Friday, August 23, 2013

A Sultry Summer August Day Full Moon and Clouded Sulphurs Play

August is a wild time of year in the gardens here at Flower Hill Farm. The daily lives of wild things blend and move about with ease. There is an understanding between the land and animals . . . we all take what we need . . . but never too much. I do wish to call a court in session to introduce charges against our resident rabbit's rabid rapacity, however.

We rarely see young bucks, such as this one, sporting unique antlers. He will shed the lopsided headpiece this winter or early spring of next year and begin to grow new ones. Careful attention must be paid to this teenager to be certain his curiosity does not get the better of my Liatris for a second time.

The deer have much to munch upon within the acres here, and many more surrounding, so they are kind to me and my gardens. I continue to cut oak, maple and birch saplings allowing new tender growth that deer find nutritious and delicious.

This is the main color show of the gardens now . . . last year Ironweed, Joe Pye weed and Rudbeckia were magnets to butterflies . . . this year there are mostly native bees . . . but few fluttering wings go by.

I did finally see one restless Monarch butterfly last week, but she did not approve of our older milkweed and moved on right away, in search of tender leaves to fasten her eggs upon. I miss the enchanting process of metamorphosis but do have one little Black Swallowtail ward who has now become a chrysalis. 

There were many Monarchs last year enjoying the nectar of Ironweed. The image above was taken a bit later in August than the one above it . . . so perhaps more butterflies will find their way here again.

Nearing the last week of August . . . but there is still time for frolicking. Clouded Sulphurs exhibit their tiny orange and black full moons, while sipping runaway marjoram and courting or cavorting in the field below the middle garden.

Wild Morning Glory is taking over the Bluebird nestbox . . . I am allowing it, as the larger Bluebird family has taken off, beyond the cotton clouds, for now. Nearby, Rudbeckia 'Herbstsonne' reaches for the light to a height of over seven feet. This great plant will never catch up to the stately tips of the Hydrangea paniculata it stands before.

Hydrangeas, though tired and somewhat spent, still offer sustenance to many pollinators. There has been not a plant/weed lifted from this area for all the days of summer. I am surprised by the diversity of small and simple flowers that seem to delight both butterfly and bee.

Our much beloved (NOT) rabbits devoured the planter plantings but now volunteers of pineapple basil, verbascum and salvia are content being squatters. The gardens are on their own this year . . . once the rabbits ate my first food plantings, sigh, I gave up and decided to just be on the land and see what happens when all is left to grow on its own. I do confess to cutting many winding, meandering tendrils of bittersweet, grape and bindweed.

 Apples are ripening and some falling . . . creating an edible carpet for wildlife. There are so many more than enough for us all. Last days for the daylilies too . . . as each day unfolds and closes another fresh and droopy bloom.

'Journey's End' final blooms . . . true Lilium reflecting summer's closure coming soon. Not far off
summer's end and beginning autumn, as syrupy sweet petals fade and fall.

The south field is overgrown with sumac, which will paint the landscape red in weeks to come and then all will be mowed revealing the form of land again by November. Here, the Tree Swallow nestbox is overrun by bittersweet. I recall less height to the field and wildflowers but weeks ago when a Tree Swallow pair tenderly care for their nestlings.

Migrations are in motion . . . today there were at least a hundred Tree Swallows swooping and scaling the sky just above these fields and spreading over towards the middle garden. I like to think that among the many are the two families of swallows from our north and south field nestboxes and they are all on their way to Cape Cod where I may chance to see them once again later in September.

Lavender giants boldly tearing through the sky in dusky twilight . . . our Rock Maples on the south side of the 1790 farmhouse are ever dramatic and inspirational . . . to the painter in me especially.

Upon the edge of the north field looking south . . . a simple place to be . . . to watch waves in canopies of trees and the great blue yonder . . . while chasing ephemeral light stretching over Mount Tom in the Pioneer Valley beyond.

August is nearly full as is its swollen, golden, 'Sturgeon' or 'Blueberry' moon . . . yet, many surprises are to be found in moments lived within the realm of our wondrous Mother Nature. Summer seems longer in moments.  Shall we seize the moment then . . . for as long as each new day gives forth fresh butterflies and our young resident hummingbirds are still dipping and humming into my dreams . . .  I cannot say summer is gone.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hot Colors of Cool August Butterflies and a Bestiary of Birds

What is normal or average anymore? It seems that days are spread out more like a delicately hand-stitched quilt laying loosely across a large bed . . . not in triangles or squares but in free-form patterns that hardly relate to one another except in hues. Vivid colors, with a play of values, fills the eyes and dreams of those that slip beneath basted layers of wrinkled cloth . . .  pieces torn and recombined.

Such are our New England August days, once felt to be the warmest of the summer. Somehow the year has been taken apart and reset with September's cooler temperatures now placed where August's heat used to be. Memories of summer ways, warm fronts, cold fronts and days get reshuffled into another sort of design.

Climate change is not simply hot and cold, wet and dry . . . sadly we must visualize another sort of quilt made of ancient dead organisms, fossil fuels, dirty values and sooty tints pieced in carbon footprints across an unimaginative covering that is choking, liquefying and slowly reshaping shorelines and beloved landscapes over the huge berth of our earth.

The little glass globe, that we all love to handle and shake, in order to see clean snow falling over a quaint home, has cracked in large proportions never to be repaired. A nightmare creeps in between the fragments of fabric presenting a globe where pesticide and other unimaginable poisons fall as deadly flakes into a world where all life is sickened. As we place the fragile memory of a child's more beautiful dream back in a protected case and slide back under what we believe to be a safe and cozy blanket, we fail to see how it too is becoming unraveled while we kick away the cover of truth too often and go about our usual "Oh Well, What Can I Do?" ways.

