch has made himself at home in our garden, enjoying the Lantana buffet these last few weeks. Do you see the spots, near the body, on his rear wings? These spots indicate a male butterfly.

This male Monarch has made himself at home in our garden, enjoying the Lantana buffet these last few weeks. Do you see the spots, near the body, on his rear wings? These spots indicate a male butterfly.

 

Eliza Waters, another Massachusetts based blogging friend,  also documents her efforts to support the Monarch population in her gardens.

Much like Rachel Carson raised the alarm about our native birds in her 1962 Silent Spring, so our generation documents our concerns for the butterflies.  Carson’s book launched the environmental movement in the United States, bringing about sweeping changes in our laws; eventually  banning DDT and other harmful insecticides and pesticides.

And now, more than 50 years later, we witness a resurgence of the  environmental movement inspired, in part, by the loss of our beloved butterflies.

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We know that herbicides used in commercial farming, along with over development, play in a major role in the loss of both milkweeds and the nectar flowers Monarchs, and other butterflies, depend upon for their life cycle.

And although this problem appears very large, each of us can do our own small part to make a positive difference.

We can each have our own tiny “Butterfly Effect.”  Do you know the term? 

Edward Lorenz coined the term in 1961 to describe how one tiny change in the initial conditions of a system may dramatically effect the outcome.  It is an axiom of Chaos  Theory.

 

Monarch spotted feeding in our garden this morning.

And while we might feel helpless to have much effect against multinational corporations spraying herbicides on their GMO crops, or the energy giants building thousands of miles of new gas pipelines across our communities; we can create a safe and supportive habitat on our own properties for butterflies, frogs, songbirds, and the other beautiful little creatures whose presence indicates a rich web of life in our garden.

 

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Tiny insects on Rose of Sharon seedpods

We can plant milkweed for the Monarchs. And we can plant  fennel, parsley, dill, black cherry trees, and other native trees to host  the other butterflies we love.

Even those of us gardening on a condo balcony or patio can grow these simple host and nectar plants in pots.

Every tiny effort makes a positive difference.

 

Joe Pye weed, new in our garden this season, has fed many creatures over the season.

Joe Pye Weed, new in our garden this spring, has fed many creatures over the season.

 

We can stop using pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers in our gardens, thus keeping them out of the water supply and out of the food chain.

 

Unknown larvae feed on Virginia Creeper vines growing on this Eastern Red Cedar.

Unknown larvae feed on Virginia Creeper vines growing on this Eastern Red Cedar.

 

We can include berry and seed producing shrubs and trees in our garden, and leave some untended “wild” places for creatures to nest and shelter.

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And we can support our neighbors in their efforts to create wildlife habitat in their own gardens.

 

MIlkweed pods bursting to release their downy seeds is a sure sign of October in Virginia.

MIlkweed pods bursting to release their downy seeds is a sure sign of October in Virginia.  These grow beside  College Creek in our community.

 

Let us all keep “The Butterfly Effect” in mind. In our seemingly chaotic world, every small act of kindness and goodwill has the potential to make an enormous difference as our story unfolds here on Earth.

Every milkweed seed we nurture may host hundreds of Monarch butterflies.

Every bit of garden we cultivate may feed thousands of creatures.

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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

The Daily Post Writing Challenge:  The Butterfly Effect

 

The Butterfly Garden- plant lists

 

 

Silent Sunday: Autumn Leaves

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“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.”

Notebook, Oct. 10, 1842

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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“I loved autumn, the one season of the year that God seemed to have put there just for the beauty of it.”

  Lee Maynard

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“I was drinking in the surroundings: air so crisp you could snap it with your fingers and greens in every lush shade imaginable offset by autumnal flashes of red and yellow.”

Wendy Delsol

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“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!”

Humbert Wolfe

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

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