Fragile, Enduring: Wildlife Wednesday, January 2019

Happy 2019–may it be a year of peace for all and good gardening for those who seek, and find, solace in the outdoors.  Today is Wildlife Wednesday, marked on this first Wednesday of the month, with the goal of chronicling the wild ones in our gardens and celebrating the connection with nature that a garden delivers.

One afternoon recently, I wandered my garden, reviewing the limited freezer-burn damage on certain perennials, and a lone butterfly caught my attention as it fluttered past me, wacky and zig-zaggy, but with purpose.  It alighted on a nearby ceramic sphere which has, from time-to-time, supplied landing for other winged creatures.

The butterfly was still for a time, then turned around, modeling its stylized wings, allowing photographic capture from different angles.  While it seemed that the butterfly invited viewing at varying perspectives–proud of its pulchritude, no doubt–I’m not sure that he/she appreciated the photography session.

It to dared me to get closer. I didn’t.

This autumnally hued butterfly is a Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta, and is common throughout the continental United States and other parts of the world, including Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia.

It’s a butterfly of the Earth.

Not endangered in any part of the world, this member of the Nymphalidae family primarily feeds on tree sap, bird poop, and fermenting fruit, more than imbibing from blooms.  I recall one nectaring at some flower in my garden, but I can’t remember which flower–I’ll need to pay more attention next time.  As far as I’m aware, I don’t grow any of its host plants (those plants that the adult lays eggs upon and that the caterpillars eat from), which consists of various types of nettles.  But there must be host plants in my area because Red Admirals are regular visitors in my garden throughout the year: spring, summer, autumn, winter.

The butterfly perched on the globe in daylight, near the sun’s reflection; the un-butterflied half of the sphere remained in darkness.


The blue globe, with its swirls of green in foliage reflection, evoked for me the beauty, and innocence, of the first view of our lovely Earth, taken 50 years ago on December 24, 1968, by astronaut Bill Anders, as he and his crewmates orbited the moon aboard Apollo 8.


During the fourth orbit of the moon, Anders captured the historic and iconic view of our little blue and white planet, seemingly alone and vulnerable, but stunningly beautiful.


Anders snapped the iconic Earthrise photo during the crew’s fourth orbit of the moon, frantically switching from black-and-white to color film to capture the planet’s exquisite, fragile beauty.

“Oh my God, look at that picture over there!” Anders said. “There’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!”

Before the flight, no one had thought about photographing Earth, according to Anders. The astronauts were under orders to get pictures for potential lunar landing sites while orbiting 70 miles (112 kilometers) above the moon.

“We came to explore the moon and what we discovered was the Earth,” Anders is fond of saying.


Earthrise changed how we saw the Earth and is credited with emboldening the environmental movement.  The photo remains a symbol of Earth’s beauty and fragility, but also of our eternal relationship with, and sense of responsibility toward, our only home.

I remember bits about the Apollo missions, as viewed on my family’s black and white television set and as seen in color photos in LIfe and Time magazines.  Earthrise has been a part of my life since childhood.

In my own gardening experience on my little plot of the Earth, at a local botanical garden where I gardened for a time, and at others’ gardens that I’ve tended, I’ve been all-in for the flowers and foliage. My original interest in gardening focused on creating interesting spaces of color and texture which would require less maintenance than an expanse of lawn.  I was attracted by and interested in native Texas plants, but have always included hardy non-invasive non-natives that add structure and variety, augmenting the diversity of the gardens.

Over time, I’ve observed what other gardeners and naturalists have observed: wildlife– pollinators, birds, amphibians, mammals, and reptiles–appear when an environment is welcoming and conducive to their needs.  Gardens with limited (or no) chemical intervention, and which provide water, cover, and food, nurture and protect complex ecosystems.  I’ve come to understand the synchronistic thread which binds plants to their insects, birds, and other wildlife, and now appreciate how wildlife enriches–and is enriched by–gardening choices. Like Astronaut Anders, who came to discover the moon, but instead, found the Earth, I explored gardening and discovered wildlife.

I still love a pretty plant, but I strive to garden for wildlife.  My gardening choices favor the feeding and protecting of wild creatures endemic or migratory, who live in or visit my garden. More than when I embarked on this avocation, I recognize the value of the whole system–plants, wildlife, environment–rather than following garden fads, or planting, willy-nilly, with little regard to the whole picture.

I hope your gardening experiences involve wild critters and if not, that you’ll spend some of 2019 studying your region to learn how to best provide for wildlife, and thus bringing life to your garden.

For more about Apollo 8 and the Earthrise photo, check out this Washington Post article (be sure to watch the embedded video which re-creates the situation which made the photos possible!) and also, this mini-documentary from PBS, Earthrise, .as told from the perspectives of the three astronauts.

Please leave a link to your Wildlife Wednesday post when you comment here.Happy New Year and good wildlife gardening for 2019!


36 thoughts on “Fragile, Enduring: Wildlife Wednesday, January 2019

    • Thanks, Shirley and yup, fuzzy and black-n-white! Interesting about your red admirals and the pittosporum–I’ll pay more attention going forward, but mostly, my admirals flit around the garden and perch on things. 🙂


  1. What a wonderful and inspiring post. I love the connection you created with the ceramic globe, earth rise, and the intricate web one discovers when creating a garden. Thank you for sharing your experiences and knowledge. May 2019 be full of wonders for you!


