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

 

 

 

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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 

 

Nature Challenge Day Four: Flowering Woodies

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea

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Blooming shrubs fill our forest garden.  We enjoy their flowers throughout the entire year, beginning with early spring’s first Forsythia, Camellia, Magnolia and Azaleas.  Now, our garden is filled with the sweet aroma of millions of tiny white Ligustrum flowers covering towering evergreen shrubs.  It appears that some of the smaller seedling shrubs along the borders are blooming for the first time this spring.

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Towering evergreen Ligustrum bloom for weeks in early summer, filling our garden with sweet fragrance.

Towering evergreen Ligustrum bloom for several weeks in early summer, filling our garden with sweet fragrance.

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And to our deep delight, we have blossoms on some of our Oakleaf Hydrangeas.  We’ve managed to protect and sustain four, of the many planted over our years here, and they have grown into lovely shrubs this spring.

As May fades into memory, and we prepare to greet another June, we continue to enjoy a garden filled with roses.

Butterfly bush, Rose of Sharon, Lantana, Hibiscus, and many other flowering shrubs will soon open their blossoms, inviting all hummingbirds and pollinators to come share the feast in our garden.

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May 14, 2016 clouds 015~

Blooming shrubs offer so many benefits over other types of flowering plants.  First, most offer evergreen structure throughout the year, or at least a woody silhouette through the winter months.  Our winter flowers, like Edgeworthia, Camellia and Mahonia come from flowering shrubs.  They prove hardier than any herbaceous perennial, shrugging off snow and ice.

These are ‘perma-culture’ flowers, growing larger and more floriferous each year.

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Hydrangea macrophylla have opened their first flowers this week.

Hydrangea macrophylla have opened their first flowers this week.

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Few require any significant care; most don’t even want deadheading when the flowers fade.  Many are deer resistant, although we must faithfully protect Azaleas, Hydrangeas and Roses from grazing Bambies, if they are to survive.

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Spiraea japonica

Spiraea japonica

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Like a horticultural clock, flowering shrubs mark the passing seasons.  They are dependable and predictable.  We plant a few more each year , while also watching seedlings emerge in those places we dare not dig.  Some, like Rose of Sharon and Beautyberry seed so prolifically, I pull and compost the ‘extras.’

The question comes to which seedling shrubs to prune out; which to leave and nurture.  I’m glad we’ve nurtured the Ligustrum.  They are spectacular when in bloom and provide more nectar than our pollinators could possibly forage!There is a constant hum of activity around them now.  Insects feed from the flowers, and grateful birds catch the insects.

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May 27, 2016 garden 014

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Flowering shrubs fill an important niche in our garden for all sorts of wildlife; including some slightly crazed gardeners!

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May 27, 2016 garden 008

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Blogging friend, Y. invited me to join the Seven Day Nature Challenge last Saturday from her new site, In the Zone.  I appreciate the invitation and the renewed friendship as we trade comments each day!

For this fourth day of the challenge, I’ll invite you again to join in. 

This challenge has been out there for a while, and many nature photographers have already participated.  If you would like to take up the challenge, please accept in the comments and I’ll link back to you tomorrow.

 If you decide to accept this Seven Day Nature Photo Challenge, too, I’ll look forward to seeing what surprises May has brought to your corner of the world, even as I share the beauty of ours. 

Woodland Gnome 2016

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All green is lovely, too. An autumn fern frond grows against Oakleaf Hydrangea foliage.

All green is lovely, too. An autumn fern frond grows against Oakleaf Hydrangea leaves.

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