Wild Life Wednesday: A Feast for Butterflies

A Silver Spotted Skipper enjoys Verbena bonariensis in our garden.

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This time of year I spend a lot of time hanging out with butterflies.  Once I spot one, I want to get as close as I dare, camera in hand, and just watch what it does and where it goes.  It’s funny how they are clearly aware of me, too.  Some are camera shy and fly up and off as soon as I begin to focus my lens on them.

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A Zebra Swallowtail takes flight as the female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoys her Agastache nectar at the Heath’s Bulb Shop garden in Gloucester today.

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I have more than a few empty frames where a butterfly has flown away right as I click the photo.  Other butterflies appear to enjoy their modeling session, or at least tolerate my presence with the clicking, chiming camera.

I get almost giddy in a garden where a cloud of butterflies is busily feeding.  These lovely creatures seem quite content to share their nectar wealth, and light near one another companionably.

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My partner and I were visiting the display gardens at the Heath family’s Bulb Shop in Gloucester this morning.  We went outside and had just begun to look around when my partner called me over to the butterflies.  Perhaps six individuals were all feeding around the clear blue flowering spires of one large Agastache ‘Blue Fortune.’  We were spellbound.

We counted three different types of swallowtails, a Monarch and a sweet little hummingbird moth.

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A hummingbird moth shares the nectar with the Zebra Swallowtail butterflies.

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Now, in a place as nectar rich as a multi-acre display garden filled with perennials and flowering bulbs, wouldn’t you expect that the butterflies would be all spread out across the garden?  Would you really expect to see six individuals on a single plant, with lots of other flowering plants neglected?

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An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoys Agastache ‘Rosey Posey’ at the Heath family gardens at their Bulb Shop.

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Eventually, we wandered a bit further into the garden to see what we could see on this sunshiny August morning.  The next butterfly activity was around the water feature which just happened to be ringed on one side with pots brimming with more Agastache.  This time I believe it was A. ‘Rosey Posey.’ 

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A water feature at Brent and Becky’s Bulb Shop in Gloucester, VA.

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And yes, I spotted another little hummingbird moth and an assortment of swallowtails. The many beds and pots and meadows and borders nearby didn’t have nearly the winged traffic as these pots of anise hyssop.  If you’ve grown it yourself, you know this is a tough perennial mint relative with fragrant leaves and non-stop flowers.  The nice thing about this perennial herb is its polite manners.  Even though it clumps and grows larger each year, it doesn’t run like most mints will do.

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We had a lovely clump, started from a plug, that perished sometime between November and April.  I was so disappointed that it didn’t return this summer and we have missed it.  I likely cut it back too early in the spring and it got zapped by a cold spell.  I waited too long this spring, giving it a chance to return, and didn’t admit until May that it was a goner.  And we have missed it!

If you are a butterfly enthusiast, you likely spend a good bit of time watching to see which plants the butterflies prefer.  Given a garden filled with flowers, where do they prefer to feed?

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This female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail feeds on Buddleia in our garden.

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What will attract the most butterflies?  If you are hoping to attract a good variety of butterflies, as we do, you likely want to plant lots of butterfly magnet plants to feed them over the longest season possible.

Another clear butterfly favorite is Lantana.  A friend and I were plant shopping together last month and headed for the gallon pots of Lantana.  We needed a number of them for a special event, and were astounded to see the entire display covered in beautiful butterflies.  We actually had to chase the bumblebees and butterflies off of the plants, once they were loaded into her car, so that we could close the back hatch.

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The female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly is dimorphic.  It can be either yellow or black. Watch when the sun shines through the wings of the black form. She can be identified because the tiger stripes are still visible with the wing illuminated from behind.  Females always have blue on their hindwings, and the males are solidly yellow with black markings.  This female feeds on Lantana in our garden.

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Buddleia, known as butterfly bush, earns its name, too.  Its panicles of richly colored sweet flowers are irresistible.  A bit rangy in its growth, it more than makes up for its habit with its spectacular flowers that keep blooming until frost.

