Blossom XXIX: Buddleia

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Buddleia davidii, or butterfly bush, hosts many hungry pollinators on its abundant, nectar filled blossoms each summer.    I enjoy the beautiful creatures it attracts as much as I enjoy its brilliant blossoms.

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Hummingbird moths are especially drawn to Buddleia.

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These deciduous shrubs tend to be short lived.  They want plenty of sun and prefer rich, moist soil.  We lost several over the last few years, and had only one remaining last fall.

Buddleia want to be frequently pruned.  The bloom on new growth, and produce abundant blooms until frost if you faithfully dead head their spent blossoms.

They also need to be cut back very hard each winter.  If left to grow unpruned, they can soon grow too tall and gangling, falling this way and that from their own weight.  That said, I’ve never had one grazed by deer.

When I pruned our butterfly bush  in the late fall, I was inspired to stick lengths of the pruned stems into a large pot, around a winter blooming Helleborus.  I wasn’t confident that these woody stem cuttings would root, but decided to take the chance.  By early spring, we noticed new buds and leaves appearing and we could tell roots had formed.

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I transplanted most of the rooted cuttings out into the front garden when I refreshed the pot in late spring.  But we left the largest and strongest in place to grow on this summer in the pot.

All of the rooted cuttings have put on abundant growth this summer and are now well-established and blooming.  A seedling Rudbeckia has also appeared in the pot along with a Caladium  I tucked in this May, some Verbena cuttings I planted in June, and a division of Dichondra argentea. 

If this sounds like shamefully haphazard planting, well…. what can I say?

The Hellebore took a long time to die back, as did the foliage of the daffodil bulbs still nestled deep in the pot.  Spreading Colocasia plants have sprung up all around, hugging the pot with their huge leaves.  It may look a bit wild and woolly, but I can promise you that the many hummingbirds, bees, butterflies and this lovely hummingbird moth are happy with the abundance.

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Plants basically want to live.  The magic of simple propagation, whether from stem cuttings, division or saved seeds; is their will to survive against all odds.

The next time you find yourself pruning, consider whether you have space or desire for more of the plant you’re trimming back.  Green stems generally root well in water.  Woody stems will root in soil or a soil-less medium like vermiculite or sand.

There are finer points to it, depending on the time of year you take your cuttings.  But why not take a chance and give those pruning an opportunity to root?  Look at the beauty you have to gain! This is an easy and inexpensive way to give yourself impressive small shrubs for your large pots, too.

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Propagate your way into a full, lush garden filled with plants that you like, and that grow well in your conditions.  Doesn’t it seem a bit magical that a blossom this beautiful will grow from a pruned stem, that would otherwise have been tossed away?

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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A blossom from the mother plant, still growing strong and covered in flowers.

 

Blossom XXV: Elegance
Blossom XXVI: Angel Wing Begonia
Blossom XXVII: Life 
Blossom XXVIII: Fennel 

 

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July Remembered…..

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Lantana

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Lantana

Here we are in the second week of February, with another major winter storm sweeping across the United States.  Every weather forecast sounds more dire, with snow projections rising and temperatures dropping.

Our neighbors to the south, across Georgia, and the Carolinas, are bracing for another blow of winter snow and ice, having just dug out from the storm two weeks ago.  Normally temperatures are moderating for us here in the Southeast by mid-February.

But, we still had leftover snow in Williamsburg until today, sulking in shady spots and parking lots.  We have two fresh bags of ice-melt stacked in the garage, ready for what is apparently on its way.

July 5 garden at sunset 009

It is time to remember July.  It is time to dig out photos of summer flowers and butterflies, green, leafy trees and a garden alive with activity.  Spring feels very far away at the moment, and I just need a reminder of what lies ahead.  Perhaps, you do too.

A volunteer sunflower, growing happily in a pot from, feeds a happy bee.

A volunteer sunflower, growing happily in a pot from, feeds a happy bee.

So here are some of my favorite photos from last July.  I hope you enjoy a brief  “summer vacation” as much as I do, even as we shiver through this very frigid February.

Stay warm! 

Hummingbird Moth

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth, Hemaris thysbe.  Notice the curled proboscis which is used to suck nectar from the flower.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth, Hemaris thysbe. Notice the curled proboscis which is used to suck nectar from the flower.

Have you seen a hummingbird moth this summer?  

This hummingbird moth is enjoying nectar from the flowers of Clerodendrum trichotomum, or Butterfly Tree.  This beautiful tree is covered in butterflies during its period of bloom from July through September each year.

