A few more critters

I’ve seen these on the roads in the last few days.  My first thought was June bugs, but they must be cicadas.DSC04147I found this one on the back lawn.

I saw two beautiful spiders in the garden this morning, but when I got close they ran away and/or curled up into a ball.  One was orange and the other wasn’t.  This is as close as I could come.DSC04152My other fail at photography has to do with hummingbirds.  This morning I saw one fly away from the morning glory (yes, one tiny vine has persisted even though I tried to root it out) and rush to the cardinal climber vine.  It was followed by either three baby hummingbirds or three big bugs that can fly really fast.  Wow, do I fail at nature.  Here’s what attracted them.DSC04156Not many flowers, but what there is, is choice.  Plus beautifully cut leaves.

Day Lilies

The daylilies stopped blooming before I was quite ready for the show to be over, so I went in search of late-blooming dark reds to round out the collection.  I ended up with four plants from Oakes Daylilies.

blood spot daylily







Blood Spot (dreadful name) is a nice dark red.

Crimson Shadows daylily







Crimson Shadows comes highly touted as a rich, dark red.

Chicago Apache daylily








This one is Chicago Apache, said to be a good rebloomer.

Then I had to stray into the fragrant yellows and chose Lemon Lollypop (sic).

Lemon Lollypop daylily











This is another fragrant re-bloomer.  Oakes was kind enough to send a freebie, Tender Love.

Tender Love daylily







A rebloomer that has won an award for fragrance!  We’ll see.

I am very pleased with their service:  came on time, well packed, free plant, and four of the five were abundant enough that I got two or three plants from each one.

Summer successes

Like most people, I see what hasn’t worked and what needs to be done more than I notice the garden successes.  To remedy that, a few high notes:

The clethra has finally bloomed abundantly and is just as fragrant as I’ve been told.  The bees love it, too.  This is ‘Ruby Spice.”  I saw a clethra somewhere recently that was as big as a small tree, so I’ll have to keep an eye on this.  At least it is finally in a site where it can thrive.


The pink garden is coming right along, helped by the bright pink verbena I bought on a whim, and the pink Mandevilla vine that my neighbors planted. Here you see the crepe myrtle (is it Cherokee?) looming over the fence. It rains down tiny pink blossoms that fall onto the greenery below.

I finally tore down the thuggish morning glory that is self-sowing EVERYWHERE and didn’t look so good, despite this picture of the blossoms at their best.DSC03794
But you can already see that the leaves are being eaten by something, and the whole thing was looking shabby. I’ve planted some beans in its place.

Finally, the scarlet runner bean, which actually has orange blooms, is doing well on one side of the trellis, while the elegant cardinal climber vine with its finely cut leaves and small, brilliant red flowers is carpeting the other side. They really don’t go together, and although the bean attracts myriad bees, you can probably tell which I prefer.DSC03795

Flying things

Yesterday I saw this perched on a plant, either the datura or the day lilies in the sunny side garden.eastern pondhawk  There’s no pond nearby, but everything else I found about this dragonfly matches up with what I saw.  Based on some Googling, I’d call this a female eastern pondhawk.  Gorgeous!

Thanks,  bugguide, and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, for the information and the photo. (The remaining photos are mine.)

Other flying creatures include a hummingbird, which apparently avoids its own special feeder but loves the little red zinnias that have self-sowed in the vegetable bed, and also likes the bronze fennel although its flower is yellow.DSC04092


The butterfly hunt has resulted in yet another Silver-spotted Skipper.  I had hoped it was something more exotic, but it’s still pretty and kindly stayed in one place so I could take its picture.DSC04049  Like everyone else, it seems to love the verbena bonariensis, which has self-sowed everywhere.

The Goldilocks tree

For the last couple of years, I’ve planned to take out the butterfly bush that anchors the northern end of the sunny border and replace it with the perfect small tree or shrub.  It can be tall but can’t be too wide lest it impinge on the neighbors’ driveway, which they are very proud of and guard jealously. Ideally, it would be a native that supports lots of wildlife AND has at least two-season interest.

Well, perfect is the enemy of the good, as we all know, and I’ve been paralyzed.  Here are just a few of the possibilities.

The first is probably too big:

yaupon_hollyIlex vomitoria commonly known as Yaupon is native to a variety of areas including sandy woods, dunes, open fields, forest edges and wet swamps, often along the coastal plain and maritime forests, from Virginia to Florida, Arkansas and Texas. This is a thicket-forming, broadleaf evergreen shrub or small tree that typically grows in an upright, irregularly branched form to 10-20’ tall and to 10’ wide, but may grow taller in optimum conditions. Elliptic to ovate-oblong, leathery, glossy, evergreen, dark green leaves (to 1.5” long) have toothed margins. Small greenish-white flowers appear on male and female plants in spring (April). Flowers are fragrant but generally inconspicuous. Pollinated flowers on female plants give way to berry-like red (infrequently yellow) fruits 1/4” diameter) which ripen in fall and persist into winter. Birds are attracted to the fruit.  -Missouri Botanical Garden

The second is one that Anne Little had recommended for the back garden:


