Rain, Fog and A Bit of Summer Sun . . .

July 13th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

Summer's Wild Wonder - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Basking in the Late Day Gift of Summer Sunlight on the Terrace – So Far This Season, Sunny Days Have Been Few & Far Between…

Hello, mid July. How did we get here so quickly? It’s been a busy start to summer, with little time for journaling, but I expect things to slow down a bit now that I’ve suspended planting and am back in the studio full-time. Rain and fog continue to soften the landscape, and although beautiful for making photographs, the weather has made this a challenging year for the New England farming community.

I just read that 3″ of rain fell in April and more than 9″ of rain saturated Vermont during the months of both May and June (the Amazon sees an average of 8″ or rainfall per month, read the full story here). No wonder it has been so hard to complete projects and stay on schedule! As difficult as landscaping work has been this year, it’s nothing compared to the plight of local farmers. I tip my hat to vegetable and fruit growers in my community. Working the land for a living and providing organically grown food —especially in a climate with such a short growing season— is truly a courageous life path. I remember well the seasons of water-logged strawberry fields, and the worried expressions worn by my parents, when the fruit rotted faster than we could pick.

Harvest Basket - A Slow Start to Summer Produce - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.comHere at Home, Produce has been Very Slow to Ripen in my Tiny Potager, but I am Picking the First Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes and Red Rubin Basil this Week

Winding the Way Through Wildflowers and Fog - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Most Days, I Find Myself Winding My Way to Work through Wildflowers and Fog . . .

Foggy Wildflower Meadow Hop - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com A Rainy Year Means Abundant & Long-Lasting Blossoms in the Meadowy Wildflower Walk . . .

The Dishwasher's Arrangement - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com And Plenty Extra for the Dishwasher’s Weekly Arrangement . . . 

Asclepias tuberosa - Butterflyweed in the Meadow - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Like a Tangerine Dream, Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) Sweetens the Verdant Meadow with Pollen and Nectar for Bees and Butterflies

Valeriana officinalis michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Sweet, Shimmering Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) . . .

Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' in July - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com And the Soft Whisper of Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) in Afternoon Sun . . .

John Creech Meets the Gladiators - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Polished Toes and Posies: John Creech Meets the Gladiators (Sedum spurium ‘John Creech’)

Nepeta sibirica 'Souvenir d'Andre Chaudron' - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Nepeta sibirica ‘Souvenir d’André Chaudron’, an Old Favorite from My Mother’s Garden, with Thalictrum pubescens Beyond

Lysmachia clethroides and Rudbeckia hirta Duke it Out in the Entry Garden - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com  An Uninvited and Pushy Garden-Party Crasher, Gooseneck Loosestrife (Lysmachia clethroides) Dukes it out with Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) in the Entry Garden

Veronica spicata 'Sunny Border Blue' in July - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Meanwhile, Veronica spicata ‘Sunny Border Blue’ Plays Nicely with Her Neighbors

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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Notes on Nature’s Bold Artistry: Brilliant, Blooming Butterfly Weed & Her Colorfully Patterned, Wild Guests …

July 9th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

Asclepias tuberosa – Our Beautiful, Native Butterfly Weed Catches the Golden Light of Summertime Along the Wildflower Walk

In search of inspiration for your next creative project; pattern, form or color play? Sometimes, you needn’t look further for fresh ideas than your own backyard! While out admiring the blooming butterfly weed in my Wildflower Walk yesterday, I happened to notice five examples of nature’s bold artistry on one garden plant. Asclepias tuberosa —as our North American, native butterfly weed is known in the botanical world— blooms in beautiful clusters of bright, citrus-punch orange. The tiny, nectar-loaded blossoms are popular with pollinators of all kinds; including bees, butterflies —like the fritillary pictured below— and hummingbirds. But other parts of this plant serve important purposes to wildlife as well. The leaves and stems of both butterfly weed and milkweed  —filled with sticky sap— provide sustenance to butterfly caterpillars; including the boldly striped larvae of the beautiful Monarch Butterfly. Asclepias sap is toxic to many of this caterpillar’s predators, providing the insect with natural defense. Small Milkweed Bugs —colored in bold red and black patterns— also look to Asclepias species for food; feeding upon the seed of this important native plant. Lady luck must have been walking with me yesterday as I strolled through the garden, because I happened upon not only eye-popping, orange blossoms, but wild black & yellow stripes and bold, modernist patterns all on one plant … talk about artistic inspiration!

A Bumble Bee and Fritillary Butterfly Share the Same Dining Table at Their Local Asclepias tuberosa

Last summer, I featured this beautiful, long-blooming summertime flower  —Asclepias tuberosa—  in a plant profile. You can view additonal photos of butterfly weed in flower, and find more about this wonderful garden-worthy member of the milkweed family, by clicking back to that profile post here.

A Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar (Danus plexippus) in my garden, munches on its favorite host-plant:  Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed). I am more than happy to plant plenty of flowers for both of us!

Yellow and Black on Orange: Another Beautiful & Colorful Guest, the North American Native Bumble Bee, Visits Asclepias tuberosa in Search of Sustenance 

And on the same plant, a Small Milkweed Bug (Lygaeus kalmii) scurries about beneath the leaves. This brightly colored bug feeds upon the seeds of milkweed and butterfly weed. Because milkweed is considered an agricultural weed, this insect is often regarded as a beneficial

Fritillary Butterflies Flock to the Nectar in Asclepias tuberosa – No Wonder It’s Commonly Called Butterfly Weed!

