I want to believe the warm weather is here to stay, though I know from the forecast that it’s not. Still, it was warm here this weekend, and I took full advantage of it to get the garden cleaned up. I pruned roses, cut back ornamental grasses, raked leaves out of flower beds, moved lavenders, transplanted hydrangea, and kicked poor performers to the curb.
As I worked, I smelled fresh mint in the mint patch. I listened to birds chirp and leaves rustle in a warm breeze. I was surprised by the first forsythia blossom. When I pulled away dead debris and raked out leaves that have insulated the ground these last 5 months, I found leaves emerging underneath – sedum, tulips, columbine, goldenrod.
The oak tree suddenly has leaves, and the salvia are blooming. The blossoms of tulips, dogwoods, and redbud begin to fade, but the yarrow, dwarf lilac, roses, rue, and scabiosa all have flower buds. The orlaya came back and its buds are opening, too. I see the beginnings of flower buds on a few echinacea, and a nepetas’ blue blossoms sprinkle the air above their silvery green leaves.
I put in a passionflower today, along with 3 blanket flowers and 2 scarlet and orange milkweeds. I’ve got my fingers crossed for the passionflower. I hope it will last.
The grass is the lush, vibrant green that only appears in spring. Pears and cherries and magnolias bloom all over town. Tulips pop in bright colors in the landscaping of public places: medians, libraries, the aquatic center.
In our garden, the redbud is covered in fuchsia buds and the dogwood flowers bloom green before they brighten to white. The leaves of perennials begin to emerge from beneath the fresh mulch. The blades of ornamental grasses come in tender and emerald green. The forsythia and daffodils are done in our garden — I cut back the forsythia this weekend — but violets and periwinkles blossom at the top of the hill. The salvia forms buds that should open in a few weeks. Besides the trees, the primary flowers right now are the ones in our flower baskets; that will change soon though.
After working in the garden all day in the heat yesterday, today I’ve spent most of the day laying in the hammock or sitting in one of my three garden-viewing perches, admiring the filled-in beds, photographing butterflies (and a hummingbird!), and watching monarchs and swallowtails lay eggs on the milkweed and rue. It’s a pretty awesome way to spend a Sunday.
I saw a buckeye butterfly yesterday too, but I didn’t have my camera so I wasn’t able to photograph it. Buckeyes are gorgeous. I’m going to go back out again now with my book and see what else comes to the garden.
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 saw a hummingbird in the garden today, the first of the season. It’s been raining for days. We got 2.5 inches Friday, then another half inch yesterday. During a break in the rain today, I saw a great spangled fritillary flitting around and drinking from all the purple flowers: the dwarf agastache, scabiosa, and lollipop vervain. It was my first chance in a few days to get out in the garden, so I took my camera with me.
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.
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.
Chrysalis on the veg patch fence
Chrysalis under deck
Chrysalis on extra bunny fencing under deck
Chrysalis on overturned wheelbarrow
Monarch caterpillar in the process of making a chrysalis
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.