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)
This month Zinnias have been reblooming quickly after each cutting. I trimmed all that were open on Saturday and by Tuesday the next bouquet was proudly waiting to be picked.
Running into the garden between rain storms to gather more colorful flowers, I quickly became distracted by the birds and insects enjoying the garden on this last day of July.
Some visitors, especially birds such as Hummingbirds and American Goldfinches are difficult for me to photograph (hummingbirds too fast and goldfinches too shy). Swallowtails have refused to pose this summer. But now that I have learned to identify Silver-spotted Skippers it is fun to encounter them frequently around the zinnias.
I think these are Fiery Skippers. They are quite numerous and happy to feast on the zinnias.
An Ocola Skipper, the long-winged skipper, found the zinnias also.
I liked this picture with all three of the skippers. Everyone is gathered ’round.
Skippers also were drawn to Rudbeckia laciniata (Green-Headed Coneflower).
The rudbeckia is apparently also a satisfactory nectaring station for this Ocola Skipper.
It took me a while to identify this wasp, but isn’t it amazing to have resources available. Searching the web I finally found a match and decided this is Double-banded Scoliid (Scolia bicincta). I posted a couple of the images this evening on iNaturalist and within 12 minutes someone had confirmed my identification.
It is a striking black and white insect. Wings are iridescent blue-black. I read it is beneficial in the garden.
Recent storms have battered down a few plants, but cleome in the meditation circle has easily managed to stand tall.
Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ blooms sporadically and sparsely now. It likes the rain so perhaps will be encouraged to flower more generously. Hummingbirds visit it regularly.
What will August bring? I hope the zinnias continue to thrive.
I leave you with one more creature from the garden. I saw this dragonfly mid-afternoon, July 26, 2018. Its body appeared golden metallic. Amazingly beautiful.
Just got confirmation tonight on iNaturalist that the dragonfly is Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera).
This post took so long to write the month changed. Happy August.
Summer has been scurrying along and suddenly it is the middle of August. Despite the heat until recently large quantities of rain have kept the garden going long past its usual late June demise. With no showers for the past week nor any in the forecast that luxury may be coming to an end.
A few minutes before 7:00 I took my morning coffee outside planning to take some photographs of the flowers. The drawing attraction was a large stand of Salvia uliginosa ‘Blue Sky’ (Bog sage). It looked beautiful in the early morning light. I ended up weeding and trimming for three hours, nothing really to brag about since the garden has been neglected for many weeks, but I did feel better with a little work done.
Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ (Black-eyed Susan) shines golden while Rudbeckia, R. fulgida (Orange Coneflower) with its much smaller flowers is just beginning to open. The latter is usually underwhelming but it looks promising. The red flower in the blue pot to the right is Dipladenia ‘Madinia Deep Red,’ still looking nice.
Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ often goes dormant during the hottest part of the summer but perhaps the rain has been encouraging.
Zinnias are brightening up the garden with their signature colors and shapes. I have been conscientious about cutting them frequently and they keep producing. Butterflies visit throughout the day.
Attractive to pollinators, this pass-along Physostegia virginiana (Obedient Plant) is dutifully reliant.
I have lost track of this dalia’s name. It has produced only a handful of small flowers but this morning the burgundy petals stood out against budding Autumn Joy sedum.
The meditation circle planted in the center with various thymes and with Angelonia ’Serena Purple’ and ‘Serena White’ along the outer paths, elicits a deep, satisyfing sigh.
Hope your garden is making you happy today.
Lately I have spent very little time in my waning summer garden, but yesterday in the peace of the early morning I enjoyed some quiet moments watering and assessing the main borders.
Much of my garden is shutting down for the season. Cleome and phlox, which managed to carry the garden through the worst of the heat and drought, now have quit producing.
After spring, my favorite time to garden, all bets are off anyway, but I did make an effort this year to plan for more interest in the summer months. I also watered frequently when rains did not come, something I rarely am willing to do. Nevertheless, it has been a tough summer for gardening.
Even some old reliables, such as Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’ felt the strain. Usually a star in the summer, this year ‘Irish Eyes’ struggled and gave up all too quickly. Just a few flowers remain.