It is in the little things we do everyday, in our pennies we fail to count, where we might see a change. Collectively, in our right minds, with our voices and dollars demanding a greener world; where families are not displaced, wooly, white bears may safely stand and butterflies continue to fly, we may yet save the fine flora and fauna that we are so intricately a part of.

This morning when I woke, I thought to just write whatever came out of me for an hour and so the paragraphs above appeared. You may skip them and simply join me in this landscape I call home, where our native Joe-Pye Weed stretches towards Walnut Hill and the sky above.

Where Red-spotted Admirals extract vital life-enhancing nectar.

Tiny colorful American Coppers pollinate marjoram.

A more muted beauty with great eyes . . . Common Wood Nymph sipping marjoram. 

A garden falls over into itself.

Yesterday, for a split moment at least, I was excited to think I eyed a Monarch butterfly. Alas, the Monarch was but a Viceroy. Though a beauty in its own right, this butterfly is not one I can raise and observe its metamorphosis. It is a joy I have had for thirty years and the absence of Monarch butterflies in our gardens this year and across parts of the country is greatly felt. Pesticides from GMO's is greatly to blame.

Daylilies are fading but there are still some to delight certain butterflies. Hydrangeas in the middle garden are still offering beauty and nectar too.

A Spicebush Swallowtail wearing pollen dust enjoys a dip and sip from deep within the well of this flower and soon flies on to another. I am exhibiting two separate blooms visited by two different butterflies captured weeks apart. I do not know of spicebush growing here . . . perhaps a neighbor grows it or there is another plant, growing on our land or nearby, that this butterfly has decided to use as a host plant.

Even a teeny Delaware Skipper is attracted to the flavor of daylily and casts its proboscis towards the Hemerocallis reservoir of sweetness.

I should love to see from the compound eyes of a butterfly, for a day or five, when the birds are otherwhere and otherwise occupied.

Surely, seeing the world of colors, as this Greater Spangled Fritillary does, could inspire.

The daughter of Zeus may well exchange a glance from within a human eye and morph back into herself within this Aphrodite Fritillary butterfly. Perhaps by seeing our worlds from within other's eyes we may all grow more wise.

For a bird's-eye-view I have taken to writing about warblers and if you might enjoy seeing and learning more about these marvelous feathered friends of our gardens, forest and fields, why not take a click over to Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens to view various installments of my 'A Bestiary: Tales from a Wildlife Garden.'

May your days be filled with butterflies and birds . . . I would love to hear of your Monarch butterfly sightings, if you are of time and mind to share.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Whites Continuing to Shimmer Throughout A Sweltering July

Bid farewell to July with a stroll through the gardens still shimmering in white . . . more mature blooms . . . some nearly fading . . . the buzz, broods, trills and furls relaxing into August along the fringe of summer. July passed with days of torrid, sultry heat. Amazingly I withstood it all and each day went about the gardens and fields, during the hottest hours, in search of butterflies, discovering new species to add to my list.

As the Bluebird couple's second brood continues to grow within the nestbox, hydrangeas swell into soft, full panicles attracting bees and butterflies alike. In the background the flowers of Japanese Tree Lilac are fading. Yucca filamentosa L. is beginning to ring its waxy bells with the other shimmering whites.

Gooseneck loosestrife Lysimachia clethroides, in the middle garden is a favorite white of many butterflies.

Aphrodite Fritillary . . .  a frequent visitor to the white patch of tapered starry panicles. 

Very unusual here to see a Little Wood Satyr sipping nectar in the gardens. They are mostly sighted skipping around low to the ground. 

Numerous sorts of Skippers are seen flying and nectaring within the gooseneck raceme. In the eight by ten feet, or so, swath of flowers, just in front of the Bluebird nestbox, there might be up to 40 or 50 tiny butterflies darting about. Comical interplay abounds.

Here a Pearl Crescent, also in some numbers, approaches a content Skipper . . . a chase follows. Butterflies can be very territorial or could this little butterfly be thinking the Skipper is one of her/his own.

Days become weeks with the stifling heat blowing open silky petals of snowy white. 

The Hydrangea paniculata 'Swan' graces the middle garden just behind the nestbox.

Large heavy snowballs fall within this old fashion favorite. 

A Cimicifuga 'Candelabra' catches the light in the upper garden.

Earlier July

End of July

'The Swan'

Among the globulous buds of Cimcifuga, a Summer Azure comes in for a landing.

Birds are going for the Viburnum berries which are spilling over into the white pom-pom-like blossoms of Hydrangea.

Tree Hydrangea inflorescence begins with a chartreuse hue. 

Looking down towards the lower garden another Hydrangea paniculata is still offering a show . . . now in full white display. 

A Greater Spangled Fritillary harvesting Hydrangea nectar.

Milkweed's bouncy, bountiful and beautifully fragrant orbs have come and gone with not one sighting of a Monarch butterfly.

A Common Whitetail dragonfly rests on the birdbath. 

Meadowsweet offers tall, white, flame-like plumes up nearer the farmhouse and studios. 

My first ever Baltimore Checkerspot! Gorgeous crescent moons and other patterns on its wings. After a champagne lunch, my dear friend and bubbly cohort, Eva, and I took a walk about the gardens and there it was, a good twenty feet away from us, just resting in an overgrown section of the north field! I will be writing about this butterfly and other unusual guests in a later piece.

For now, Happy August! The days cannot get any hotter (I hope!) but the garden colors can.

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