Wings

Wings are things year-round in my garden. Even in winter, there are, minimally, honeybees and Red Admiral butterflies zooming and flitting during those shorter days. But late summer and into autumn, winged insects are a constant source of activity, adding an “experientially rich” dynamic that is always present in a garden, but heightened in the latter months of the growing season.

As the days grow noticeably shorter (though not cooler) I’ve been out and about in the garden, and some of those times, remembered to bring the camera along.

The Southern Pink Moths are familiar in the garden, very often resting on plants in the salvia genus like this White Tropical sage, Salvia coccinea.

Southern Pink Moth, Pyrausta inornatalis

It’s nearly always sometime in July that I spy my first Bumble bees in the garden. They zoom in, buzzing like miniature planes, intent on working a set of blooms before departing for new territory and fresh flowers. This one worked the blue blooms of Henry Duelberg sage, Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’ for several minutes. The bee was never still enough for me to capture a good shot, but it did its pollination duty, its proboscis stuck deep in the bloom for maximum slurping.

American Bumble Bee, Bombus pennsylvanicus

Zexmenia, Wedelia texana, is a pollinator magnet and attracts a wide variety of native flies and bees. This bee is probably a bee in the “hairy legged” category like a minor or digger bee. My best guess is that it’s a longhorn bee, but in this photo that’s hard to confirm, as its antennae are hidden, bee head buried deep in the bloom.

Native Apidae bee

There’s a whole crew of yellow and white butterflies that become very active in July and downright ubiquitous in the following months and they are all fast flyers. This Little Yellow cooperated with me while dining on another Zexmenia bloom. Have I mentioned that Zexmenia flowers are pollinator favorites?

Little Yellow, Pyrisitia lisa

Late summer is also when the hummingbirds are most active. Males, females, and juveniles are ramping up for migration southward and feeding on the abundance of flowering plants. This cutey fussed at me as I bumbled around, initially unaware that she was feeding nearby. She dashed to a branch and scolded me; I snapped a few shots. After moving to a more remote spot, I waited until she’d rested and felt comfortable enough to return to the Turk’s cap that she’d been feeding on before I rudely disturbed her.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Archilochus colubris

The Monarchs are coming through! It seems like the migration is early, but I welcome visits from these iconic butterflies. Gregg’s mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, is a preferred source of nectar for many butterflies and bloom in time for the autumn Monarch migration.

Monarch Butterfly, Danaus plexippus

Not pollinators, but predators, damsel and dragon flies got a late start this year, probably due to the winter storm in February. They’re everywhere now! A number of species visit my garden, mostly, though not exclusively, hanging around the pond. Their flight patterns are similar to those of bees rather than butterflies: less flitting, more zooming. They also rest for periods, like this one perched on a leaf of Pickerel Rush, Pontederia cordata.

Blue Dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis

And this one, sitting pretty atop unopened blooms of Texas craglily, Echeandia texensis.

A Queen butterfly, Danaus gilippus, nectars on a Gregg’s mistflower–just like its cousin the Monarch. I have Queens in my gardens on and off throughout the year. Smaller and more polka-dotty than Monarch, they do look similar enough that they’re often confused with Monarchs.

Queen Butterfly, Danaus gilippus

Another winged summer thing is the Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae. A colorful butterfly–cheery orange with white and black spots–this is a bright adornment in the garden. These feed on a variety of flowers, though I think this one had hatched from its chrysalis shortly before I found it on the spent blooms of a Lyre-leaf sage. The green in the background of this photo is the host plant for Gulf Fritillaries, passionflower vine, specifically Passiflora incarnata. This particular vine grows messily in a pebbled negative space with a surrounding garden. I leave the “weeds” in the space because…butterflies!!

Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae

I do have one “official” passionflower vine, purposely planted and growing on a trellis–a set of three seedling Passiflora caerulea which I transplanted a few weeks before the snow/ice storm in February. The seedlings weathered the storm, grew, and have produced several generations of fritillaries. Currently, those three vines are nought but stems, the foliage having been eaten away by ravenous caterpillars. I’m not worried about losing the plants; the vines should survive and with some autumn rain, flush out fully for further fritillaries.

While I was photographing the first fritillary, a butterfly buddy (also newly hatched?) joined in the fun, wings spread wide to dry–and maybe show off?

The Mexican orchid tree, Bauhinia mexicana, attracts lots of bees and big swallowtail butterflies. As I watched, this Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes, fed at the flowers, lumbered off, came back to the tree, flew off again–but returned to the luscious offering of the blooms.

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio cresphontes

I grow White-veined pipevine, Aristilochia fimbriata, a lovely shade tolerant ground cover and a host plant for Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, Battus philenor. This year, there has been a bumper crop of butterflies, chrysalises seemingly attached everywhere in the back garden. I’ve been fortunate to observe a couple of these beauties as they emerged from their cocoon and entered the world as winged adults. Pipevine Swallowtails are fast flyers and, while I observe their nectaring everyday, I’ve been missing to opportunity for a photograph until I found this one enjoying a Basket flower, Centaurea americana, and had my camera ready to shoot.

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor

I’m fortunate to live in a place with a long growing season, so watching winged wonders is almost a year-round adventure. I hope you have some winged things in your garden, too! If not, maybe it’s time to get cracking and plant some nectar and host plants for butterflies and moths and a variety of blooming things for bees and hummingbirds.

Diggin’ In

The little honeybee was all in as she worked the center of the Globe Mallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua.  Surrounded by glorious orange walls, with an extended garden of grey-green, she exhibited single-mindedness toward her important pollination work.