The surprise butterfly magnet is perennial Verbena.  You likely have lots of butterflies on your annual Verbena in pots and baskets.  But the V. bonariensis in our garden attracts them even more than the Buddleia! 

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A female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail feeds on V. bonariensis in our garden.  Do you see the darker stripes on her upper wings?

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It is great fun to watch huge swallowtails land on these fragile looking little flowers seemingly floating in space, bobbing in the wind as they feed.  I expect the V. hastata that I planted last month will attract many butterflies, too, as it establishes and produces more blooms.

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It is a given that butterflies love herbs.  Beyond the Agastache, they seem to enjoy other mints, Monardas, basils, fennel, dill,  Salvias, and even chives!  I am delighted to see how happy the butterflies are to feed on the chives, blooming now, because they make for beautiful photos.  There are many, many plants where butterflies will feed:  Hibiscus and Echinacea, Aralia and crape myrtles, petunias and zinnias, cosmos and Rudbeckia.

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Chives

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We never tire of watching them.  We make a point to have pots and baskets of their favorites around the house where we can observe them from inside, and often pause near the windows to enjoy them for a few moments.  Butterflies speak to wild beauty and the inevitable cycles of nature.

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It is one of those koans of nature to realize both their fragility and their enormous strength.  They travel on incredibly long annual migrations and  survive in the face of perilous odds.

I appreciate them as a manifestation of living wabi-sabi– a fragile, fleeting beauty that we must appreciate in the eternal now, knowing full well that in an instant, they will fly away.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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“To Taoism that which is absolutely still or absolutely perfect is absolutely dead,
for without the possibility of growth and change
there can be no Tao.
In reality there is nothing in the universe
which is completely perfect or completely still;
it is only in the minds of men
that such concepts exist.”
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Alan W. Watts
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Sunday Dinner: Generosity

Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly on Lantana ‘Chapel Hill Gold’

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“We need to spread more seeds
and fill this Planet with love
to be surrounded by flowers just everywhere!
It starts by simply opening up
our hearts and hands to one another.
It’s in simple things
where true Happiness may flourish.”
.
Ana Claudia Antunes
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“Generosity is the most natural outward expression
of an inner attitude of compassion and loving-kindness.”
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Dalai Lama XIV
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Pearl Crescent butterfly on Zinnia

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“You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
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Kahlil Gibran
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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on butterfly bush

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“The wise man does not lay up his own treasures.
The more he gives to others,
the more he has for his own.”
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Lao Tzu
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“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying
to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives.
In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender
before the miraculous scope of human generosity
and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely,
for as long as we have voices.”
.
Elizabeth Gilbert
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Photos by Woodland Gnome
at The Williamsburg Botanical Garden

Enjoy the 4th Annual Butterfly Festival and Plant Sale 

August 4 & 5  free admission
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“Silence the angry man with love.
Silence the ill-natured man with kindness.
Silence the miser with generosity.
Silence the liar with truth.”
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Gautama Buddha
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Zebra Swallowtail butterfly on Lantana

Sunday Dinner: In the Pink

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“The simplest acts of kindness
are by far more powerful
then a thousand heads bowing in prayer.”
,
Mahatma Gandhi

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“Do you know what people really want?  Everyone, I mean.
Everybody in the world is thinking:
I wish there was just one other person I could really talk to,
who could really understand me, who’d be kind to me.
That’s what people really want, if they’re telling the truth.”
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Doris Lessing
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“True love is born from understanding.”
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Gautama Buddha

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“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts,
to enter into the places of pain,
to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish.
Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery,
to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears.
Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak,
vulnerable with the vulnerable,
and powerless with the powerless.
Compassion means full immersion
in the condition of being human.”
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Henri J.M. Nouwen

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“It is only with true love and compassion
that we can begin to mend what is broken in the world.
It is these two blessed things
that can begin to heal all broken hearts.”
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Steve Maraboli

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“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar;
it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars
needs restructuring. ”
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Martin Luther King Jr.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018
*

Follow the story here:

Sacred Ground, Now Reclaimed:  A Charlottesville Story

Please join with me in sending love, light, and protection to those whose compassion compels them to make the journey.  Their wounds are yet raw, and from their pain they draw both courage and power.  

