Flit, Flutter, Flap

Faster than the speed of light:  at least, that’s what it seems like when you’re trying to photograph flying creatures.

Although I’m definitely not knowledgeable about identifying butterflies, this is a type of Giant Swallowtail feeding on Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii).

Flame Acanthus grows in poor rocky soil and in direct hot sun, so it’s great for our location.  It’s a perennial that does better if it is severely cut back in the early spring.  It starts to leaf out late in the spring, but from then until the first frost, it is covered with small tubular red flowers.

Here’s a Swallowtail on Obedient Plants (Physostegia virginiana).  Obedient Plants, native to North America, freely reseed, so they spread easily.

Another Black Swallowtail on Acanthus.

Queen Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) camp out on Gregg’s Bluemist Flower (Conoclinium greggii) all summer long.

They swarm the tiny powder puff flowers flitting from flower to flower.  If you want butterflies in your yard, Bluemist and Flame Acanthus will do the trick.

Some Dusty Miller is hanging over the Bluemist, but their meal is found in the Bluemist.

Vine Sphinx Moth (Eumorpha vitis) is common to the southwestern US.  Thanks, moth, for being perfectly still so I could get a picture.

A  Monarch (Danaus plexippus) stops on her journey to Mexico to enjoy the Bluemist Flowers.  Also known as the Milkweed Butterfly because that’s the only food source for their caterpillars.

Thankfully, the Monarch Butterflies aren’t as picky as their caterpillars.  This one enjoys Purple Asters.  Actually, it looks like two are feeding on the same flower.

This beauty – Pipevine Swallowtail or Blue Swallowtail (Battus philenor) adds color to the garden.

Detail is seen in this bright orange Dragonfly resting on a fence.

Giant Sulfurs or Cloudless Giant Sulfurs (Phoebis sennae) must love red flowers.  They have been a constant presence in our yard for a month.  This one is feasting on Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra), the last one left from summer.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) attracts of Sulfurs.

Sulfurs are also fans of Flame Acanthus.

Other butterflies like this small one that I can’t identify are flitting here and there.

“Resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.”  St. AugustineSave

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A Healthy Garden

The day we were in the community garden in Menard, butterflies were everywhere – one sign of a healthy garden.

gardenmenard6A Southern Dogface Butterfly is enjoying the Zinnias.

gardenmenard5Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia Leucantha) has a wonderful velvety texture and butterflies gravitate to them.

gardenmenardaA Pipevine Swallowtail also like the Zinnias.

gardenmenardbWhat is it about butterflies that is so spellbinding?  The fact that they are fragile?  Always in motion?  Or just plain gorgeous?

gardenmenardThis garden has many purposes besides looking pretty.  It provides raised beds for citizens to rent for growing vegetables.

gardenmenard1Some okra pods look ready to be picked.

gardenmenard7Our group of Master Gardener students was here specifically to learn about water conservation.  In a demonstration, Billy Kniffen pours water into four different plastic boxes on top of a rack.  The water then flows down into other boxes on the lower shelf that have drain pipes.  The purpose of the demo is to show how much water pours out of the pipe and how quickly it empties out.

What is planted in the ground makes a difference for water absorption.  The bin on the left has native prairie grasses growing, which allows the rainfall to soak in, and the long roots of the grasses leads the water further into the ground, replenishing the water table.

gardenmenard8The next container is turf sod or grass like what is used in most yards, which allows some runoff.

Then there is a container that has very little growing in it.  Bare ground becomes hard and doesn’t absorb water, which then washes away even more soil.

This shelter and some other small sheds have gutters that direct rainwater into water storage tanks.

gardenmenard9The last container has a house.  Sponges are placed around the house.  Once they have soaked up water, then it will gradually seep out.  He suggested having water permeable hard surfaces to prevent water runoff.  Replacing concrete with other materials like gravel would help.  There are products that have a strong enough surface for walking or even parking a car, but have holes that allow water to pass through.  Those have been in use in Europe for many years.

Manufactured permeable blocks that look like concrete are available, but are extremely expensive. Hopefully companies will come up with ways to produce more affordable materials.

gardenmenardcLarge ornamental grasses similar to the native prairie grasses hold water and are good choices for landscaping.

gardenmenarddAnd of course, every garden needs pretty plants like Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii).

Enjoy the butterflies in your garden now before cold weather comes.

“You can’t fix stupid, but you can vote it out.”  unknown

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Rising Heat

As temperatures heat up, I appreciate those flowering plants that can survive.  The high so far has been 99 which means we haven’t gotten into the crazy time, yet.

summerheat7This Pink Guara (Onagraceae Gaura lindheimeri) has gotten out of hand.  It is spreading rapidly now.  It was well behaved for about six years.  But it still looks so pretty swaying in the wind.  It will bloom continuously until the first freeze.

summerheat8And all kind of pollinators enjoy it.

summerheat6This long stem was bent low as this butterfly, maybe a migrating Monarch, hung on.

summerheat9The Crinums from the Amaryllidaceae family are blooming now but won’t last long.  They probably should be divided.  However, the bulbs are huge.  So I’m not quite sure how to accomplish that in the heavy clay without tearing them up.

summerheataVery few Gladiolas have bloomed this year.  The bulbs have been in the ground for years.  I divided a few in the spring, which is the wrong time of the year for that and too late for them to bloom this year.

summerheatbAhh, the tropical Hibiscus flowers are glowing.

summerheatcThis plant is about eight years old.  I love it.

summerheat2For years, we’ve had Barn Swallows nesting on a small ledge around both the front and back porches.  They make a horrible mess on the furniture and the front wooden floor and back concrete.  So this year, we paid a hefty fee to have the HardiPlank extended to eliminate the ledge edge.

The creative Swallows, who normally build mud nests on the ledge, made an entirely different kind of nest out of mud.

summerheat1We have been washing down all nests before they are complete or before eggs have been laid.  Hopefully, this will be our last year to battle them.

summerheatThe stems that look like palm trees are getting taller.  They are Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) will reach up high and bloom in late August.

Everyone who sees them at this stage are fascinated by their form.

summerheatdThis year I discovered Soprano Lilac Spoon Daisies (Osteospermum ‘Osjaseclipur’).  It is a hybrid from the Osteospermum family that includes asters and daisies.summerheat4It’s easy to see how it got the spoon name.

summerheateThe petals may widen out on the tips as the plant or the flowers mature.  We’ll see.  It’s not winter hardy.

summerheat5As I was hand watering, at my feet was a Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) – probably looking for a puddling place.

summerheatfThis is a scented Geranium or Pelargonium ‘velvet rose’.  It is in full sun until late afternoon.  Such a lovely flower with leaves that have a mild rose smell.

Hope your summer is enhanced by flowers.

“Have the maturity to know that sometimes silence is more powerful than having the last word.”  Thema Davis