This hummingbird moth is enjoying nectar from the flowers of Clerodendrum trichotomum, or Butterfly Tree. This beautiful tree is covered in butterflies during its period of bloom from July through September each year.

Hummingbird moths dart around from flower to flower exactly like a hummingbird does.  When their movement catches your eye, you think for a moment that you have spotted a tiny hummingbird.  When you look more closely, you notice that the tiny creature hovering over a nectar rich blossom and darting from plant to plant actually has clear wings. 

Aug. 3 2013 hummingbird moth 018

This is a good clue that you are observing a moth, not a bird.  Although their profile is similar, the moth is a true insect and has antennae. 

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Hummingbird moths also have a furry covering on their back, much like a bumblebee.  If they stay still long enough for you to see their eyes, you’ll notice the compound eyes of an insect.

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If you’ve ever tried to observe a hummingbird, you know they are very shy.  Although you can eventually begin to work with a hummingbird who visits a feeder,  hummingbirds usually fly away when they sense a human presence.  Hummingbird moths don’t seem to mind having  you close by. 

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They go about their hungry business of visiting flowers without paying much attention to the camera, or the person behind it.

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Hawk moths and sphinx moths  are members of the Sphingidae  family of moths.  These are the fastest flying of all insects.  They have the peculiar ability to hover in flight as they feed.  Hummingbird moths, all of which belong to the genus Hemaris, are considered to be hawk moths.  Since hummingbird moths all have clear wings, they are sometimes called, “clear wing moths”. 

The largest caterpillar I've ever seen is munching my Osmanthus goshiki shrub.  It has been identified by Bostjan Dvorak as Manduca rustica.

The largest caterpillar I’ve ever seen is munching my Osmanthus goshiki shrub. It has been identified by Bostjan Dvorak as Manduca rustica.

The tobacco hornworm caterpillar and tomato hornworm caterpillar will eventually leave their chrysalises  as  the Carolina sphinx moth, and the  five spotted hawk moth, respectively.  Both are able to hover over blossoms as they sip nectar.  Their bodies and wings are mostly brown.

This Snowberry hummingbird moth, Hemeris diffinis, was photographed in my garden this July.

This Snowberry hummingbird moth, Hemeris diffinis, was photographed in my garden this July.

Many of these beautiful members of the Sphingidae family are found in Virginia gardens.  This Hemaris thysbe is the second species of Hemaris I’ve observed in my garden this summer.  I’ve seen them in gardens all over the state.  They especially love perennial gardens full of phlox, butterfly bushes, lilac, and hibiscus.

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Like all moths and butterflies, Hummingbird moths begin life as an egg laid on a leaf.  The egg hatches into a caterpillar, who eats leaves for several weeks before forming a chrysalis.  When you find caterpillars on plants in the garden, please remember the beautiful creatures they will soon become. 

July 25 2013 Garden 003

Tomato hornworm caterpillar, who has cleaned the leaves off of this jalapeno pepper plant. Soon he will be a beautiful sphinx moth.

Although they damage the host plant they’re munching, most plants will soon recover with new growth.   The caterpillar transforms into its beautiful adult form while in the chrysalis, and when it comes out, is ready to fly off in search of nectar.

This hummingbird moth and bumblebee are sharing a Monarda blossom.

This hummingbird moth and bumblebee are sharing a Monarda blossom.

To bring these creatures into your garden, plant the nectar rich flowers they love.     For a list of plants to include in a butterfly garden, click here.  Avoid using insecticides which will poison them.  Avoiding pesticides and herbicides allows wildlife to live in your garden in peace and safety.   Provide areas of trees and dense shrubs where they can rest and lay their eggs.  Your reward will be their presence in your garden for many years to come.

July 5 garden at sunset 008

All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

Find more on Hummingbird Moths here:

hummingbirdmoth.com

Birds-n-garden

Butterfly Close Ups

More butterfly photos here  and here Butterflies and hummingbird moths need trees and shrubs for shelter.  Most lay their eggs on the upper sides of the leaves of common shade trees.   Although the caterpillars enjoy dill, parsley, Milkweed, Joe Pye Weed, and Butterfly Weed, they most often feed on the leaves of trees.  In … Continue reading

Beautiful Bees and Flutterbys

Bees are always welcome in my garden for their wonderful buzzing and their help in pollination.  We have many different sorts of bees zooming around with the dragonflies, butterflies, and the humming birds.  Here are a few who stayed still long enough for me to get their photos.  The shrub “bones” of this garden are … Continue reading

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