It’s a jungle out there

28 05 2009

Shot of our front yard garden taken this afternoon…

Just past bloom: White & purple Bearded Iris and Purple Sensation Allium 

Debuting now: Beard’s Tongue, Catmint, Veronica Speedwell, Creeping Thyme, Sweet William, Penstemon, Rose Campion (blush pink-white and bright pink varieties), Hellebores, Sedum, Yellow Yarrow, Nasturtium, White Dianthus, Pink Phlox, Hosta flowers, Ageratum, Evening Primrose ‘Lemon Drop’, Strawflower, Geraniums 

Very-soon-to-bloom: Globe Thistle, Lavender (various), Coreopsis, Tickseed, Lilies (various) and Salvia

And later in the seasonButterfly bush (pink, yellow, purple varieties), Coneflower (various varieties)

Platycodon Balloon Flower (purple and white varieties), Shasta Daisies, Black-eyed Susan, Monarda Bee Balm, Lamb’s Ear, Morning Glory ‘Heavenly Blue’, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, Maximilian sunflower

Ha! And this is just the list of plants in the front yard. Proof enough that I’m a gardener obsessed.

Got a question for my fellow gardeners…what is the weed (looks a lot like the tops of celery plants or almost cilantro-looking leaf) that is taking over my entire garden in spades? Why have I not noticed this prolific pest in previous years? Is it a new invasive? Do I need to photograph it for identification?
  
© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

InBloom5282009


 





Much more Monarch mania

15 10 2008

Yes, more Monarchs. I can’t help myself. They’re everywhere! I learned a technique from my friend Mary Ellen of Happy Tonics about how to “stalk” Monarchs with a camera. Wait until they have their proboscis inserted into a flower and they become completely distracted by the task at hand—then move in closer, staying as still as possible. They won’t even notice you’re there. This one sure didn’t. I was able to shoot about 50+ images of this Monarch in less than five minutes.

Want to learn more about the senses of a Monarch? Click here.

Here’s a surefire way to attract Monarchs to your garden—plant milkweed!
Mary Ellen sells common milkweed seeds in her eBay store here. Milkweed is the sole food for the Monarch caterpillar. Adult butterflies can feed on other plants such as this butterfly bush, but the caterpillars only eat milkweed.

Mary Ellen and I crossed paths a few years ago when I purchased seeds from her through eBay. This led to a frequent e-mail exchange, and now I do volunteer design and photography for her organization. I design and produce her quarterly 4-page newsletter, Butterflies & Gardens, as well as other marketing materials. You can download the latest issue of the newsletter in pdf format here. I also designed a Monarch Butterfly Habitat Poster for her this past spring.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.com/GardenPhotos





At long last, butterflies en masse!

4 10 2008

The butterflies that we have waited for (en masse) all summer have finally begun appearing regularly, particularly Monarchs and now the American Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) I photographed late this afternoon. It is very similar to the Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui). Those same links show you how to distinguish between the two. 

They move really quickly, so I wasn’t able to get many good shots before they moved onto other flowers in the garden. Most of the butterfly activity in our front yard garden is in the lilac-colored butterfly bush. I saw two American Painted Ladies and three Monarch butterflies just this afternoon, along with several Cabbage White butterflies and Silver-spotted Skippers—both daily visitors to the garden since early summer. This same butterfly bush is also a magnet for the Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth.

Click here to see a Cabbage White butterfly I photographed in the backyard in June. Click here to see Monarchs, Silver-spotted Skippers, Swallowtails, and other beauties I photographed at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia. Learn more about how to create a habitat for Monarch butterflies on the  Happy Tonics web site.

I found a really terrific butterfly identification site here. To identify your specimen, click the boxes that correspond with things such as the group (moth, butterfly, etc.), how the wings curve, whether they’re curvy, jagged, or wavy, then how the rear wing is shaped, whether there are broken bands or dark or light ones, main colors that appear, and your location. After you click on all the matches to your specimen, a list of possible “suspects” will show up on the left. Simply click on each one until you find one that best matches your specimen! I’ll be using this site a lot more often.

If you really love butterflies, check out the images I shot in September at the Wings of Fancy exhibit at Brookside Gardens. And while we’re on the subject of Brookside Gardens, click here to see images I shot when my friend Jeff and I took a field trip with the Mount Vernon Garden Club this past April.

WANT TO SEE SOMETHING NEAT? Click here to view two claymation movies that illustrate butterfly metamorphosis. They were created by third grade students from Kings Park Elementary School in Springfield, Virginia.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.






The color purple

16 07 2008

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.com/GardenPhotos





Organized chaos vs. needs medication

24 05 2008

“Organized chaos,” was Michael’s response yesterday when I asked him to describe the front yard garden. I also asked him to guess what passersby might be thinking. I’m thinking they think I have too much time on my hands…or perhaps I have an illness that could be regulated with medication. I must say that when I’m in the kitchen, near the windows overlooking the two sides of the garden, and someone goes by—I try to catch their expressions and see how long their eyes linger over the garden. So many just pass by without even a glance to their right. How in the world can they do that? Those that take time to pause from their running, walking, jogging, baby-stroller-pushing, dog-walking jaunts get a silent stamp of approval from me. Aside from my own visual gratification, I create this “organized chaos” for them, too.