As I watched, she crawled around the pollen-laden center of the bloom, oblivious to me and anything else that might disrupt her concentrated efforts.  Her movements were frenzied, focused solely on the pistils of the flower.

Eventually, she worked her way out of her orange office, flew to another bloom, pollen grains speckled on her various parts.

Celebrating her dedication to task, I’m joining in with Anna and her Wednesday Vignette.  Check out her beautiful Flutter and Hum for musings of various sorts.

A Roof with a View

With apologies to E.M. Forster, it’s always interesting to see someone or something through different eyes.  But first, some background: we’ve had a raccoon visiting our back garden.  We haven’t actually seen him or her, but twice it has knocked over one of my bird baths.  This is a blue ceramic that we all like:  the gardener, the birds, the bees.

This photo is several years old and the bird bath sat in a different area of my garden at that time.

It’s an old bird bath and has been knocked over before, but this time the fall was fatal–the fall busted the basin to the point of no return.   I purchased a commercially made, large, heavy, container pot drainage plate and glued it using E6000 to the original and undamaged bird bath pedestal.

Voilà!

Two nights later, the marauding monster knocked the entire bird bath over again. Scoundrel!  The plate, now bird bath basin, wasn’t dislodged from the pedestal and no damage occurred, except to my back as I Iifted and set the bird bath upright once more.  That the now heavier bird bath can be upturned and its basin remain attached and intact is a testament to 1) the strength, and perhaps size, of the raccoon, and 2) the adhesive power of E6000.  I learned about the magical powers of E6000 when I was studying art, specifically ceramics, in recent years.  The stuff works!

I can also tell that the masked miscreant has been mucking around in my pond.  The fish are skittish, the pond lilies askew, and the water murky.

Additionally, once or twice recently and well after dark, we’ve heard a sort of thump on our roof or patio cover (it’s hard to tell exactly where).  Is this a visiting raccoon or is he/she  perhaps squatting somewhere on our property, possibly on the roof?  Raccoons have moved in under our solar panels in the past, but they were juveniles, small and oh so cute, and their homesteading occurred in late summer/early fall after their mamas booted their fuzzy butts from parental care.  We’ve installed a metal protective barrier between the roof and the solar panels to prevent such critter habitation, but raccoons are strong–remember the bird bath.  Could one have busted the barrier?

So out comes the ladder and up goes The Hub to check out any evidence or damage indicating raccoon invasion or vandalism.   From the ground, the only thing I could see under the solar panel was a suspicious lump.  Might that be a raccoon, snoozing in the morning? The Hub verified by spraying water from the pitch of the roof downward and under the panels.  The lump didn’t move, didn’t shift. Turns out, it was a bundle of leaves, but when you’re on the hunt for a rascally raccoon, it’s good to check out all suspects. Thankfully, there was no obvious raccoon renter on or near the roof.  Whew!  That’s good news, though I’m sure our mischievous mammal is still around, most recently squashing some plants at the base of a tree.  Varmint!!

While on the roof, The Hub took pictures of the garden with his phone.  We live in a one-story home and I’m not one to hang out on rooftops, so it’s a view I don’t often enjoy. The photos demonstrate a different and delightful view of the garden I know so well.

The back garden is pie-shaped and the far corner is completely obscured by the tree.  The rest of this part of the garden is also mostly hidden by the lush canopy of the Red Oak tree, but two of our three bee hives sit in an open area.

 

Moving leftward, the main garden with the pond, comes into view.  My back garden is shady (pop-up sunflower, notwithstanding) and growing showy flowers is challenging, but I’m pleased that foliage variety is apparent from above and lends interest to this large garden.

 

The central and narrower part of my back garden hosts the pond, seating areas (some of which are out of camera view) and two other perennial gardens, left of the photo.

 

The northern, left-most part of the garden is where the raccooned-targeted bird bath sits.  The new basin is shallower than the original, but I think the birds will like it, though so far, they’ve been shy about taking a plunge.  The bees however, approve; they were ready for sipping before I added water.

At the left of the photo and hidden by the overhang of the roof is a fence with a gate which leads to the compost bin and a work/storage area.  If you look at the bottom right of this photo, you can see the remains of the broken bird bath basin.  Darn raccoon!

I’ve allowed some late summer and autumn wildflowers to seed out in this area, where I also house yard waste bins, extra mulch, and other garden paraphernalia.  This area becomes messy, but sometimes, I tidy it up.  Sometimes.

The front of the house hosts a raised bed in conjunction to the driveway.  You can see an edge of the solar panels and the darkened spot is where Hub ran the water underneath the panels to flush out, the “raccoon” that wasn’t.   This part of the garden enjoys significantly more sun than the back garden, though it just barely qualifies as “full” sun.  Still, I can grow many bloomers which please the pollinators. Yay!

The last major part of my garden lies in front of the garage, to the right of the above photo.  Shaded by a declining Arizona Ash tree, it’s a nice place to sit and pet the cat (if he’s out), finish the crossword puzzle, or chat with neighbors–all of which we do.  The mulched walkway leads to a narrow side garden.

I take photos of my gardens at least once during each season because it’s a good way for me to see things that, somehow, I don’t directly observe with my eyes.   The view from the roof is revealing and instructive, seeing my garden like the birds see it–looking down upon diverse and mixed foliage, and viewing the flow of pathways and islands of gardens.  I now recognize that there are things and areas that I might change, but I’m glad my space is all garden, full and lush, and a welcome home for critters.

I wouldn’t mind, however, if the raccoon critter would move along to another place.

I’m pleased to join with Anna and her Wednesday Vignette.   Check out her blog, Flutter and Hum, for musings of various sorts.