I would have gotten a lot more work done this morning if not for being unable to take my eyes off this beautiful monarch. Usually I see them up close only in the fall on (by that time) ragged zinnias and lantana.
This was my first local Monarch sighting this summer, not in my garden, rather at a nearby community shopping area. This gorgeous Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) was spotted mid-day today dining from a streetside planter, Southern Village, Chapel Hill, NC.
I am not sure what this little pink flower is that has caught the butterfly’s undivided attention. [Thanks to Kris for identifying this flower as Gomphrena globosa ‘Fireworks’.] In the background is a mix of various colors of Angelonia and Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’ (Purple Heart).
Watch the video to see the lovely wingspread. [Thanks to Eliza for noting insect is a male: black spots on hind wings and thinner webbing.]
I have not shown the garden along the southern side of the house in a long time. The Southern Side Path is a narrow border with a winding stone walkway, that provides access from the driveway down to the main garden in the back yard. If you walk down the path, turn around and look back up toward the street, this is the view you will see.
(Be careful not to turn your head to the right or you’ll see the neighbors’ house looming large.)
Standing in the distance near the street and not really part of the border, a Betula nigra (River Birch) is visible. This tree began losing lots of its leaves several weeks ago, but after some heavy rains came it decided to hold on to the rest of its foliage a while longer.
In the foreground, Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ usually has a few flowers this time of year, but the weather has been especially encouraging to it this autumn. Behind and underneath the clematis is Muhlenbergia capillaris (Pink Muhly Grass). In front (not visible) are planted Iris tectorum (Japanese Roof Iris).
In between the clematis and the river birch are a host of odds and ends. A few are:
Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ (Wormwood)
Iris germanica (Bearded iris)
Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’
Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm)
Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Plant)
Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion)
Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear)
Verbena bonariensis (Tall Verbena)
Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)
Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’
Amazingly, these and other plants that grow here are all ignored by the deer which make their way between the two houses quite often.
Sitting along the path just in front of the dark green Wintergreen boxwood shrub, (Buxus microphylla var koreana ‘Wintergreen’), is the current star of the Southern Side Garden. It is the fragrant Hedychium coronarium (Ginger lily) .
Last winter was exceedingly cold so when spring arrived I was concerned whether the Ginger lily had even survived. Fortunately by mid-May a few stalks had emerged. Through summer it never grew as full nor tall as it had during the previous two years, but finally today a flower opened.
I had been eagerly watching this tender perennial for quite a few weeks, hoping it would bloom before a frost could wilt it back to the ground. I was curious when it bloomed last year. In checking my photo records I noticed the set of dates when I took pictures of the flowering ginger lily. An unscientific but interesting observation is that for the previous two years the ginger lily had flowered much earlier than usual and for an extended period of time.
Dates Of Photographing Hedychium coronarium (Ginger lily) Blooms In My Garden
October 18, 2008
September 24, 2009 – October 25, 2009
2010 – ?
October 13, 2011
September 2 – November 2, 2012
August 10 – November 7, 2013
October 17, 2014
Leaving the Southern Side Path, turn around and come inside the main garden. Here yesterday, I again attempted to capture the elusive monarchs. This time a couple of the butterflies were nectaring on the Zinnias, which made it easier for me to get close and get a picture from the back with the wings open.
I particularly liked this image which not only captured the eyes clearly, but recorded pink reflections cast from the flower onto the underside of the wing and thorax of the butterfly.
A handful of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) arrived to the garden a week ago. Most often I have observed them dancing between the swamp sunflower and butterfly bush where it is difficult for me to get close.
This afternoon I set out to photograph three monarchs as they fed on Lantana camara (Common lantana) in the southern border.
They stayed put until I tried to move in, then each flew up high, away and settled again a few feet further, often on the opposite side of the fence where the lantana peeks through. When I switched to video the one in my viewfinder sat perfectly still until it sensed I had turned off the camera. I had to laugh.
I chose a few of the photographs and cropped them to reveal some of the detail.
Yesterday evening during dinner on the porch I glimpsed what I thought could be a Monarch, so this morning I headed out to investigate. In the northwest corner of the garden this solitary butterfly was enjoying nectar from the few remaining Zinnias.