Recently my friend Gina spent an entire afternoon helping us clean up the backyard and plant those last few bulbs and impromptu plant purchases from the Green Springs Garden plant sale last weekend. I cajoled her into taking leftover bulbs, excess plants, garden ornaments, an old table, empty pots, etc…anything to just get my backyard looking like paradise again. She and Michael kept shaking their heads every time I came up with a statement like, “oh…um… I forgot about the free sundrops someone abandoned in the parking lot. Where should we (shove) those?” Or, “if we just stake up that bunch of plants, I’m sure we can find several inches of valuable real estate in which to plant these lily bulbs I forgot about.” Or, “we’re almost done, guys, just six more things to plant. Okay…I forgot about those, okay, eight more things, and then we’re definitely done.” I confess. I’ve never met a plant I didn’t like. I take great comfort in knowing that I am far from alone with my disease. I’m in such good company with other plantaholics!

The front part is about half in bloom. Right now, the penstemon, beard’s tongue, sweet william, catmint, yellow yarrow, sweet william, coreopsis, thyme, veronica, rose campion, salvia, ice plants, and sedums are in various stages of bloom. My ‘Purple sensation’ alliums are past their prime, now in their architecturally-interesting “koosh ball” stage. The multitude of lilies are just starting to form buds. Tiny blue forget-me-nots, a gift from Peggy’s garden, are still flowering. The bearded iris (a gift from my friend Karen’s garden several years ago) are almost done with their show. The false sunflower plant surrounding the iris is about halfway to its height and will reach 8-9 feet before bursting with small yellow flowers against the blue summer sky. (Insert amusing sidebar here: I bought this plant a few years ago when my friend Debbi took me onto base at Fort Belvoir. The tag on the plant read, “sun-loving perennial, reaches 4 ft., profusion of yellow flowers throughout summer.” The plant proceeded to reach “Jack-in-the-beanstalk” proportions—9 feet the first year—forming a swaying canopy over the steps before it finally spewed forth beautiful miniature sunflowers! Several friends asked if we were growing corn that year.)

The liatris, a favorite of bees, are just a quarter of the way to their height. A bank of lovely lamb’s ears, started with cuttings from Karen’s garden, offsets the other plants with their silvery green hue. The Autumn joy sedums are puffing out, waiting until everything else steps out of the spotlight for it to shine in the fall. Michael’s olfactory favorite, the moonflower, is slowly making its way up a trellis on the front of the house.

Yesterday, I planted mina lobata (firecracker vine/Spanish flag) in a pot at the bottom of the steps (just so I could get more photographs like this beautiful one I shot last summer: https://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2007/09/03/mina-lobata/. In front of the pot I planted three new coneflowers and another shasta daisy. We added another hellebore to the large bank (another offering from Karen) in the shade. On the front porch, there are two topiary frames planted with hyacinth vines. My beautiful (and very photogenic) stargazer lilies have returned, making their way upwards from a terracotta pot. Three baskets hang over the railing, filled with verbena, sweet potato vine, allysum, marigolds, portulaca, and marguerite daisies.

Farther up, in front of the morning glory trellises, everything is verdant. When that area begins to peak this summer, there will be a profusion of lavender, multi-colored lilies, silvery purple thistle, yellow black-eyed susans and sundrops, take-your-breath-away Heavenly Blue morning glories, red bee balm, deep pink butterfly bush blooms, grayish-greenish-blueish sea holly, blue-eyed grasses, shasta daisies, various other sedums, and white, purple and orange coneflowers….I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

I replied to Michael, “Organized chaos presumes I did not have a plan.” To which he countered, “There was a plan?” Of course there was a plan. My plan incorporates textures, scents, colors, varying heights, creepers, crawlers, climbers, and a botanical variation of Noah’s Ark—two of everything, please. How is that not a plan?

I’ll accept “organized chaos.” It’s preferable to “needs medication.”

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.com/GardenPhotos





Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth

29 08 2007

Now that’s a mouthful, ain’t it? I was just out cleaning up the front yard garden (if one can even call it a garden at this point…I can’t believe how many weeds I’ve let sprout!) and while trimming the dead parts out of our purple butterfly bush, I spotted this little guy and knew it was a hummingbird moth (Debbi taught me about them a few years ago when we spotted one in the back yard). I grabbed my camera and got a few (mostly blurry shots—they’re not called hummingbirds for nothing). Here are the best shots I could get…you can barely see the “clearwings” because it was moving so fast. I identified it through several websites…the snowberry clearwing is the smallest of the hummingbird moths.

From my research:
Clearwing moths, the group to which the hummingbird and bumblebee mimics belong, lose the scales on their front wings after their first flight. Their wings resemble leaded stained glass with clear glass in the panels, much like a bee or wasp wing. The snowberry clearwing is often mistaken for a bumblebee. Not only does this clearwing have yellow and black bands, it also hovers and flits from flower to flower while sipping nectar.

Adults fly throughout the day in open woodlands and fields, as well as in gardens and suburbs throughout the state, between late March and September. This bumblebee mimic is yellow with black wings and abdomen. At 1.25 to 2 inches, its wingspan is slightly smaller than that of the hummingbird clearwing. Its larvae feed on honeysuckle, dogbane and buckbrush. Adults eat from many flowers, including thistles, milkweed and lilac.

If you want to learn more about this critter, click on the link below:

http://www.birds-n-garden.com/snowberry_clearwing_hummingbird_moths.html

snowberry-clearwing2.jpg

© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.