Many new plants have been stressed too. Although I tried to keep them happy, three new gardenias and one of the two new camellias appear to be doomed.
For several years I have admired photos of Agastache (Mexican hyssop) from across the blogosphere. Finally this spring I brought Agastache ‘Kudos Ambrosia’ home from my local garden center, where it has languished.
Also, despite packaging promises of “flowers summer through fall,” neither a new red Clematis ‘Niobe’ nor some red and purple dahlias planted in spring have yet to make much impact. These plants at least look healthy though so I am optimistic in a few more weeks their performance will improve as the weather cools.
Even with these and other setbacks, there are a few bright spots in the garden, which were really my focus for today.
Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ has rebloomed. This vine looked lovely in spring, then turned completely brown in time for Christina’s visit. I trimmed part of it back halfway but it seems to have all recovered, so I cannot give credit to the pruning.
Zinnias continue to look colorful and healthy. These orange ones are my favorite each year.
I purchased a few red-orange Zinnia ‘Profusion Fire’ as plants for some instant color in late spring. The ones planted in containers did not make it, but in the ground they coped better. This one looked nice in the dewy morning, surrounded by fresh leaves of Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) and perennial Dusty Miller.
Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed-susan) is not unusual at all, but I have had trouble keeping it established in my garden and am excited it has done well this year.
Physostegia virginiana (Obedient Plant) which opened about 10 days ago continues to look fresh in the northwest border. The cuttings I brought inside for Monday’s vase also are holding up well.
Cosmos planted from seed in early spring in the southern side border faced stiff competition from Cleome that reseeded vigorously. Only a few cosmos plants survived the battle and none have bloomed so far even though the cleome has been removed. They look strong and healthy bathed in yesterday’s early sunlight. I expect them to rally this fall.
A dependable highlight for weeks and weeks each year, Autumn Joy (Stonecrop) is doing well. I really like it in this green stage.
A native, Callicarpa americana (American beauty berry) started flowering a few weeks ago. Berries are forming too, suggesting just a hint of the pink that will mature to a shocking shade of magenta.
So, at mid-August the garden is not as lush as last summer when there was ample rain to sustain it, but having chosen to water this year I have found myself more connected to its changing moods. Though sadly I could not save all the plants, I have had the pleasure of time spent among the flowers and the gift of being more aware of the bees, butterflies and other insects visiting my little backyard haven.
And then there is this: my husband spontaneously said tonight, “What a luxury the garden is.” I think he is on to something.
Busy with family events this week I missed making a Monday vase and am behind reading favorite garden blogs. But I prepared this entry ahead so I could stay in touch and complete the last exercise in this 3-part review.
As the days grow short and we head toward winter, I have been finding cheer and smiles through a 2014 garden review project suggested by Cathy at Words and Herbs. In the past two weeks I revisited my Spring and Summer gardens. For the last installment of this project, I have selected some things to share from Late Summer and Autumn.
It is amazing to watch certain plants awake each year to achieve great size and presence in the landscape. At mid-June, a full two weeks before the first flowers opened, Lantana camara (Common lantana) was merely a round clump of greenery, but once blooming it began attracting insects and hummingbirds. By Early September lantana fully dominated its corner of the southern border in color and mass.
Tucked nearby blue Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage) looked stronger than usual this year.
A yellow passalong iris began flowering again in early September and continued through October.
By mid-month a few more Chuck Hayes gardenias flowered. Unfortunately the shrubs never regained their vigor this year so they are on a long list of things that need attention.
September temperatures were still hot. Autumn officially arrived on September 22 and the day before had been almost 90°F/32°C. The garden was still very green and Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) was full of those funky-colored purple berries.
In September the search to fill a vase each Monday kept me more in tune with the garden than normal and I began during this time to gravitate back to the garden, appreciating its varied offerings.
Meanwhile Everlasting Sweet Pea rebloomed better than it had in spring and Obedient Plant was in its prime.
Occasionally I found a few fresh blooms of Echinacea around the garden to include in a vase, but most of them looked rather tired. Despite the flowers’ ragged appearance American goldfinches were to them attracted anyway, as was this American Lady. This was the first time I had noticed this type of butterfly in the garden. It was not a strong year for seeing butterflies.