Magnolia virginiana, commonly called sweet bay magnolia, is native to the southeastern United States north along the Atlantic coast to New York. In the northern part of its cultivated growing range, it typically grows as either a 15-20′ tall tree with a spreading, rounded crown or as a shorter, suckering, open, multi-stemmed shrub. In the deep South, it is apt to be more tree-like, sometimes growing to 60′ tall. Features cup-shaped, sweetly fragrant (lemony), 9-12 petaled, creamy white, waxy flowers (2-3″ diameter) which appear in mid-spring and sometimes continue sporadically throughout the summer. Oblong-lanceolate shiny green foliage is silvery beneath. Foliage is evergreen to semi-evergreen in the South, but generally deciduous in the St. Louis area. Cone-like fruits with bright red seeds mature in fall and can be showy. See also Magnolia virginiana var. australis which primarily differs from the species by being somewhat taller, having more fragrant flowers and being more likely to be evergreen. -Missouri Botanical Garden

It’s said to prefer moist soils but everyone claims that once it’s established it would be fine through a Virginia summer.  But does it have more than spring interest?  And, 60 feet tall??  Though I’ve also read that it’s easily pruned.

Doug Tallamy recommends the native black cherry because it is a host plant for so much “vertebrate and invertebrate wildlife.”  However, a Dave’s Garden poster says:

In the garden or small property, I give this thumbs-down. It does not make an ornamental specimen, even in full bloom. The flowers are tiny and I don’t find them at all showy. I also find them mildly malodorous. The foliage is consistently troubled by tent caterpillars and webworms, and the twigs are commonly disfigured by black knot.

Like most cherries, it has thirsty, competitive roots. It self-sows weedily and aggressively. The wood is brittle and presents a hazard when it breaks. And the cherries stain everything black when they fall, those that the birds leave. Read more: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/2519/#ixzz38gH65R00

Too bad…

Tallamy also recommends a river  birch,  but they suck up all the water and get too big for my space.

Now, I do love crabapples, and he says that the non-native species seem to attract just as many creatures as the natives do, so maybe that’s the way to go.  Maybe Michael Dirr can recommend a small variety.

At least I have a silver (?) maple and a white oak, which both host myriad species.  I have yet to see a moth on the oak tree, but on the other hand I’ve only just started looking.




Capturing wildlife

Actually, just trying to photograph insects in hopes of identifying them later.  It’s much harder than it seems when you see a bee sitting tight and gorging itself on pollen (or is it gorging on nectar?  see, I really need a book), ready for its close-up.  First you have to get it in focus, then you have to take several pictures in rapid succession (I used the burst feature on my camera), then you look at them on the computer and realize that most of them are either sans bee or out of focus.

I got to the bees through this book, Butterflies_through_binocularswhich I’m enjoying despite its 1999 copyright and outdated info on taking photos.  Glassberg is an expert and an enthusiast, and it shows.  The introductory material on how and where to see butterflies and how to pay attention to them is quite illuminating.  Since butterflies come to life in sunshine, it’s mid-morning here before they are active in the front garden.  I think I’ll need to make note of the most common ones and start there.  Lots of skippers, in other words.

The butterfly book inevitably led me to need a similar book on moths and one on bees.  There’s a new bee book that I have my eye on, and here’s why. DSC03791

DSC03780 DSC03767





















I can tell that these is bees, but that’s all I know.  Hence the need for this book:bumble bees of north america






It is even now winging its way to me.  As it were.  As for moths, there’s a newish Peterson guide, but it covers northeastern America – not sure if that matters here in the southeast or not.  In the meantime, I’ve place the Covell guide on hold from the library.

All of this led me back to Douglas Tallamy’s inspiring book, Bringing Nature Home, which I now own in the revised edition.  As I was noticing the bees on the hostas, achillea, hyssop, and echinops, I also realized that I never see them on the daylilies (native to Eurasia), or the spirea (though Wikipedia tells me this is a food source for many larvae).  What I really want to do is to match my plants with the insects that feed on them, in hopes of identifying more insects.  A project for another day.

Not your average garden book

The-Bad-Tempered-Gardener-by-Anne-WarehamAnn Wareham may be a contrarian, but it’s not just for the sake of it.  She is genuinely puzzled by gardeners who put together a collection of plants rather than design a garden.  Her garden, Veddw, in the Welsh borders, is two acres of carefully designed garden (plus two acres of managed woods) that include some startling juxtapositions of colors and shapes.  She’s a big believer in pattern and repetition – not for her the wispy gardens of mixed perennials that are “pretty.”  Take a look at the glorious pattern of her hedges, echoing the Monmouthshire hills:


Another look at the power of pattern and repetition:veddw_symmetryAnd she’s hardly afraid of color:veddw_house_gardens_originalveddwgardens

She has a melancholy streak, too.

 Gardens confront us with the relentless passage of time, as the flowers come and go in a parade that gains in speed as year passes year.  Gardens are in endless, remorseless change and are always confronting us with our race towards death.  Historic gardens remind us that garden-makers like ourselves made a garden and then had to let go, die, and that the garden continued cheerfully without them.  Is this what is beneath the insistent upbeat jolliness of the garden world?  Is this what we conspire to avoid contemplating?

Refreshing, no?

She lives in the world of English gardeners in a country that may not do it right, according to her lights, but certainly pays a lot of attention to gardeners.  They are all over in newspapers, magazines and television, in ways that US gardeners can only envy.  It’s a small world, and Anne Wareham, with her thinkingardens, has carved out a very particular niche.

Oh, and it must be time to return to Wales and see the marvelous Veddw in person.