Thursday, August 24, 2017

I am very excited about our crop of monarch butterfly caterpillars this year. It's definitely an improvement over the past few years. Today I saw more caterpillars on the swamp milkweed in the pollinator garden. We have a stand of common milkweed that planted itself in the stones behind the second greenhouse. I was never sure why John let it grow there, but it's paid off. More caterpillars on that. Maybe we're finally turning the corner when it comes to replenishing the monarch population.

I tend to judge the passage of time by what's going on in the garden. Spring is the reemergence of perennials and planting annuals. Summer is maintenance and harvesting. As the summer winds down, I see two signs of fall approaching. One is lovely pink anemones blooming. They are a beautiful part shade plant that bloom at the end of the season, rather than in spring, as most part shade flowers do.

The other is the daily gathering of goldfinches on the echinacea outside the greenhouse. They're feasting on the seeds and this year, there are several pairs that visit regularly.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

I know many people poo-poo butterfly bushes as a plant for pollinators. It's not native, some people say it's invasive, although I've never seen that in any of my garden settings, and it's not a host plant. But as a nectar source for a wide variety of butterflies, it's hard to beat. When I took these photos, in addition to the swallowtails and monarch, there were skippers, sulfers, a buckeye, and some small frittilaries feeding.

Although milkweeds serve as both a host plant and a nectar source, that's fairly uncommon. Many plants are either a source of nectar for adult butterflies or a host plant for the caterpillars. Plants like parsley, dill, fennel and rue are host plants for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, but don't produce much nectar in their flowers. That's why having a wide variety of plants in your garden is so important.

Here is a native plant, Joe Pye weed, providing a meal for a bumblebee.

With the regular rainfall, there's lots to harvest from the garden. Mints, basils, chamomile, savory, lemon balm and verbena, oregano, calendula and more are all drying on my racks. Take advantage of the good weather and harvest now so you can enjoy the garden's bounty after the growing season ends.