Native Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower) reached over 10 feet tall before finally revealing its sunny color. The bright yellow blooms attracted many pollinators and made the western border positively glow.
A heavy fog moved in the first morning of October and the lawn was covered with dozens of spiderwebs (Agelenopsis sp. (Grass Spider)). Salvia greggii ‘Furman’s Red’ (Autumn Sage), Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood) and Hylotelephium telephium ‘Herbstfreude’ (Autumn Joy) added rich red hues to the garden.
My favorite red this year was the Blue Bell Dahlia. I planted it in the Northern Border back against the fence, expecting it to be much taller than it actually was. It grew to about 3 feet tall.
The dahlia’s dark red flower featured prominently in most of my In A Vase On Monday arrangements during October, including one that is my favorite from the whole year.
Monarchs appeared in the garden during the second week of October and kept me chasing after them with my camera for days. Lantana and Zinnias were their favorite nectaring plants as they loaded up to continue their fall migration.
After many years of wanting to grow Spider Lilies as my grandmother had done, I finally ordered some bulbs and planted them this fall. When the foliage emerged I realized it will be next year before I see them bloom.
At mid-October I was pleased to see the Jackmanii Clematis flowering again in the narrow Southern Side Path along the side of the house.
The fragrant Hedychium coronarium (Ginger lily) opened around this time, also located along the Southern Side Path. This year only a few flowers had time to fully develop before getting nipped by cold.
As the end of October arrived Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ (Coneflower) rallied to produce a fresh display of pristine blossoms and a few blooms of Camellia sasanqua ‘Hana-Jiman’ appeared. Like the Hedychium, this highly scented camellia was a casualty of an early cold snap, but for a few days it looked nice outdoors and paired well with White Swan for an indoor arrangement.
In the first days of November the autumnal colors of Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower) were remarkable.
A passalong Chrysanthemum starting showing color mid-October and had come iinto full bloom the first week of November, just as the temperature fell slightly below freezing overnight for the first time this fall.
A bargain purchase of red Antirrhinum majus (Snapdragon) gave the meditation circle some much needed color.
A few days later seed pods of asclepias tubersosa were fluffy and inviting. The pair of crape myrtles at the end of the front walkway were shifting from green to rich orange and golden hues.
Using Crape Myrtle leaves as a beginning point, somehow I was able to find plants representing each season of the year to include in the “Four Seasons” vase on November 10. “Four Seasons” referred to the annual cycle in the garden and was my way of helping mark the first year anniversary for Cathy’s weekly challenge In A Vase On Monday.
By the end of November the garden had settled in for a rest, while I began looking ahead to spring with dreams of hyacinths and Anemone coronaria.
A big thanks to Cathy for hosting this 2014 garden retrospective. Visit Words and Herbs to see her own reviews along with links to those of other participating garden bloggers.
It is time again to join in Cathy’s weekly challenge In A Vase On Monday. The goal is to fill a vase using materials gathered in one’s own garden.
Last week I passed on using gardenias in my Monday vase as they were a bit past their prime; nevertheless I enjoyed some indoors for a few days.
A few more were blooming Sunday afternoon and though again they are not in perfect condition, even seeming to turn brown before my eyes, I decided to feature them today to honor their delectable fragrance.
Many of you will be able to close your eyes, take a deep breath in and imagine a gardenia sitting before you.
…the scent of gardenias settles like a memory onto your soul.
Gene B. Bussell. “Gardenias: A Fragrance That Captivates“. Southern Living. June 2005.
Another reason to display gardenias today is I came across a self-seeded red salvia from last year. Its first flowers appeared this week and I thought their intense hue would look interesting with the creamy white of gardenias. Despite the reputation of red salvia for being overused, I find them attractive and sometimes just what one needs for a bright punch of color in the garden.
I was curious how these flowers might work in a formal arrangement, but not having time today to experiment, the blossoms were loosely placed into a simple, clear shrub glass. Gardenias have beautiful dark green, glossy leaves so no additional foliage was needed.
2 Gardenia jasminoides ‘Chuck Hayes’
2 Gardenia sp.
3 Salvia splendens (scarlet sage, red salvia)