Today I am documenting some highlights of my summer garden, focusing mostly on zinnias and butterflies.
With the removal of some diseased junipers in spring, the southern border is filled with sunshine once again. Black-eyed Susans planted in 2012 at last are coming into their own in response to the improved conditions. Basking in the sun, Salvia greggii ‘Furman’s Red’ (Autumn Sage), added in 2014, also has thrived for the first time. I am not a fan of combining yellow and red, but there it is, undeniably red and yellow. I must have planted the salvia at a time when the black-eyed Susans were failing.
For years there has been a circular cutting garden of zinnias in summer. This year even more zinnias fill in along the fence where the trees had stood. I don’t miss the trees as much as I thought I would. They were planted for privacy, but this year at least I’m enjoying the openness of the garden and the white backdrop of the fence.
Sunlight enhances the Blue Sky Salvia as we look across toward the dogwood at the other side of the garden. This salvia is a favorite of bees. There are fewer bees this year, especially fewer honey bees. Large carpenter bees are present, though perhaps fewer of them as well.
Somewhere I saved this year’s zinnia seed packages but I have yet to record their names. They are various mixes. I am particularly pleased with some of the red zinnias this year. There are some gorgeous reds among the rainbow of colors.
A yellow with red freckled zinnia and this one below that seems to be wearing a smear of lipstick on each petal are the only novelty ones in the mix. Elsewhere I have a few cactus zinnias.
I have grown zinnias for 40 years and value their cheerfulness and reliability throughout the hottest part of summer until the first October frost. Each year from mid to late summer they and a few key plants like lantana provide extra zing in the garden, attracting a wide range of insects.
It has been a spectacular year for butterflies, especially for Eastern Tiger Swallowtails.
Yesterday the lantana was a hub of activity as this 16-second amateur video shows.
Zinnias are very popular with the butterflies.
A few other swallowtail varieties have been visible. They are exciting to discover and try to identify. In late May this Spicebush Swallowtail appeared just in time to enjoy white bell-shaped flowers of Husker Red Penstemon.
In early July I recorded seeing this striking Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus) just as the first lantana flowers were opening.
Black Swallowtails have been active here this summer with multiple sightings. Here are couple of my favorite photos of them.
I spotted a monarch August 10, 2019 and hope to enjoy more in the coming weeks. They usually pass through in September and October.
Historically the garden averages one sighting of Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) each year. Happily I have seen many the past few weeks.
In previous years I have spotted one or two Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis), but this season they are often seen frequenting plants such as Verbena bonariensis (an all-around pollinator favorite), lantana, Buddleja and zinnia.
No signs this year of Hummingbird Clearwing (Hemaris thysbe). There are plenty of actual hummingbirds though. Sometimes I find myself face to face with one and we both pause for an instant, its wings and my heart pounding. My camera is never ready so I just stop and notice. I have never used a hummingbird feeder in this garden but the birds find reason to visit, making the same rounds through the flowers as the insects.
iNaturalist has been a great resource for help with identification of garden visitors.
Here are more entries from the summer guest book for pbmGarden.
In case you are not familiar with iNaturalist I cannot recommend it enough. It has been a great resource for help in identifying my garden visitors. There is an app and a website.
Partial List of Fauna and Flora
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)
Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) August 6
Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) August 6
Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) August 10
Common whitetail (Plathemis lydia) August 12
Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) August 6
Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)
Eight-spotted Forester Moth (Alypia octomaculata) Jun 12
Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans) August 6
Hummingbird Clearwing (Hemaris thysbe)
Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)
Slaty Skimmer Libellula incesta)
Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis)
Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) May 28
Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)
Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) Jun 26
Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus) Jul 1 and June 7
Buddleja davidii ‘Adokeep’ (Adonis blue Butterfly Bush)
Gladiolus ‘Purple Flora’ and ‘Espresso’
Juniperus chinensis ‘Blue Point’ (Blue Point Juniper)
Lantana camara (Common lantana)
Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue)
Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ (Black-eyed Susan)
Salvia greggii ‘Furman’s Red’ (Autumn Sage)
Salvia uliginosa ‘Blue Sky’ (Bog sage)
Verbena bonariensis (Tall Verbena)
Isn’t it wonderful how the removal of a tree can bring such welcoming beauty to a garden? I think they call it serendipity.
It’s true John. I was so excited when those trees went in, was sad when they died and now am so happy they are gone.
SO BEAUTIFUL. And lovely and inspiring. Go, Suzy!!!!!
Thank you Alice!
Loveliness! So many beautiful blooms and garden visitors. Your garden is brimming with life. We have very similar plants in our sunny gardens. 🙂
Thanks! I love knowing we’re growing many of the same plants Beth!
Wow, Susie, if I ever saw that many butterflies in one place at the same time here, I’d fall over. You do a stupendous job photographing your visitors too. Zinnias are butterfly magnets and I’m kicking myself for planting seeds as late as I did as the plants are only now kicking into bloom. So far, my butterflies are mostly limited to cabbage whites, cloudless sulphurs and unidentified skippers but I’m hoping the numbers and varieties here will increase when I’ve got more zinnia blooms. I do have a massive number of bees, however.
Not all are from the same time but there have been many on the the same day. It’s been a treat to watch them through the summer. Glad you’re seeing plenty of bees Kris. My zinnias were very slow to kick into bloom also.
Super photos of all your visitors, your garden is obviously a delight for them. Our butterflies are now visiting in greater numbers, but only one or two the same as yours.
I’ve always loved seeing your butterflies Pauline–you inspired me to learn the names of mine.
Wow – you have some impressive visitors in your garden. I’ve seen more butterflies this year than ever before but no where near your numbers. I love the red zinnias, but have to admit the first photo with the orange zinnia is worthy of a frame. 🙂
Thanks Judy! I like that photo very much. Sometimes those butterflies will dance all around me and never stay still long enough to get a clear shot, so was lucky.
Your swallowtails are spectacular Susie. 🙂 As are all the other little creatures visiting your garden. We have had just two Old World Swallowtails this year, but loads of Painted Ladies. And loads of bees, of all different shapes and sizes. Love your zinnias too. They are growing on me as I wasn’t keen on them in the past, but I was lucky this year with some red ones popping up where I scattered old seed. 🙂 Enjoy your summer guests while the warm days last.
What an array of dazzling colours and creatures. Great photos of everything too. Brilliant all round!
Teeming with life – gorgeous shots, Susie!
Were the junipers Eastern red cedars, Juniperus virginiana? There are not any junipers big enough to make substantial shade.