‘Gallery Pablo’ dahlia as identified by Fairegarden. Thanks! The garden mums aren’t yet blooming.
Mid-Autumn wears her lofty crown this Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. October is a month of changes in my Oklahoma garden. We still have warm days and cool nights, but change was definitely in the air last night as the first, large cold front came through bringing rain and heavy wind. Perhaps, you can’t tell, but the garden is starting to shrink in on itself because it gets a little less sunlight each day. Dahlias, however, put on a show in late summer and throughout fall. I’m actually thinking about digging up some and bringing them in after reading Christopher Lloyd’s last book, Exotic Planting for Adventurous Gardeners. Maybe.
While Lloyd died in the middle of writing, other famous garden writers, like Anna Pavord, finished it for him. Still, Lloyd’s words ring with such an authentic love for gardening. “The canna’s simple, paddle-shaped leaves contribute firmness to our plantings, the dahlia’s foliage is generally mundane (pinnate, like a potato’s) but their flowers epitomize summer’s full glory. They are perfect team players.”
I came to a similar conclusion awhile back. Reading this was like having your favorite uncle affirm your choice. I didn’t like cannas for a long time, but now, their leaves, especially the dark ones, light up the garden from summer through fall. Note that dahlias bloom really well throughout the summer for Brits because they have mild temperatures. I suspect the same thing works here on the east coast and in Portland and Seattle. Oh, to live where rain is abundant. I can’t imagine.
Butterfly’s last stand.
Butterflies, especially the Sulphurs–not pictured above–I believe this is a Swallowtail of some type–are frantic on warm days because they are gathering nectar and strength before season’s end. I feel like them as I take cuttings in the garden and start seeds in the cold frame. Maybe I’ll be ahead of the curve in Spring with coleus and alternantheras overwintered in the greenhouse.
‘Cramer’s Amazon’ celosia, Salvia vanhouttei, cannas and ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ dahlias make a fall garden sing.
I grew ‘Cramer’s Amazon’ celosia for the first time this year. While I still love ‘Intenz’ as much or more, I think ‘Cramer’s Amazon’ makes a great back of the border plant. Butterflies and other pollinators love it. We even saw Monarchs sipping nectar from this giant beauty. I pinched and cut it back all summer keeping it to six feet.
Salvia vanhouttei ‘Wendy’s Wish’ with my purple chairs
In the lowest part of the lower garden, I planted a mix of things that was bold and a bit crazy. ‘Wendy’s Wish’ salvia is growing with abandon here. I want local growers to carry this plant so I don’t have to order it online and pay shipping. It is so lovely in fall. You know why they don’t? Because customers don’t buy plants out of bloom, and of course, this one doesn’t show off in early spring. Please buy plants based upon what you know more than what you see. ‘Orange Peel’ cestrum is also blooming in back. Follow the link for a better photo of this cestrum. Mine has overwintered consistently for years now and is quite large.
‘Brazilian Red Hot’ alternanthera, red Sunpatiens, purple pentas crapemyrtle Pink Velour, perennial hydrangeas, grasses all make the fall garden beautiful.
On the other side of the lower garden grows a mixed planting with a few annuals and tropicals mixed in with daylilies, grasses and shrubs. We need more late summer-early fall bloomers in our gardens because our weather is perfect, and we are outside more than say in July. Well, most of us anyway . . . I’m out in July too, but only early morning to keep things tidy and mulched.
Bat-faced cuphea hanging over the potager. These plants were hard to come by this year. I can’t imagine why because they are among the best plants for summers in hot climates.
Speaking of the greenhouse, all is well. Because the weather is more amenable, Bill set up the flood tables. One pump isn’t working correctly, but fortunately, they aren’t as expensive as you might think. We’ll set up the rain barrels on another day. It only needs sweeping out, and then, we must work on the heating system. These warm days won’t last for long, and we must prepare. Friends from a local garden club are coming to visit on the 19th. I hope everything tropical survives the early morning temperatures, and the garden welcomes them with open arms.
