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

Monday, August 15, 2016

Summer Swelter

I'm here, I'm here! I know I've been slacking here on my blog. But I think you'll find the same is true for many garden bloggers this time of year. Instead of talking about our gardens, we're actually out there enjoying them. But I have to admit, I might be shirking in that department also. You see, it's been a very hot and steamy summer, with no rain to cool off a weary gardener.

Yes, I know, I should get out into the garden early before it gets too hot. Perhaps I *should* do this, but it doesn't mean I will. I'm not much of a morning person, and it's very hard for me to be up early and motivated. I'd rather linger over the morning paper with my cup of tea by my side.

This means that weeds are taking advantage of the situation, and growing vigorously. Some of my garden plants may be stunted by the dry spell, but weeds could care less about a drought. I'm looking at you dandelions! Lawns are drying up, shrubs are fading, flowers are giving up. The garden hose and I are getting to be really good friends, as I spend time every day giving everything a good, long drink.

If this sounds an awful lot like last month's post, I apologize. The drought is even worse now, one month later. Some parts of the city have gotten rain here and there, but it always misses us here in Robin's Nest. The funny thing is that despite the dry weather, the humidity is through the roof. Working out in the yard is just not pleasant this summer. Perhaps I'm a fair weather gardener. Well, I own that title. You won't often find me outside working in this much humid heat. Still, something has got to be done about that mess out there!

Even the plants that don't get watered regularly are crying out for my help. The vegetable garden is fading fast, despite my supplemental watering. Luckily the tomatoes are still looking good and putting out plenty of fruit. We've had plenty of cucumbers, but now the plants are dying quickly. I just can't get a handle on the cucumber problem every summer. I've heard that floating row covers are the answer, and I'm not sure why I haven't tried it. I guess I just don't know enough about how it all works. How do floating row covers, which have to be removed for pollination, do me any good at this part of the summer? This is when the plants always die! And I call myself a master gardener. Ha!

To combat the gloom and doom of this garden report,  I'm highlighting photos of the spots that carry on despite the heat and dry weather. I just can't bear to photograph the rough spots.

Like last year, I've been raising a couple of monarch caterpillars. This time, I started from the beginning, with eggs found in my own garden, so it's extra special to me. I'll be sure to post more of them next time. I find it so thrilling, especially when it gets to the butterfly part.

I wrote all of the above yesterday, and last night we actually did get a good rain. What was shocking to me was that I slept right through it! I would have liked to see this wonderful thing. An inch and a quarter sounds wonderful, but I hear we are three inches below normal. Let's hope for more. Maybe that way, I can put up a more uplifting post next time around!