General Seediness

The humidity and heat are gone, only to be replaced by on again off again sunshine alongside a repeating dose of rain.  Yay.  I won’t even try and convince myself summer is holding on.  The calendar says fall and I guess the garden is saying it as well this year.

weedy vegetable garden

The potager is now an overgrown seedy mess of lingering flowers and floppy overgrowth.

We had company for a week and then I had the pleasure of entertaining a head cold for the following weekend, so if the general decay of the season wasn’t enough then the two weeks of neglect probably did the trick.  A few things did happen though, so I guess any attempt by the gardener to keep his head above water is a plus.

amaranthus hopi dye

The hedge was trimmed.  As usual I love it, and of course it’s inspired me to edge and mulch as well.

Before I get too rushed in putting this post out, I suppose some mention of this years budget ambitions should be noted.  Weeding was becoming torture so a few bags of mulch were purchased.  I find mulching to be slightly addicting so the first load was followed by another, and then another.  All said approximately $44 dollars of very cheap and questionably dyed hardwood mulch was purchased, and to be honest I feel really good about my broken resolve.

mulched snowdrop bed

A weeded, edged and mulched snowdrop bed.  Grass clippings cover the interior, purchased mulch rings the edge.  The left side is still a work in progress…

While mulching I came across a few colchicum corms and remembered offering extras to some friends last fall.  As it is with these things a quick online search for proper names and spellings led me to distraction and also to a few coveted colchicums which I’d been hoping to get elsewhere.  For just $63 and a mouse click I didn’t have to worry about elsewhere anymore.

colchicum nancy lindsay

A good example of general neglect.  Colchicum ‘Nancy Lindsay’ bravely flowering over a carpet of weedy sedum and other sprouting nasties.

While I’m baring my plant buying soul (with the exception of snowdrop purchases of course) I might as well admit that general colchicum excitement led me to a second purchase, this time  from Daffodils and More.  I have sworn off new daffodils this fall, but obviously the “More” part was a problem, and in this case it amounted to $65 more.

limelight hydrangea fall color

Nice pink highlights on ‘Limelight’ hydrangea this fall.  They may be floppy from all the rain, but at least they’re not heat blasted and brown.

I haven’t been entirely innocent in the plant department either.  Most of the summer passed far too quickly to spend time at the nursery, but my foggy memory does recall going over on a gift certificate (the amount of which does NOT count) by about $38 and then returning a few days later to spend another $18.  Those plants may or may not have all been planted, but I have to say it would be stupid to buy them and HAVE to have them and then let them sit next to the garage for weeks unplanted.

mammoth mum seedlings

Each fall I’m fascinated by the variety of mum seedlings which have arisen from the double red ‘Mammoth’ mum towards the back.  Each spring I forget about mums and never get around to separating these out.

If I do admit to neglecting full price purchases on the driveway for weeks, I probably shouldn’t suggest that I went back for a 40% off sale and spent another $49.  Just in case that happened though I’m going to add it to this year’s tally and not mention that more pots have joined the driveway crew.

tropical border in fall

The overflowing tropical border.  The Seven Sons Tree (Heptacodium) is in full bloom and has put on quite some height over the last few years.

Speaking of pots I bought a nice ceramic one on clearance for $15.  Like everything else I didn’t need it but maybe I will, so better to just bring it home.

migrating monarchs

The Monarchs have surprised me with an early appearance.  They’re enjoying the flowers of the Seven Sons Tree, you can almost make out the namesake flower buds which have a number one son bud surrounded by six more sons.

That might be it on budget confessions.  Over the last few weeks I’ve probably forgotten a few receipts here and there, but in my opinion a quickly fading memory is one of the greatest benefits of the aging process.  Perhaps in hindsight writing it all down wan’t the best thought out of plans.  Better to throw in a distraction such as one of my fantastically edited cinematic masterpieces which I call “All the Monarchs which swarmed the Heptacodium last week”.

I loved watching all the Monarchs.  My parents were in and marveled at all the bugs and butterflies which they just don’t see any more in their more suburban lot.  I hope it’s just a one season anomaly for them, but when you hear the stories of disappearing bees and bugs, and vanishing bird populations, and crashing amphibian numbers, you can really worry.  As the afternoon rolled into an amazing sunset, we watched the lingering insects wander off and several bats move in to swoop and ambush the careless, while all the nighttime crickets and katydids started to ratchet up their chorus.  It wasn’t bad at all.

sunset in PA

September sunset on the deck.