Side of the greenhouse and red fountain. I’m toying with the idea of keeping it up and running this year.
Around the fountain this year, I planted two types of lantana, ‘Dallas Red’ and ‘Confetti‘ along with Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria Blue’ and pink Justicia brandegeeana (shrimp plant.) You know what else would look good here? Tropical blue plumbago. That would really set off the red.
These are the dreams we dream of during cold dark nights.
Pink muhly grass is starting to show its fall colors.
When the pink muhly grass begins its fall show, I know fall is at its mid-point, and I’m a bit sad. I will miss the colors and the pollinators until next year. However, I have bulbs to plant and plants to bring it, and that helps enormously with the fall blues. I also have the greenhouse and cold frame to keep me content.
It’s a good life. It’s taken me twenty-five years to get here, but it is grand, and I enjoy every minute of it. Thank you to Carol Michel at May Dreams Gardens for Bloom Day, a long-running theme.
It’s Bloom Day and Sunday to boot. For those who live somewhere other than the center of the country, I’ll give you the forecast in two words: hot and dry. Okay, it was three words, but we don’t count “and,” do we? It’s not as hot as last year, but the Bermuda grass is finally starting to burn up all over town. The rural grasses are turning amber too and setting seed like the prairie natives they are. Our weather is terribly dry. Popup showers, caused by the heat and a Gulf Coast front “thingee” have been popping up. Nothing has popped up here. Nary a drop. However, with well-timed soaker hoses and a drip watering system, I do have plants and lots of vegetables. If I’d quit frying them, I’d lose weight, but I do love a fried piece of summer squash once a week. And, our new find of fried squash blossoms isn’t helping either. Recipes and the Great Squash Challenge to follow soon. Because our temperatures have stayed right under 100F, we also have tomatoes. Everybody cheer!
Plus, we have sunflowers, beautiful sunflowers.
Sunflower, part of the Autumn Beauty mix.
It isn’t all about sunflowers here at the Red Dirt Ranch, but I’m really enjoying them this year. I planted a line of two mixes just starting to bloom at the edge of the new vegetable garden. They were seed packets of yellow and more bronzed varieties. The dark horse, above, bloomed today. Just so you know, two weeks ago, I planted two more seed mixes, Flash and ‘Peach Passion‘ both from Botanical Interests so that I could have more sunflowers after these are through. I also grew dwarf ‘Teddy Bear’ from Burpee Seeds next to the red fountain. It is way smaller than I expected.
Helianthus ‘Teddy Bear’ sunflower is very small. It’s about the size of the dill plant next to it.
Below, is another shot of ‘Strawberry Blonde.’ I can’t begin to express how beautiful I find this sunflower. Apparently the bees do too. She must have lots of good nectar. The color shifts depending upon the light and temperature. As the blooms age, they change color too.
Helianthus annuus, sunflower ‘Strawberry Blonde’ with a bumblebee.
We are at high summer, and there is so much to show you. I can’t capture it all. So, I’m going to focus on those plants which draw in the pollinators. Here, a wasp feasts upon the nectar in bronze fennel. Foeniculum vulgare ’Purpureum’ is a crazy plant. It’s perennial where I live and also sets seed so if you get it going, you’ll have it forever. If you let it grow its second year, it will be six feet tall, and people will think you’re nuts. Still, it tastes good, is a great digestive, and small pollinators love it as do the larvae of swallowtail butterflies. It’s prettier than the green fennel too so I think it’s one of those plants you could grow in the perennial garden with no apology.
Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’ with a black wasp. He or she let me get very close.
My bees are back just in time for the feast I readied for them. As I waited all spring and early summer for their arrival, I began to worry they weren’t going to come. I kept thinking of the parable of the Great Feast–Luke 14:15-24–where the king invites his guests, and no one shows up. Not that I’m a king or God, but I began to understand how lonely God must feel when we receive all the good things life has to offer and never say thank you. I’m not preaching. These were just my thoughts as I toiled out in the garden day after day, and not a single bee came.
