Monday, September 26, 2016

The Scruffy September Garden

I really should plant more asters, goldenrod, anemones, toad lilies, and other pretty things that don't bloom till late in the season. I say this every year about this time when the garden starts to fade, and there's nothing new to see. I actually did plant a couple of asters, but I'm not sure if I'll see any blooms this year. Plus they're small, so they won't make much impact yet. Instead, I'll keep enjoying the annuals.

Visiting monarch on Cut and Come Again zinnias
Sun Parasol Mandevilla 
Fireworks pennisetum
This really is the season for annuals to shine. They know their days are numbered, so they pull out all the stops in their quest to live on. Most are quite full and lush now, and it's always such a shame to see the frost get to them.

Queen Red Lime zinnias with unknown skipper
Sneaky portaluca showing up from nowhere
Autumn Blend sunflower
Queen Red Lime zinnias with Autumn Joy sedum
But I'm not thinking about frost right now. It's still near 90 degrees this week, but I must admit that our average first frost is only three weeks away. I find it hard to believe that we'll be that cold by then, but you never know.

Grandpa Ott morning glory, reseeds every year
Grandpa Ott morning glory, reseeds every year
With all this heat and sunshine, the butterflies are still plentiful. You all know how much I enjoy those butterflies. But I have to admit that my pledge to protect bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects has allowed my yard to become bug heaven. As much as I enjoy all the good guys that call Robin's Nest their home, the bad guys are driving me a little crazy. I'm never exactly sure who is munching what around here. I finally remembered to plant some fall crops, and several of them have been munched down to nubs. My vegetable garden is fenced away from critters, so it has to be the nasty grasshoppers I see everywhere. Or maybe it's those hungry cucumber beetles.

Monarch visitor on buddleia
Silver Spotted Skipper
Painted Lady butterfly
Buckeye butterfly
Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar
As much as I love September, the whole yard is looking quite disheveled this time of year. Tall plants are flopping over, powdery mildew is rampant, and things are decidedly overgrown. I find it hard to get motivated to garden when I know that frost will take it all down in just a few short weeks.

Droopy Lemon Queen sunflower
Caproz dahlia with powdery mildew Tequila Lime zinnias
Zingaro dahlia with cucumber beetle enemy! 
One lone zinnia trying to offset the fading blooms around it
I used to think that I should live in a warm and tropical environment where I could garden year round. But over the last few years I've come to the conclusion that it's no longer true. Perhaps it is simply an age thing. I garden with joy throughout the summer, but by fall I'm just plain tried of dragging that hose around and fighting with weeds. It's time for a rest. And I'll come back strong in the spring as I always do. A long winter's rest is good for the soul, and revives the spirit.

Zingaro dahlia
Karly Rose pennisetum
Carpenter bee about to nectar rob Sunset Hyssop
The one thing that I never tire of is to wander the garden and find its sweet spots. No matter how scruffy the garden gets this time of year, I still love it. There's always a tableau to find that catches my eye, even if I have to ignore the disorder around it.

Fifteen foot Zepherine Drouhin rose reaching for the moon
Dazzling Magic dahlia, hardy here in zone 6. Apparently! 
Monge lilac giving me a surprise September bloom! 
Soon it will be cool, and the colors will begin to turn. The same areas I found to be scruffy will glow with autumn color, making me forget the disorder. Until then, I'll savor September, and enjoy the end of this extended summer.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Butterfly Summer

It's still plenty hot and muggy out there, but since I wrote my last blog post, the summer drought has ended. Suddenly we are getting plenty of rain, five inches last week alone. The grass is green and growing again, and the hose is getting minimal use. However, I do get a little frightened of the frequent storms, since there has been increased tornado action in the Midwest recently. The rain is very welcome, but I'm still looking forward to cooler days when working in the yard is a bit more comfortable.

The monarch chrysalises featured here last time have both eclosed (hatched) and flown the coop. This whole process really never gets old for me, so I'm hoping to find more eggs out there soon.

Both butterflies were female, and the first one stayed nearby for most of the day, allowing me plenty of photo opportunities. The second one I kept inside till the next day, thinking I'd have better picture taking. But that was a mistake. When I keep them inside too long, they are too anxious to take off, and simply refuse to pose. When I release them within a few hours, they are reluctant, testing their wings on short flights. That's when I can get some good photos.

This particular shot was taken two days after my monarchs left me. I'm convinced it was one of my girls, because this butterfly was immaculate still, with fresh, crisp wings. Many of them are tattered when you see them in the garden. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

But otherwise there really isn't much new in the garden this time of year. I should plant some late season flowers, if only I could find some blank space in my crowded gardens.

As a substitute for late season flowers, I really do see a lot of butterflies this time of year. I suppose the neighbors probably think I'm a bit eccentric, always running about the yard with my camera in hand. But they do give me great pleasure. I plant the things that make them happy, so they'll visit here more often. And in return, I get to enjoy their fleeting beauty by taking endless photos of them. Win-win!

Gray hairstreak
Unknown skipper
Silver spotted skipper 
Cabbage butterfly
Black swallowtail 

August is nearly finished, and as I sort through my photos, I see hundreds of them focused on the butterflies that have visited here this month. I often say that I garden for butterflies and hummingbirds, so this means I have been somewhat successful. There are those who might say that this is a frivolous occupation, but to that I say "not to me". I'm living a quieter lifestyle these days, after years of frantic busy-ness at a popular retail store. Perhaps it's taking me years to destress from that work. All I know is that my garden makes me happy, and my blood pressure is lower than it has even been. Wouldn't you wish for the same?

Viceroy, NOT a monarch 
Tattered  Eastern swallowtail
Pearl Crescent