  2. We are of like minds. I started “gardening” with houseplants while in college. I had one of those butterflies in my yard and it landed on a guest’s head. I said I would look up the name and now I don’t have to. I’m also a bit of a space geek and watch every documentary and sci-fi I can. Watching Star Trek as I type…and birds from my window.


  3. Beautiful musings to ring in the new year, Tina! That classic shot of our planet drove home the fragility of our situation. In my opinion, it is still the perfect inspiration to keep driving environmental issues hard. Here is to a better year ahead for our planet and our co-inhabitants!


  4. I made that same beautiful, hopeful connection seeing that butterfly on the blue globe. What a perfect image. We are living in an extinction emergency yet life keeps trying when given even a tiny foothold. I missed out on this Wildlife Wednesday but I’d like to participate in the next. Here’s a Wildlife Wednesday-like article we recently published: Next time I’ll make sure to link back. Thanks for organizing this. It is a terribly important thing to appreciate the life around us.


  5. Hi Tina, It’s a very long time since I have logged on here and I’ve a great deal to catch up on, yours is the first post. I am quite moved by your narrative, you have written this so beautifully. Julie x


  6. Pingback: Duck inspired plan for 2019 | Country Garden UK

  7. Pingback: Wordless Wildlife Wednesday – Birds | Frogend dweller's Blog

    • Thank you, Allison. Interesting that the red admirals do eat of your fallen fruit. I think I need to pay more attention to where they’re landing (when not on the ceramic globe!). I have seen one fluttering around my compost bin from time-to-time, I suppose there’s something rotten in there. 🙂


    • Thank you, Ms. Kitty! It is rewarding, this business of planting and observing those who require the plants. If you click on the link for the PBS documentary ‘Earthrise’, the astronauts themselves share their story–it’s fascinating!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Beautifully written – your words are especially important as inspiration these days when it is all too easy to throw in the trowel, to feel that whatever steps taken in our own island of wild can never be enough. I’ve not been posting to my blog for months but that simply makes me treasure those of you who continue to illuminate, educate, and advocate, even more. It cannot matter than no one of us can do it “all”, we all must simply do what we can. Happy Wildlife Wednesday (and Thursday and Friday and…).,,,,


    • Thank you, Deb. Trust me when I say that I also feel like throwing my garden-gloved hands up, and often. But, I persist. 🙂 Musing in my garden, or taking a walk or a hike is rejuvenating, and so, I continue.


  9. Lovely post. And did you know that the Red Admiral was originally called Red Admirable? Hubby and I like to call it the latter, anyway. 🙂

    Happy new year.


  10. I spent a good bit of time the past few days watching the news conferences and reports from New Horizons’ visit to Ultima Thule. I think it’s important not only for the scientific information that will be gleaned, but also because it encourages us to again look outward, beyond ourselves, to what’s yet to be discovered. Perhaps as it did for the astronauts, that kind of looking outward will turn our gaze earthward again, and renew a sense of commitment to this place we call home.

    I’m so looking forward to the coming year, and to watching all of your gardens shake off their fallow time to begin blooming again. While I’m not in a position to garden myself, I can encourage others, and perhaps find a garden to help with this year. Last year’s native plant society project — a new garden in a new civic park — seems to have fizzled, but I’ll keep looking around.


    • I agree with you and I hope that we will recognize (and some certainly have) that for the foreseeable future, Earth is our home and we must take care of her.

      You may not have a garden to tend, but you provide such value with your stunning photos, gorgeous prose, and your enthusiasm for our beautiful flora and fauna.
      Let’s move forward into 2019 celebrating our part of the Earth and helping it heal in any way we are able.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Always happy to read your about your wildlife-friendly gardening philosophy. Much of my large yard is left-alone native plants, but I’d like to have more pollen sources. I’m considering planting more wildflowers this spring (xerophytic natives), maybe even convert the pea patch!


    • Thanks, Hollis. Are there wildflowers common during your summer and autumn months that are available in either small pots or by seed? It seems like your climate is friendly to having wildflowers during the course of the growing season. I’d love to read some posts about wildflowers on your blog.


  12. I enjoyed your post, and particularly the Cosmic view you have taken.
    At first, I thought conservation was defined by not shooting things out-of-season. Before long, I found that conservation was year-round and global. Animals of all kinds requiring respect and care. The third iteration of my conservation philosophy was to include landscape environment and plants. Elimination of invasives and promotion of natives.
    Now, my mature conservation ethic leads me to treat all things with this same reverence, with a desire to embrace and protect all the natural elements of our blue ball, including the non-living. This includes the soil itself, the fertile oceans, the streaming clear rivers, the calving glaciers.
    Earth is my mother, and all of her pains are my pains, her losses my losses.
    I shall cling and cleave unto her, and defend her with my life, to my last day.

    May peace and nature fill your days and nights.


    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve used the xerophytic native seed mix from Beauty Beyond Belief (Boulder, CO) and liked it–source for my current wildflower beds. These plants are now well-established, and yet they had a rough time last season–a second year of drought. I ended up watering them for the first time (aside from the year I planted them). I’m hesitant to start another bed … but I guess I should be optimistic. And if we get decent moisture this year (hope!!), I will do a post about them 🙂


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