Then, just when I’d lost hope, the bees returned, along with butterflies galore, and this afternoon, I caught this exquisite creature sipping nectar from the Phlox paniculata ‘Bright Eyes.’
What I think is an Eastern Swallowtail butterfly on ‘Bright Eyes’ phlox with a Rainbow Knockout’ rose beneath it.
So, I’m going to say thank you. Thanks to everyone who reads my ramblings and to God who helps me make my garden, and to all the friends I’ve made since I started blogging. It’s been a fun ride, and there are more good things to come. We just need to remember why we garden . . . I’m not sure what your reason is, but for me, it’s to offer shelter for all the little ones from the storm.
Common Sootywing butterfly taking shelter ‘Moy Grande’ perennial hibiscus.
Happy Bloom Day everyone. Thanks to Carol from May Dreams Gardens who makes Bloom Day possible, and again . . . thank you.
Asclepias incarnata, swamp milkweed is a great nectar plant too, and it smells like bubblegum.
About this time each year we watch Monarch butterflies float about our gardens and reflect on their silent beauty. They are in the midst of their migration down Mexico way, and they are very, very hungry. We congratulate ourselves for providing plenty of nectar plants like asters, Joe-Pye weed and goldenrods, but have we considered their offspring? Although fall is when Monarchs show their full-grown faces in my part of the world, we should also be thinking of them in spring and plant various milkweeds for egg laying.
You see, being queenly butterflies, little Monarch princes and princesses want to feast upon only one type of food, milkweeds, and this food source is disappearing throughout the United States due to land cultivation and changing times. Monarch larvae, like all members of the family Nymphalidae, brush-footed butterflies in the subfamily, Danainae, eat only milkweeds.
Monarch caterpillar on milkweed
So, what does that mean to gardeners throughout the world? We need to plant more milkweeds, and in America, we should grow our native ones because many are in danger of disappearing. Asclepias curassavica, although beautifully colored, is native to Mexico.
Asclepias incarnata, swamp milkweed pod
You think there are no native milkweeds? Au contraire, my friend. There are approximately 110 species in North America with seventy-three species native to the U.S. One of the easiest to find and grow is A. incarnata, or pink swamp milkweed. As its name suggests, it likes the wet places in your garden, and like most native milkweeds, it is a short-lived perennial. You can buy swamp milkweed at Bustani Plant Farm and Wild Things Nursery. Wild Things, which specializes in native and butterfly plants, has four, different, native milkweeds to offer including swamp milkweed. With a quick search, I also found Milkweed Farm, which has a huge selection of native and non-native types, but I’ve yet to buy from them–and it appears they haven’t updated their site in a long time.
Another good thing about our native milkweeds is that they are perennial. Although listed some places as hardy to Zones 7 thru 10, I’ve never known tropical milkweeds to be perennial in my part of Oklahoma. I also noticed when I grew tropical ones they were continually covered in aphids. I don’t usually see a lot of aphids on swamp milkweed.
Swamp milkweed has taken a couple of seasons to establish in my garden, and because the soil it’s growing in is too rich, it does tend to flop over. I might move it to leaner spot next summer. It is tall, about four to five feet and sports a lovely puff of pink blooms atop its slender stalk. The color is a dusty pink. By now, it’s into seed production, and I’ve taken many pictures of the blowing seeds. I think I’ll plant some of them in the prairie meadow garden and maybe spread a few at Mitch Park since it’s a native. Yes, that’s exactly what I think I’ll do. I’ll wait on moving my plant just in case. I don’t want to disturb any chrysalises.
If you want to help our Monarchs who had a bad winter in 2010 and now a difficult 2011 summer, plant some native milkweeds like A. incarnata. They’ll thank you by soaring to new heights over your garden. Because it doesn’t spread by rhizomes, swamp milkweed won’t take over your garden like A. syriaca, common milkweed. Plus, swamp milkweed smells like bubblegum. Yum.
