This time of year is always fun for photography. The flowers are still fresh and most of the plants are still green; stuff hasn’t started getting leggy or dried out yet.
I went for a walk around the neighborhood today. Pink and magenta redbuds contrast with the chartreuses of fresh leaves. The earth is lush and coming back to life.
The sun shone bright today and the temperature reached 80℉. I saw multiple butterflies skitter through the garden: a swallowtail, a monarch, a cabbage butterfly, and an American Painted Lady that actually stopped for a drink.
The salvia and a couple of other herbs are blooming now — rosemary and thyme — while everything else begins to bud. This is always an exciting time that makes me walk the garden and check on everything’s progress every day.
I wanted to spruce up the garden since many of the summer flowers are starting to fade.
It’s been hot and dry here for weeks. Since I put in mostly natives and drought-tolerant plants, I haven’t watered. That’s been fine for a lot of the flowers out in the garden, but not all of them. The New England asters didn’t make it, and the black-eyed Susans started browning before their time. Now I know.
I went straight out into the garden this morning to get to work before the sun got too high. It took about four hours to snip the brown flowers off the indigo salvia, black-eyed Susans, white coneflowers, roses, butterfly bush, zinnias, shasta daisies, and echinacea. I stopped a lot to take pictures of butterflies.
I decided I hated the tall marigolds I planted from seed, so I ripped those out. Which meant, of course, that I had to replace them. One of my favorite things to watch in the garden is goldfinches bobbing on Echinacea cones in the fall, so I bought more Echinacea to replace the marigolds. I waited until the sun was low in the evening to put them in the ground to hopefully minimize the stress of planting them. I’ll need to remember to water them a lot over the next few days since there is still no rain in the forecast. The ground was rock and dust when I dug in. There was no moisture anywhere.
Now I want to move a bunch of stuff around, but I know I need to wait. I don’t want to kill everything moving it around in this heat. Plus, the caterpillars are on their way, and I don’t want to mess up their ability to eat and pupate.
I’m not seeing a lot of caterpillars (zero, actually), but the big swallowtails and the monarchs are finally here. I see hummingbirds every day, as well, though I’m never able to photograph them.
The wildflowers are finally hitting their stride. The blue forget-me-nots, pink cleome, and yellow calendula came up from seeds dropped last year by their predecessors.
I wanted to get some pictures of the full beds rather than just closeups, too, so that in winter and spring when I can’t remember what it all looked like, I’ll have something to remember the garden by.
I haven’t seen any caterpillars or big butterflies in a few days (or weeks?). The flowers are pretty though.
The roses, penstemon, perennial salvias, and yarrows are in bloom. Zinnia seeds are in the ground, echinacea buds are forming, and the summer bloomers are starting to get full in their foliage.
I always love photographing the yarrow and salvia in May when they’re fresh and peaking. This time of year makes me want to fill the garden with them, though by summer’s end, I’m always glad I haven’t. It’s nice to have the bright zinnias and black-eyed Susans to fill in the space at their peak when the indigo salvia and yarrow are past their prime.
But for now, they sure are pretty.
It’s rough getting winter storm warnings in autumn. The kids were out of school yesterday, with inclement weather days chipping away at their summer break before we even get to December.
But ice sure is pretty.
Little bluestem grass encased in ice
Two berries in an ice pod
Icicles are always fun
Iced dogwood berries
Glad I didn’t cut back the hydrangea
Last winter I obsessed over the garden. I scoured seed catalogs, bought graph paper to design flower beds, stood at the back door staring at the bare hill and tried to visualize what it would look like with plants on it.
Now that everything is dead and gardening season is over, I wanted to take a look at the gardens’ transformation through the months.
Back hill, marked for flower beds. February 2018
Forsythia in bloom, March 18, 2018
Back hill, March 25, 2018
Back hill after transplanting plants from front garden. April 21, 2018
Moved more plants from out front. May 21, 2018
Bought some plants, others filling in, seedlings starting to grow. June 17, 2018
Flowers blooming, weeds proliferating. July 2018
As filled in as it’s going to get. Late August, 2018
Peak. Some things starting to fade. Early September, 2018.
Time to clear out spent stems…
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Monarch butterflies are emerging left and right in the garden. A couple of weeks ago on a rainy day, I started a new compost pile for my garden clippings. As I cleared out a space to put up wire fencing to contain the pile, I noticed what looked like an injured monarch on the ground. It was moving slowly and it’s wings didn’t look quite right.
A few minutes later I saw another slow-moving monarch on the ground. It’s wings were kind of shriveled and it looked like it was trying to dry them out. In the rain.
And then I realized: these two butterflies had just emerged from their chrysalises and were getting used to their new bodies before taking off for flight.
Since then, the monarch butterfly population has been on a steady increase. I see them soaring through the garden every day, sometimes only one butterfly at a time, sometimes multiple. I’ve been seeing tiger swallowtails as well, and eastern swallowtails, though not as many as monarchs.
When I was out in the garden on Labor Day, I went to get the wheelbarrow to collect weeds in, and right before I flipped it over to roll it up the hill, I saw a chrysalis on it. Then I started looking around for chrysalises and I found several more.
The milkweed is looking pretty gnarly. This is the time of year I start getting antsy to tidy the garden, so I wanted to chop it down. Before cutting anything, I inspected for caterpillars, and the milkweed is crawling with them. So for now it stays. I need to think about where to move the plants next year so that when they get unsightly like this, I don’t have to look at them but the caterpillars can still enjoy them.