Let the revolution of our generation be one of love, compassion and awakening

-WG.

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“Rage — whether in reaction to social injustice,
or to our leaders’ insanity,
or to those who threaten or harm us —
is a powerful energy that, with diligent practice,
can be transformed into fierce compassion.”
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Bonnie Myotai Treace

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“Compassion is the radicalism of our time.”
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Dalai Lama XIV

Sunday Dinner: Brightness!

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“I can assure you
that the life outside the front door
is bright and full of life”
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Sunday Adelaja
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“The joy you feel
when you become a small life particle sun
and share its brightness and warmth
with those around you
is indescribably great.”
.
Ilchi Lee
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“The true optimist
not only expects the best to happen,
but goes to work to make the best happen.
The true optimist not only looks upon the bright side,
but trains every force that is in him
to produce more and more brightness in his life….”
.
Christian D. Larson
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“May your eye go to the Sun,
to the Wind your soul…
You are all the colours in one,
at full brightness.”
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Jennifer Niven
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“Let your love be the light of your life.
Now enlighten the whole world
with the brightness of that light.”
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Debasish Mridha
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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“A day’s brightness is determined
by the light in our hearts.”
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A.D. Posey
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“One passionate heart can brighten the world.
From person to person
the chain reaction burns through us —
setting heart to heart ablaze,
and lighting the way for us all!”
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Bryant McGill
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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.”
.
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.”
.
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

Fabulous Friday: Visitors

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We don’t see everyone, ever.  And those we see, we never see all at once.  Often I don’t see them at all, until I spot them in a photo, later.

It fascinates me to take a photo seemingly of one thing, and spot beautiful creatures lurking in it, well camouflaged, when I study it later.

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Somewhere within the tangled mass of stems and petals, our visitors quietly go about their business.  Some, like the bumblies and hummers we may hear.

The hummers generally dart away before my camera finds its focus.  They have a special sense to know when you’re watching them, I’ve learned.

The bumblies don’t care.  They remain too focused on their serious business of gathering nectar and pollen to let my camera distract them.

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The butterflies and moths drift silently from flower to flower.  If I stand very still and quiet near a mass of flowers, I may catch their movement.  If they notice me, they may take off above the tree tops, waiting for me to move away so they can resume their sipping.

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We are spotting mostly Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies lately.

Yes, the Tiger Swallowtails and Zebra Swallowtails show up, too.  We’ve even spotted a Monarch or two.  But these beautiful black butterflies are hatching now from the caterpillars we fed earlier in the season, I believe.  I think they may be “home grown.”

Do you ever wonder whether butterflies remember their life as a caterpillar? Do they fly past the plants they grazed on earlier this season, and remember crawling there?

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We spent much of the morning out in the garden.  It was cool, and there was a breeze.

We enjoyed a ‘September sky’ today; brilliantly clear and blue, with high, bright white wisps of cloud.  It was the sort of September day which reminded me how blessed I am to be retired, and free to be outside to enjoy it.  The first week of school is still a special time for me; and I count my blessings that others have taken on that work, and I have left it behind.

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There are always things to do in the garden.  But I much prefer ‘not-doing’ in the garden.

‘Not-doing’ means wandering about to see what we can see.  I may notice what should be done later, but the point is to simply observe and enjoy.

Sometimes I leave my camera inside, or in my pocket, and just silently observe the intricate web of life unfolding around us.

But soon enough, I’m wanting to capture it all, frame it all, and share the best bits with you.

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Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is Contagious,

Let’s Infect One Another!

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.”
.
Lao Tzu

Home For Some Swallowtails

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We are a lot like little kids when we head out to the garden.  We get such a kick out of watching the butterflies, and their beautiful psychedelic ‘teenaged’ caterpillar families.