This post was brought to you via our hostess, Gail of Clay and Limestone who works diligently to inform everyone about the beauty of natives in our landscapes. She sponsors Wildflower Wednesday this time each month. Many Tennessee natives are also native to Oklahoma so plant some of her suggestions too.
This summer, although of late hotter than the Sahara, has still been a good one for butterflies.
I’ve been planting for these winged acrobats for most of my garden life, but I think this might be the best year ever. I attribute that to several things.
Butterflies don’t just appear with the tap of a magic wand. They require a few simple accommodations. They like a big, packed garden full of diversity. They also like their home to be a messy one. Nectar plants are important, but like most creatures, they want good schools for their children.
No, wait, I’m kidding. No schools, but they do require good food and shelter for their offspring. So, larval plants are as important as nectar sources.
A little skipper on Echinacea purpurea, common coneflower, maybe a Brown Duskywing. I think they are cute because they have such large eyes.
This year, trying to attract the swallowtail group, I worked very hard to have plenty of herbs like parsley, dill and fennel. I bought plants of each early in spring (after danger of frost) and also planted seeds in the garden’s empty spaces. All of these compound umbels of the parsley family are as beautiful as they are tasty, so they make nice transition plants between the perennials.
I staggered plantings of these caterpillar loving plants so that once they gnawed their way through the first planting, I had more for the next nursery set.
I also planted several stands of butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa, for the baby Monarchs, and hardy blue passion flower, Passiflora caerulea, for the Fritillaries. Butterfly weed can take awhile to get established, and it also sometimes moves around the garden on its own. In the future, I’m going to order some other native milkweeds for the garden.
Monarch butterfly munching on butterfly weed.
While their parents floated throughout the garden sipping nectar, their little darlings ate their favorite plants, and then went to chrysalis land for their naps. A short time later they woke as adults and began the cycle all over again.
As a result, I have a quite varied group of butterflies this year including:
Gulf Fritillary. Larval plants include most of the passion-vine family including maypops, Passiflora incarnata, native to the southern U.S. and running pop, P. foetida, common to Texas and Arizona along with Central and South America. Nectar plants include: lantana, tall verbena, Verbena bonariensis, and drummond’s phlox, Phlox drummondii . I’ve seen them frequenting both the pentas and the garden phlox, Phlox paniculata. They seem especially fond of the cultivar ‘Bright Eyes’.
Black Swallowtail. The state butterfly of Oklahoma, Black Swallowtails are a common site along the edges of the deciduous forest. Larval foods come from the carrot or parsley family. Since I have tons of Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota, surrounding my garden (not purposely), Black Swallowtails should have a field day in my lower pasture (pun intended). Also, fennel (I grow the bronze because it’s pretty) and dill are popular caterpillar food. I’ve never noticed them on my carrots probably because they like the above plants better. Adult nectar sources include milkweeds (natives are best), common garden phlox, P. paniculata, thistles, which grow wild throughout Oklahoma (some are invasive) and purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea.
Painted Lady on black-eyed Susans
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Larval food: the leaves of common trees like ash, Fraxinus spp., birch, Betula spp., cottonwood, Populus spp., hornbeam, Carpinus spp., paw paw, Asimina spp., and many others, including wild cherry and plum and deciduous magnolia. Adults feed upon the nectar of butterfly bush like Buddleia davidii ‘Black Knight’, native honeysuckle, Lonicera spp.; common lilacs,milkweeds, and thistles. In my garden, they also seem to like the pink common garden phlox and the black-eyed Susans.
Giant Swallowtail. The caterpillars of this butterfly are pests to the orange growers of Florida. Here, with no orange leaves to eat, they satisfy themselves with prickly ash, Zanthoxylum americanum, hop trees, Ptelea trifoliata, and common rue, Ruta graveolens. Adults are especially fond of lantanas, bougainvilla, dame’s rocket, Hesperis matronalis, which is invasive throughout much of the U.S., goldenrod, Solidago spp., Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica (also extremely invasive) , and swamp milkweed.
What I think is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail coming in for a landing. Let me know if it's identified incorrectly. I've been told it may be a Giant Swallowtail.
