Friday, July 26, 2013

A Play of Light and Whites in A Late June Garden Walkabout

I am offering a rather long, mostly silent, walkabout but one that promises a flora and fauna feast for the senses. Plenty of textures to tickle the imagination along with delicious fragrances and bright refractions within butterfly wings.  

Walking though the gardens here at Flower Hill Farm in mid to late June can be intoxicating and enchanting. While strolling and scrolling down, be sure to imagine a gentle breeze blowing through leaves and fronds . . . the greenery in continual movement . . . a verdure river of vegetation. The air gently caressing your skin and hair, while delivering or wafting nature's exclusive perfume . . .  no artificial chemicals here . . .  to your alert olfactory organs. Clouds, slowly forming, hang in the vast canopy of azure sky above.  No nagging mosquitoes or flies . . . for the Tree Swallows, you will note, are gently sweeping the sky, while dragonflies zigzag by. 

Also, put your mind to music and conjure up a chorus of songs. Indigo Bunting singing out from atop a Black Cherry, Bluebird murmurs and trebles of Cedar Waxwings in unison, along with countless other calls floating through the boughs of trees and shrubberies as birds dash about from nest to blueberry field. Add to these sounds the humming of bees and cheeps of nestlings from within tall grasses or plantings, as well as, above in the arms of trees. 

For color . . .  there is a focus . . . a play of mostly whites within and above the greens. Kousa Dogwood, Sweet Fern, Goat's Beard, Budding Bugbane or Cimicifuga, another native I have forgotten - rather like a fringe tree only a perennial, Tree Lilac, Hydrangeas, Mock orange, Climbing Hydrangea, Viburnum and more add texture and delight along this walkabout. 

One cannot miss the many butterflies that flit about and at this time, thirty or more larger, Tiger Swallowtails may flutter into view and light upon a favored delicious white bloom. Numerous others are about . . . too many to name for now, but I have added an Admiral, a Fritillary and a Sulphur for those who share my thrill for Lepidoptera. As you stand near the large Hydrangeas, you will no doubt notice the bustle of native bees . . . the whir of the busy pollinators seems to make the bushes vibrate.

Enough of the introduction . . . you are entering fragments of a living landscape painting. My apologies for too many words to read and far too many images to see. You are now in control of the tour and your preferred speed to scroll. Enjoy the stroll. 

After walking along the grassy paths up and down hillocks and through fields and shrubberies, I should love to offer you a cup of tea and perhaps we could chat about your experience or I could do my best to answer any questions . . . perhaps someday you may step out of the virtual into the real world of Flower Hill Farm. I should love to welcome you. 

A play of white continues into the July garden next week. Thank you for visiting!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Back To Cooler Garden Days of June ~ Roses, Mauves, Reds and Bluebird Broods

July has been a sultry mix so far with last night's "humiture" becoming more bearable or wearable I might say. I find it amusing that a former weatherman and gardener of the name George Winterling developed what we know as the 'heat index'  . . .  where the temperature of the air and that of the relative humidity are combined to come up with 'how hot it feels.' Well, we have all been feeling the heat wave and riding it as best we can. 

Back awhile ago, I promised to share the mauves and pinks that were filling the cooler June gardens. As promised . . .  a stroll through mostly the middle and north gardens dressed mainly in greens . . .  with pinks, mauves, reds and splashes of white. I hope to catch up with the July gardens before the month is out.

Looking southeast towards the Mount Holyoke Range and middle garden where the Bluebirds are now raising their second brood. Rosa Rugosa, Miss Canada Lilac and Beauty bush frame a tunnel-like space, that birds and butterflies flit through, leading into the middle gardens.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails emerge in greater numbers just as the pink 'Miss Canada' Lilac blooms.

Rosa Rugosa 'Purple Pavement' never disappoints.  The delicious fragrance floats throughout the gardens. Later plump rose-hips become important food for the birds overwintering here.

Weigela florida 'Carlton' is also called 'Ghost' for the way the leaves turn a lighter color in the summer. 

I thought it would be a great plant for the hummingbirds, but I have yet to see one visiting the small shrub. Native bees do enjoy the nectar and will go to the trouble of opening the buds themselves to venture inside. The deer walk right by it and never take a bite.

You can see the Bluebird house is open in the photo above. The first brood fledges in mid June and so I remove the front panel of the nestbox, clean and then allow the simple, rustic birdhouse to air out. When the Weigela is in full bloom the bluebirds have fledglings. By mid-July they are busy caring for their second brood in the same nestbox. My cleaning and airing methods met with approval.

 Papa Bluebird is an intense or perfervid harvester of caterpillars . . . perfervid is a perfect word in reflecting these steamy hot days. "From modern Latin perfervidus, from Latin per - 'utterly' & fervidus 'glowing hot, fiery'" found in my mac British Dictionary. Can anyone identify the hapless caterpillar?

Little Bluebird nestling peering out at me as I check on the birds June 2nd . . . this is a nestling of the first brood. There had been no activity for days it seemed and concern had me opening the house for the first time ever while there were babies inside. Removing the front panel and portal of the nestbox, I did find a large black spider, with a couple of white spots, looming in the top/back left corner . . . not a pleasant greeting for the entering parents. After encouraging the creepy spider to leave, I close the box again. Activity picks up once more as per usual.