The Monarchs have been just like the weather.  They swarmed the yard and then disappeared.  A few came back.  More came back.  They disappeared.  Today there are dozens again and the temperatures and humidity make it feel like we’re in the South again.  Who knows?  At least it keeps me off the streets 😉

$63 for a questionable colchicum purchase
$65 for a quality colchicum purchase
$38 for additional unnecessary plants
$18 for two more unnecessary plants
$49 for clearance plants which also unnecessary, yet irresistible
$15 for a ceramic pot which made the trip to the box store worth it

$992 total so far for the 2018 gardening year.

Fluttering into September

Keeping a monthly summary of what kind of butterflies are flying in and out of the garden is a good idea, and Cathy over at Words and Herbs already does just that.  Each month she documents a summary of the regulars, the newcomers, and the rare surprises.  This month I tried, and although neither my patience nor my camera skills match hers it’s still nice to give it a try!

monarch on buddleia

I would bet the Monarch butterfly is North America’s favorite. Here it is catching the last of the white buddleia.

The one butterfly which swarmed this year were the skippers.  There were dozens flitting around the front garden, and although they may not be the flashiest they do seem to have a character all their own.

skipper butterfly on verbena

Skipper butterfly (I have no idea which kind) sipping nectar in the verbena patch.

I like to think my garden is relatively butterfly friendly with plenty of nectar plants and plenty of host plants to raise caterpillars on, but the whole idea of gardening with butterflies in mind always struck me as going against every other plant growing principle.  Butterflies are one of the freeloaders of the insect world.  If they weren’t so pretty and entertaining I’m sure most gardeners would focus on getting rid of them rather than putting out the welcome mat.  As youngsters they chew up your plants, and then as adults steal nectar away from the more industrious bees.  Bees at least spread pollen around, but most butterflies (less so moths) have delicate legs and strawlike mouths that just don’t pick up or transfer pollen well.  They fill their bellies up with nectar but the flower still has to sit and wait for a better pollinator to come along.

pair of butterflies

A table for two. I watched this skipper cozying up to quite a few single butterflies. No luck though, as each bloom went dry he left the nectar bar alone.

Freeloaders or not, butterflies are welcome here.  Actually with all the bees and wasps and birds in my garden it’s amazing any make it to adulthood to begin with.  Birds and wasps are always looking for a tasty caterpillar morsel to bring home… although I believe these blue dauber wasps are spider hunters.

giant swallowtail on buddleia

Blue dauber wasps, I think these are one of those creepy predators which immobilize their spider prey, pack them away in a tube with a little wasp egg, and then when the egg hatches the paralyzed spiders are nibbled up alive… yikes.

Butterfly cannot live by nectar alone, and while walking in a local state park I came across these cabbage whites “puddling”.  The damp spot where the butterflies were drinking was suspiciously downhill from the restrooms and their aging plumbing, and I suspect this seepage was rich in the salts and minerals that are otherwise missing from a nectar diet.  Not to paint the butterflies in too gross a light, but rotting fruit and urine are two yummies for a nice puddling party.  To each his own I say.

butterflies puddling

Cabbage White butterflies “puddling” at a damp spot, drinking in salts and minerals.

Also seen at the state park was this one.

butterfly on joe pye weed

Maybe an Aphrodite Fritillary(?) on joe pye weed? This one was also at the park although I’ve seen them in my garden too.

Everyone knows the Monarch, but the swallowtails are my favorites.  In the spring there were a few black swallowtails on the fennel, but the real fancy pants is the yellow Tiger Swallowtail.  This one seems to have run into one too many bird beaks.

tiger swallowtail

I don’t know how long they live, but this tiger swallowtail looks a little worn and ragged. Hopefully he found some energy in the verbena blossoms.

A not-quite-as-yellow as a normal Tiger Swallowtail turned out to actually be a Giant Swallowtail and I was quite pleased.  On the first visit I didn’t get the camera, but when he was back the next day I gave it a go.

giant swallowtail

A Giant Swallowtail, not much different than the Tiger when the wings are up.

If only the breeze would have calmed, maybe I could have had a clear shot, but as it was he kept on fluttering to keep his balance.  I wanted to get a shot of the darker backside to the wings.

giant swallowtail butterfly

This Giant Swallowtail wasn’t much larger than the Tiger, but in much better shape. Too bad he wouldn’t sit still for his closeup.

So there it is, an August summary of some of the fluttering butter which has been passing through.  Wish the shots could have been clearer but I’m just grateful I was able to get the ones I did!  Hope you enjoyed.