Pipevine Swallowtail. larval food: the leaves of pipevines, Aristolochia spp. (I don’t know where they’re finding these nearby.) Adult food: honeysuckles, milkweeds and thistles
Spicebush Swallowtail: Like other swallowtails, caterpillars love the leaves of various trees and shrubs including prickly ash, Zanthoxylum; sweetbay, Magnolia; tulip tree, Liriodendron; adults enjoy the nectar from azaleas, rhododendrons, dogbane, jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, milkweeds and other native plants.
Monarch on wild Ageratum, Eupatorium coelestinum
Monarch. Ah, the lovely Monarch, the star of so many children’s books, is in danger. Over the years, much of its habitat has been destroyed; and after an especially cold winter in Mexico, this queen of the butterflies needs our help. The best thing we can do is search out native milkweeds, Asclepias spp., and grow them in our gardens as caterpillar food. One of the best places to order these in Oklahoma is Wild Things Nursery which offers seven different types of milkweed. According to the Butterflies and Moths of North America website, “Monarchs visit a variety of flowers including dogbane, lilac, red clover, lantana, and thistles. In the fall adults visit composites including goldenrods, blazing stars, ironweed, and tickseed sunflower.” Many of these plants have a starring role in my garden.
Red Spotted Purple. Larval food: the leaves of apple trees, aspens, cottonwoods and poplars, along with many other trees. Adults like rotting meat, dung, rotting fruit, sap flows in trees, occasionally nectar of small white flowers.
Silvery Checkerspot. In my garden, the Silvery Checkerspot loves the Susans and hangs out and about them the entire day probably because its caterpillars love them too. Caterpillars also love members of the sunflower family, Helianthus spp.
Red Admiral. I think the Red Admiral is one of the most beautiful butterflies, but it is especially difficult to catch with my camera because of its erratic and quick flight. It’s like trying to capture the yellow sulphurs, nearly impossible. Still, whenever I’m in the garden, I make a mental picture of this beauty. Larval food is the nettle family. I don’t have any nettles growing in the garden, but I suspect they grow at the edge of my wood. Adults enjoy bird droppings (think of the chickens) and rotting fruit. They also will visit asters, milkweeds and alfalfa.
Phaon Crescent. Both adults and caterpillars enjoy nectar and leaves from the frogfruit and mat grass, which are part of the Verbena family. Where they are finding these nearby, I don’t know, but the butterflies have visited me this summer.
Painted Lady. I remember hatching these wonderful butterflies with the kids when we bought a butterfly kit one spring. Larval food includes members of the sunflower family, ironweed, Vernonia spp., and wormwood, Artemisia spp. Adults enjoy asters, dogbane, goldenrod, and milkweeds among other flowers.
Black Swallowtail female? She is missing the tail of one wing. May possibly be a Spicebush Swallowtail.
Other butterflies, including the small skippers and sulphurs, are visiting too, but these are the most common ones in my garden.
To recap, if you want more butterflies to enjoy, remember:
Plant what they like to eat. Keep some of the garden wild. Many native plants are either larval or nectar sources.
Let the garden be full and natural. It gives them places to rest and hide and protects them from the wind. Caterpillars can also hide better in more crowded surroundings. Plus, the closer you plant things together, the less weeding you have to do.
Grow more plants native to Oklahoma and the prairie. Much of the Great American tall and short grass prairie is gone, and butterflies need food for their journey. Monarchs are especially affected by the loss of native milkweeds, their only food source. Oklahoma is a prime migrating channel for Monarchs and other butterflies so I feel like it’s an obligation to help them along their way.
Once the garden freezes, leave it in situ so that any pupating creatures still have homes. Some species of butterflies winter over and emerge in spring. Leaving seed heads also provides food and cover for many birds and other small creatures.
Give butterflies shallow places to stop and drink. A small birdbath filled with flat stones is ideal. Also, a small muddy spot is good because many adult male butterflies “puddle” a process which aids in reproduction.
