Butterfly Conclave

With the sun’s penchant for playing hide-n-seek in recent weeks, it’s been a slow-go for butterfly watching.  If it’s not vomiting rain, it’s cloudy, and neither scenario is conducive for butterfly activity.   But during the increasingly common moments of sunshine, the winged jewels are out and about, nectaring, mating and laying eggs–and posing for garden paparazzi.

This Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes, enjoyed a treat at the flowers of my Mexican Orchid Tree.

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Black Swallowtail,  Papilio polyxenes, like this gorgeous specimen,

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…are common visitors.  I’ve invited them by having their host plant, fennel, in my gardens.  They lay their eggs on it for the hatched caterpillars to eat.  This adult  is nectaring on a Henry Duelberg Sage,  Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’. He fluttered still long enough for the wildlife gardener to snap a couple of shots.

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There was one, ONE, Monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, who visited my gardens this spring, but she was a late-comer.IMGP7970.new

Given her good condition, I’m sure she was one that hatched from a parent who overwintered in Mexico, migrated north, mated, laid eggs and died here in Austin, or nearby.

IMGP7971_cropped_2170x2783..new I’m certain that she’s on her way north now, ready to continue the generations that will eventually summer in Canada, before the autumn migration south to Mexico.

In this post I’m going for the big, gorgeous, cheap-thrill butterflies that alight on flowers, remain relatively still and that anyone can take photos of.  There have been plenty fast-flying skippers and smaller butterflies/moths that I haven’t captured in digital form for posterity, but there are some nice shots of this little moth.IMGP8177.new

The Small Pink MothPyrausta inornatalis, is another regular in my garden and so pretty in its pink scales.

IMGP8178_cropped_2710x2728..new The generous rainfall and soft spring have encouraged an abundance of life in the garden and after years of moderate to severe drought here in Central Texas, that life is welcome.  I hope the insects in your garden are enjoying spring and playing their important pollinator roles–ensuring the balance that is challenged on so many fronts.

A Little Night Blooming

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A little morning blooming, too.

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My white and pink Four O’Clock, Mirabilis jalapa, are joyously flowering this spring. These are passalong plants from gardening buddy, TexasDeb, who blogs at the most excellent austin agrodolce.IMGP8014_cropped_3359x2973..new

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For years I’ve coveted Four O’Clocks, also known as Marvel of Peru, for my gardens. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to snag some, but they’re merrily floriferous in my garden now.

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They are called “Four O’Clocks” because single blooms open in late afternoon, bloom all night and into the morning hours, then close, ready to set seed.

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IMGP0856.new I’ve always thought Four O’Clocks would be great companion plants to the native Texas Rock Rose, Pavonia lasiopetala.

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Pavonia flowers open early in the morning and close with the heat of the afternoon, especially during summer.  Four O’Clocks throw open their windows for the pollinators at roughly the same time that the Rock Rose blooms shutter their petals for their night-time rest.  Nice time-sharing for pollination, am I right?

Somehow, I managed  to NOT plant any of TexasDeb’s Four O’Clock gifts alongside the multitudes of Rock Rose plants in my gardens.  Despite that planting blunder, I’m still enjoying their fragrance and beauty. At night,

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….and at morning’s’ first light.

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Late afternoons in spring, summer, and autumn, the tubular flowers are full-to-bursting, waiting for the sun to set so they can open for business, providing nectar and pollen for (primarily) moths.IMGP8224.new

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Originally from the Peruvian Andes, the Four O’Clock plant is thought to have been transported back to Europe and cultivated there.  There are native forms of this genus in Central and North America, though it’s likely that most M. jalapa found in home gardens  are common, long-established cultivars.

They do seed out,

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…and this spring, I’ve already plucked seedlings gifted by the mother plants.  I wish I had room for more of these lovelies.  Alas, my gardens are stuffed.

The tuberous roots may grow quite large, which is probably why Four O’Clocks are hardy, water-wise plants which snicker at our hot summers, blooming all the while. They die back with winter chill, to their bulbous roots, returning quickly with the warmer, longer days of spring.

Four O’Clocks are a mainstay of the traditional southern garden and going forward, mine as well.

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Must I Share?

I planted blackberries so that I could eat them.

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I also planted blackberries to bake blackberry pie and eat that too, or some of it.

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I planted blackberries because I like smoothies and they are delicious when made with  blackberries.IMGP8149.new

I didn’t plant blackberries so that the squirrels could eat them.

IMGP7659.new Little scamp!  That’s not actually what I said when I saw him nibbling at my berries.

I enjoyed watching this  Gray Catbird, Dumetella carolinensis, visit my garden,IMGP7954_cropped_3097x2751..new

…I didn’t enjoy watching him eat  my blackberries.IMGP7918.new

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Does he look smug to you?

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I guess he’s sitting in the catbird seat.