Asclepias tuberosa makes a great garden plant: pictured here along the Wildflower Walk with Amsonia hubrichitii, Asters, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ and Clethra Alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’. Try it in combination with blue and violet flowers for a bold contrast. Or cool things off with a bit of silver, and white!

To read more about Asclepias tuberosa and its cultural preferences click here.

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Butterflies on My Mind: Top Three Summer Blooming Plants for Attracting Fluttering Beauties to Your Garden…

March 11th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Asclepias tubersosa (Butterflyweed) and Asclepias syriaca (Milkweed) are important sources of nectar for bees and butterflies. The leaves of Asclepias are also a source of food for monarch and other butterfly caterpillars.

With my seminar, “Gardening to Attract Birds, Bees and Butterflies” coming up on Monday night —and last week’s visit to Magic Wings Butterfly Conservancy still in my thoughts— you might say I have a fluttering of winged-creatures on my mind. Of course I’m always thinking of how to support honeybees in the garden (follow the Honeybee Conservancy blog here) and what’s good for the bees is often good for the birds and the butterflies. But when it comes to attracting monarchs, swallowtails, painted ladies and other kaleidoscopic, winged-beauties to your garden, there are three key “butterfly magnets” to consider in your planting plan. Butterflies enjoy many cluster-flowered plants, but Asclepias (Milkweed), Verbena —particularly Verbena bonariensis— and Buddleja species (Butterfly bush) are simply irresistible to them. Plant any one of these beauties in your garden and you will always get a landing and never just a fly-by. And as an added bonus, they are among the favorites of bees and hummingbirds as well…

Verbena bonariensis is a tropical plant grown as an annual or semi-annual (sometimes self-sowing) in cold climates. It’s popular with butterflies and bees alike.

Asclepias, more commonly known as milkweed, is a wonderful group of plants; including many natives. Last year I featured the gorgeous Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed) in a post on mid-summer color (click here to read more about this North American native plant). I love bold color combinations in sunny, summertime perennial borders. Why not combine the sweet orange of butterfly weed with drifts of ethereal, lavender-hued Verbena bonariensis? Commonly known as purpletop vervain or tall verbena, Verbena bonariensis is a tropical plant native to Central and South America. In cold climates, Verbena bonariensis is usually grown as an annual or semi-annual plant (blooms the first year from seed and it will sometimes successfully self-sow), and in warmer climates it is grown as a tender perennial (hardy USDA zones 7-11). This is a tall, airy, elegant plant (approx 3-4.5′ tall and wide) with strong, slender stems (I like to grow plenty both in my perennial borders and in the potager for cutting). Purpletop vervain looks best when planted en masse for a hazy, purple cloud-like effect, and it prefers well-drained soil and plenty of moisture (will tolerate hot and dry, midsummer conditions once established).

Buddleja davidii (Orange-eye Butterfly Bush) lives up to its name. It is a favorite of butterflies, hummingbirds and bees.

Butterfly bush, or Buddleja (B. davidii pictured above) is perhaps the most popular plant for butterfly and hummingbird enthusiasts. Native to Chile and China, these flowering shrubs are long-standing, easy-to-grow garden favorites. Butterfly bush species are tolerant of poor, alkaline soil, polluted, urban situations and stress, making them a good choice in some areas. However, gardeners should be aware that one Buddleja species, Buddleja davidii, is listed as a “noxious weed” in certain areas of the United States (Oregon and Washington specifically list B. davidii as a noxious-weed, and it is possibly invasive in southwestern, coastal Canada) because of its free-seeding ways (it’s best to check with the USDA state noxious weed list online —linked here— or your local USDA Extension Service —linked here— before planting Buddleja davidii; particularly along the west coast and possibly in warmer states on the eastern seaboard)*. If you live in Oregon or Washington, or in another area where Buddleja davidii is considered invasive, consider a non-aggressive butterfly bush species, such as Buddleja globosa (USDA zone 7-11, orange ball tree/ball butterfly bush), or in cooler climates, consider planting native Clethra alnifolia (see my previous post & article on this shrub here). Buddleja davidii (synon. Buddleia davidii) is hardy in zones 5-9, and in cold climates (where it is far less likely to freely colonize and become weedy) B. davidii is treated as a perennial plant; cut back to the ground in late fall or early spring. New growth will emerge in spring and flowers will form on fast-growing young wood in the first year. Fountain butterflybush, Buddleja alternifolia, and Buddleja globosa (and other Buddleja species) produce blossoms on old wood, and should be pruned for shape in late spring or early summer after they have flowered. Buddleja alternifolia is considered to be a somewhat hardier species than Buddleia davidii. I have observed B. alternifolia growing in zone 4.

I will be writing more about how to attract butterflies, bees and birds to gardens in the coming months. But, if you are planning your garden now, you may want to add a couple of these sure-fire butterfly magnets to your shopping list!

*Buddleja davidii is not currently on the USDA federal invasive plant list. However, it is currently considered a “noxious weed” in Oregon and Washington (check state noxious weed/invasive plant lists here) Many plants considered “weedy” or “invasive” in one area are non-threatening in other areas. It is the responsibility of the individual gardener to know and respect the laws and environmental guidelines within their respective states and communities.

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Article and photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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