The family portrait here shows you a female Black Swallowtail butterfly feeding on fennel flowers.  I believe the caterpillars are also Black Swallowtail larvae.

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While the adult butterflies float around from flower to flower, the caterpillars largely stay put as they slowly move along the branches of our fennel, eating as they go.  Not to worry… the fennel grows back very quickly, shooting out lots of new stems, leaves and flowers.

I was fortunate to find four beautiful pots of bronze fennel on a clearance sale today at The Great Big Greenhouse in Richmond.  I’ll be adding these new fennel plants to the garden in the morning, knowing they will come back even bigger and stronger in the spring.

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These caterpillars may seem a little brazen in their conspicuous gnoshing.  They love fennel, carrots, parsley and parsnips.  Whatever substances they ingest from these leaves, it leaves them tasting foul.  The birds show little interest in them.

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Black eyed Susans, Rudbeckia hirta, attract many different butterflies.  Goldenrod, Solidago, (top right corner) will soon bloom, attracting many hungry pollinators.

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There are plenty of wildly safe places in our garden for them to withdraw when ready to form their chrysalis.  We rarely notice one, anyway.  But oh, the gorgeous butterflies which fill our garden in late summer!

“Feed them, and they will come.”  No need to run to Pet Smart for a big expensive bag of something.  No, just plant nectar rich flowers.  If you fill your garden with the flowers they love, and have a few herbs around to receive their eggs and feed their larvae, then you, too can create a haven and home for the swallowtails.

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Garlic chives and Rudbeckia have both naturalized in our garden. These clumps seeded themselves as neighbors, forming a little  ‘food court’ for pollinators.

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But if you choose to attract and support pollinators, please do so consciously and responsibly.  What do I mean?

Find a way to garden without using herbicides or insecticides which will poison these fragile, and often endangered creatures.  Yes, you will have some leaves chewed by insects.  Yes, you will have to weed by hand.

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Why is the Columbine blooming in August??? We are grateful for the blessing. The nibbled leaves hardly detract from the lovely flowers.

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Yes, you may have some unsightly foliage here and there. 

But it is well worth it to enjoy a garden filled with life.  Not only do we enjoy the spectacle of summer butterflies, but we also have many pairs of nesting birds, sustained by the rich insect life in our garden.

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Basil is a one of my favorite annuals in our garden. Not only is it beautiful and up to our muggy climate, it also attracts many pollinators. Goldfinches love its seeds. It works beautifully in flower arrangements, and can still be harvested for summer cooking.

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Every garden has a purpose.  Every gardener has to have a purpose in mind when building her garden.

Ultimately, we expect the garden to bring us pleasure as it entertains us, gives us purpose each day, helps us stay fit, and gives us another reason to go shopping.

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Echinacea and Basil have proven a stunning combination this summer.  The Echinacea’s seeds will feed lots of happy birds this autumn.

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We decided early on that this garden would do all of those things, but also provide a home for pollinators and birds.

Home means safety and food; a place to rest; a place to lay eggs and raise young; clean water to drink.  A puddle, birdbath, or even a wet dish of sand will suffice.

Little did we know that the birds would help us plant.  We never expected the lizards, turtles and birds to help control the insects.  We have bees to pollinate the fruit, and butterflies to watch on summer afternoons.

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Tiger swallowtail feasting on Aralia spinosa, a tree brought to us by the birds.  This is its first season of bloom in our garden; but oh, what a show!

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And little did we realize how much happiness flows from creating a home for some swallowtails.

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Crape myrtle

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Woodland Gnome 2017

 

 

 

WPC: Rare Beauty

August 20, 2016 Butterflies 010

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Butterflies visit our gardens for just a few weeks of the year.  These delicate, colorful creatures float from flower to flower on warm summer days.  Their presence brings our garden to life. 

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Certain butterflies grow more rare, each passing year, in the United States.  The chemical assault on butterflies, at all stages of their life cycle, have decimated their numbers.  Herbicides destroy  their habitat and host plants.  Pesticides, often designed to kill other insects, also kill many adult butterflies and their larvae.