Don’t spray pesticides and herbicides. It stands to reason if something kills the bad bugs, it won’t spare the “good” ones. Chemicals create a sterile environment which is anti-nature.
I know this was a long post, so if you read this far, thanks. I hope it helps those who are trying to attract more winged creatures to their gardens.
Now, I’m interested to hear which butterflies grace your garden and what you do to encourage them. Please let me know in a comment below. Also, if I mis-identified a butterfly, please let me know. Some of them are difficult to i.d.
I have, and if you follow me on GoodReads.com, you might have already read my mini-reviews of these two books, but, in case you missed them . . . .
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of Sharon Lovejoy’s work. For the past twenty years, I’ve read everything she’s written, smiled at her drawings, and implemented much of what she teaches. I’ve built sunflower houses, played with my children during Hollyhock Days, and we’ve shared many other adventures in the garden.
Cute cover, eh?
I’m also proud to be working with her and seven other wonderful writers on the Lowe’s Garden Grow Along blog this spring.
When she asked me to review her new book, Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars: Grandma’s Bag of Tricks, I nearly clapped my hands in delight. Its arrival in the mail made me stop what I was doing to plop down in a chair and give it a once over. This time, Sharon directed her efforts toward grandparents, especially grandmothers. She encourages them to pass on their love for gardening, nature, cooking and all things home to their grandchildren. There are suggestions for making a cozy room with a quilt on the bed and a basket full of books for visiting little ones. (I had a grandmother like this, and I can tell you, next to my mother, I love her more than anyone.)
One grandmother met her darlings with a cup of hot cocoa on the first morning of their stay and then took them for a walk to the beach to see the sunrise. Pure inspiration.
However, before you think this book is only for grandparents, think again. These same games can be played with our nieces and nephews and our own children if we only take the time. Toad Cottages is similar in format to her earlier work Sunflower Houses. You really can build a sunflower house with a morning glory roof. It isn’t difficult, and I assure you the children in your life will always remember it.
As a writer, I receive too many books describing how we should involve our children in the garden, but which base their advice only on practical matters. I think, instead, we should read and implement a book like Toad Cottages which encourages us to instill the love of gardening lore and whimsy.
We only get this one life, and childhood is very short. I would encourage you to take your child’s hand and go on an explore today.
While you’re outside, bring along a sketchbook or notebook with you. Then, if you seen a fantastic bird, or interesting flower or plant, you can quickly capture its essence on paper. Better yet, encourage your child to bring along one too. A love of a gardening starts with a love for nature in all of its beauty, violence and just plain ickiness (think of parasitic wasps eating a caterpillar inside out for example). Kids adore the ick factor as much as beauty, by the way.
Susan Leigh Tomlinson, paleontologist, artist and professor in the Natural History and Humanities program at Texas Tech University, also writes and draws at The Bike Garden. Further, as someone who can build almost anything and often does, she is a woman I truly admire. A few weeks ago, she asked if I’d like to review her new book, How to Keep a Naturalist’s Notebook. While reading it, I was reminded of those amazing, nineteenth-century, women naturalists who carried their field kits with them everywhere and kept detailed records of what they heard and saw on their walks.
Susan drew these images on the cover.
You might ask, in this age of Nikon D90 DX cameras, voice recorders and Flip camcorders, why anyone would want to make their own notebook? A notebook of one’s own contains so much more. Samples of flowers or ferns can be pressed, and one’s own artwork can grace the pages. If you feel intimidated by the idea of creating your own notebook, this book is for you. By the time you finish, you will know the essential information and skills to record and comment upon your own environment. Tomlinson gives both basic and detailed art instruction. Anyone can draw with a bit of help. Even me.
Each chapter addresses a different topic from required equipment for your field kit to tips for wildflower and bird identification. After reading it, I felt inspired to get out my colored pencils and draw, something which I haven’t done since I was pregnant with Bear. I’ll let you know if I draw anything worth scanning.
Meanwhile, you can’t go wrong with these two artists and authors. I’m glad to call them my friends.