Looking up towards the middle garden and old Apple from the lower garden. 

From the middle garden looking towards the Apple and Joe Pye Weed.

The cherry-red blooms of Weigela florida, become cool in the shade while the Gray Birch clump glows in the sunlight creating an interesting contrast.

Walking over towards the north garden under the 'Three Graces' crabapples. The Japanese Tree Lilacs are just beginning.  

Japanese Tree Lilac with clouds of blooms over Mock Orange and Rosa Rugosa in the north garden. 

Just a bit earlier the roses were more of a show. 
The Mock Orange was only in bud behind the Rosa Rubrifloia 'Glauca'

At present . . . late July, the gardens are quite different, though the Rugosas are offering a few second blooms along with the Bluebirds second brood. 

I enjoy spending hours in the gardens and fields butterflying and have discovered and documented forty-six species living or visiting here over the years. I am allowing the gardens to just be on their own for now . . . with exception to cutting vines that would otherwise choke out milkweed and other beloved plants. 

The next garden walkabout will feature dramatic whites. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Gossamer Wings Part Two ~ Blues

The Blues are a subfamily of the family of Gossamer-wings that I particularly delight in. Standing in the north garden or the 'mini meadow' below the middle gardens, I will always think of the enchantment of these tiny butterflies and how they hold me captive and in awe of their beauty and frisky frolicking. 

One of the first Blues I sighted here at Flower Hill Farm is the Summer Azure Celastrina ladon. I wrote about the Summer Azure on the Summer Solstice . . .  sharing a wondrous encounter with two azures nectaring on lacy florets of goutweed. To my surprise and excitement one butterfly reveals its fine blue pigment usually held hidden within closed wings.

We are looking at teeny scales refracting light . . .  and as that light continuously varies, the eye is filled with a range of values and hues in soft, pale gray-blues.

Intricate marks and muted tones touch a tenderness . . . a mindful thread leading into wonderment at such creations. Leaving anthropomorphism aside, the features of these butterflies are precious and somewhat extraterrestrial, though Blues, along with thousands of other species of the Gossamer-wings family, are very grounded on this earth and have been so for a multitude of years. Seen together here with the complex and exquisite beauty of Milkweed florets I am lucky to frame two wild beings in play.

 Eastern Tailed-Blue Everes comyntas, is a Blue that wears tails and red eyes. This little guy was along the butterfly path where only feet are allowed to tread this year. I walk over from the lower garden in between grassy areas left to flourish in their wildly way, allowing certain butterflies to thrive, and enter a thin path that runs below a hummock, toppling down from the middle meadow garden, and above the blueberry field.

At the beginning, the land forms what appears to be a mini meadow. . .  and there . . . during June . . .  I was sure to encounter a fellow member of the Gossamer-wings family the American Copper on any day I venture there. Now, in July, I have found these little blues sunning and flitting about in this area and further up towards the end of the path that opens out into the north field. I can walk around the fields and gardens for an hour or more . . . even a day may go by . . . and return to find perhaps the same Eastern Tailed-Blue or another one claiming this little microscopic territory as its own.

July third and fourth were particularly fruitful in discovering little blues sunning with full wings open. The blues and grays they display are a palette I hope to emulate at a later date. 

The tails and markings of the Eastern Tailed-Blue reveal a link between the Azures, Eastern Tailed-Blues and Hairstreaks . . . all three fetching flyers.

Towering above this small and dainty being, wearing fragile diaphanous wings, as the heavy heat weighs down on my frame, I barely notice any discomfort, but feel grateful for the gentle breeze that soothes the flesh and aids in the drying of these fresh perfectly, fringed wings.

 Northern Silvery Blue Glaucopsyche lygdamus couperi or simply Silvery Blue.

Here a first discovery of a Silvery Blue in our gardens . . . possibly oviposting on Cow Vetch Vicia cracca,  since these "Switchers" have only one brood flying from May through June. As this female was sighted on June 22 , this rather faded and tattered butterfly is in the last days of its flight period.

Caught in flight the female exhibits a hint of a different hue of blue.

Silvery Blues (Northern ssp.) are called "Switchers" since they are among other Massachusetts butterflies that have switched host plants from a native to a non-native. They seem to reach for the more abundant Cow Vetch. I have now ceased pulling it from the gardens and I hope that the vetch will not become too unruly . . . still you will not hear me kvetch as long as I continue see Silvery Blues and even sometimes Eastern Tailed-Blues, as they too may choose Cow Vetch as a host plant for their young.

We have the blues here at Flower Hill Farm over many of the invasive non-native plants, but the Gossamer-wings Blues help us make peace with our lot. I can wish that your blues will always be of the Gossamer-wings family kind, though I know it cannot always be so. Still, butterflies can bring such a depth of joy and energize one towards being in nature in a less combative way.

Butterflies only demand a habitat, and by learning what their needs are to survive we may just realize our own potential towards finding another form of happiness through a simpler and healthier way of connecting with the earth.

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