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Organic  gardeners can provide an oasis of safety for butterflies to lay their eggs, for their larvae to grow, and for adults to feed along the path of their migration.  We consciously designed a butterfly friendly certified Wildlife Habitat to help support butterflies at all stages of their life cycle.

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August 20, 2016 Butterflies 016

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We plan for the appearance of the first spring butterflies returning from their migration, and have nectar rich flowers blooming to greet them.

We grow  the favored trees, herbs and perennials needed by growing Monarch and swallowtail caterpillars.  And we fill our garden with nectar plants to fuel the adults for their long flight south each autumn.

Lantana, the flowers they are feeding on today, proves their absolute favorite.  Its blooms attract butterflies like no other!  Lantana blooms prolifically until killed by the first heavy frost in early winter.

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Swallowtail butterfly beauties, which have grown alarmingly rare in recent years, fill our garden on summer days like today.  I counted at least six individual swallowtails feeding as I worked in the garden this morning.

This makes us happy, to see our garden come alive with butterflies; their flight from flower to flower showing us that all of our gardening efforts have a greater purpose.

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As gardeners across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America each create safe havens for butterflies, and other migrating wildlife, on their own properties; we can hope the butterfly population will recover.

My great dream is that populations of these exquisite creatures will rebound.  Their appearance no longer a sighting of rare beauty…..

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Rare

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August 20, 2016 Butterflies 018

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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August 20, 2016 Butterflies 022

WPC: Weightless

September 6, 2015 garden 016

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For The Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge: Weightless

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September 4, 2015 garden 018

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Photos by Woodland Gnome

September 2015

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“Is it possible to become friends with a butterfly?”

“It is if you first become a part of nature.

You suppress your presence as a human being,

stay very still, and convince yourself

that you are a tree or grass or a flower.

It takes time,

but once the butterfly lets its guard down,

you can become friends quite naturally.”

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Haruki Murakami

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August 15, 2015 Gardens 024

 

 

 

Blooming In November

November 16, 2015 blooming 022

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The garden still invites birds and pollinators, all sorts of hopping and buzzing insects, and even the occasional snail.

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We had night time temperatures dip into the upper 30’s over the weekend; but still no frost and certainly no deep freezes.  Our garden remains filled with flowers.

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The Salvias and Iris are especially nice this week.

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But so are the ginger lilies.  There is even a Canna blossom or two waving in the cooling breezes.

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We still have new roses opening daily.

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Some of the hardy Begonias remain in bloom.

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One special Clematis vine has bloomed non-stop since late March. It must be getting a bit tired, but it still sports a few dozen blue flowers today.

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Our two Bougainvillea vines have happily covered themselves in rose pink bracts framing their tiny white flowers.

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All of the Lantana continue pumping out prolific flowers, much appreciated by the few moths and butterflies still here.

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Their color just intensifies as temperatures cool.   Pentas and Geraniums also remain, and show their most concentrated color of the season.  Their vivid petals pop.

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Our garden remains a bright and happy place.

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A neighbor visited our garden this afternoon.  She hadn’t seen Iris which re-bloom in the autumn before.

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We wandered around talking about the plants, enjoying the scented herbs, and enjoying one another’s company.  I’m looking forward to her return visit when we can dig and divide a few things for her to transplant to her end of the street.

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It is always fun to share with other gardeners who will help spread the beauty around even further.

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The garden is surprisingly full of flowers for mid-November.  So many summer flowering plants are still going strong, even as our autumn flowers bloom.   And we are planting Violas and bulbs for winter and early spring.

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Novembers weather like this makes us very grateful to live in a spot where we have  long autumns to enjoy our garden before winter blows in.

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I am joining Carol at May Dreams Gardens to celebrate what is blooming in our garden this November.  Many of us are fortunate to have something in bloom every day of the year, with a bit of planning.  Finding such a variety of flowers still perfuming the garden this late in the season  brings tremendous joy as we watch it unfold anew each day.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

 

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