Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Miracles of 2012

It is hard to believe this year is coming to a close already! It has been a productive year at Southern Meadows. Several major projects were completed including constructing 5 raised beds in the kitchen garden, building a fire pit, installing a small in ground pond and planting numerous understory trees. We began work on a native garden to support wildlife on the side hill garden and expanded our acreage by purchasing the adjacent 2 acre lot giving us a total of 4 1/2 acres.

new raised beds in kitchen garden
Here is a look back at some of nature's small miracles that we were blessed to witness in our garden.

January~was sunny and mild. Lots of winter blooms and early daffodils sprinkled the garden. The USDA released their new plant hardiness zone and Southern Meadows moved from zone 7b to 8a. I enrolled in the Native Plant Certificate program at Georgia State Botanical Gardens and hopefully a year from now I will have completed all the requirements.

Edgeworthia chrysantha 'winter gold'

Bee diving in Camellia bloom

February~brought springlike weather and signs that winter was winding down. Buds burst into bloom and  the bees were buzzing. The cherry trees put on their usual glorious show.

Birds nest in cherry trees

Daffodil in the morning

March~was full on bloom time for all the fruit trees. The first zebra swallowtail butterfly was spotted and the chipmunks were as industrious as ever (do they ever get tired?). The sweetshrub's blooms filled the entire garden with their sweet, fruity aroma and the dogwood trees graced us with their stunning white bracts.

lady beetle on plum trees
Zebra swallowtail butterfly on Heuchera
chipmunk in its favorite feeder
Sweet shrub
April~was baby time at Southern Meadows. We had bluebirds, chickadees and mocking birds nesting in the garden.

Male bluebird building the nest

bluebirds nest

Carolina chickadees almost ready to fledge

May~brought a record number of caterpillars. We had 20 black swallowtail caterpillars hatch on one fennel plant! We saw many caterpillars hatch and butterflies fluttering around the garden.

Black Swallowtail caterpillars on Bronze fennel

Buckeye caterpillar

Variegated Fritillary

Banded Hairstreak, Satyrium calanus and White M Hairstreak, Parrhasius m-album

June~was berry time...raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries. Lots of baby anoles scurried about the garden and the dinner plate hibiscus began to bloom.

fresh berries from kitchen garden

Blue River Hibiscus
immature anole hiding in blueberry shrub

July~We were gone much of July on vacation but life continued  in the garden. Tomato horn worms ate away at the tomatoes but the parasitic wasp quickly found them; letting nature do its own pest control. We witnessed a Green Lynx spider capture a butterfly which was heart breaking but everyone has to eat.

Tomato Horn Worm on Tomato Plant
Green Lynx Spider captured a skipper
August~was one of the busiest months in the garden. The first Monarch butterfly arrived and we had our first sighting of a Giant Swallowtail ever in the garden. The baby toads that only a few months ago were tadpoles in the pond took refuge in the weeds until they grew big enough to venture off into the garden. While several juvenile ruby-throated hummingbirds zooming around.

First Monarch during their southern migration

Giant Swallowtail
baby toad venturing out in the garden
Ruby throated hummingbird (juvenile)
 September~was a busy harvest time in the kitchen garden with peppers, watermelon, dinosaur gourds. The eggplant finally pollinated and started producing. We were excited to discover a volunteer partridge pea growing in our garden; a host plant for 4 species of butterflies and the cloudless sulphur hatched on ours. The passion vine finally bloomed and it was pollinated so we were able to collect the seeds later in the fall.

Moon & Stars watermelon

habanero peppers
dinosaur gourds
Cloudless Sulphur caterpillar on Partridge Pea
Passion vine bloom
October~We witnessed the amazing transformation of a black swallowtail caterpillar into a chrysalis. A storm blew in 7 Monarch butterflies; a record number to visit our garden at one time. The sumac were one of the first leaves to adorn their fall colors and the downy aster (another native) was in full bloom this month.

Black Swallowtail caterpillar revealing its chrysalis
Two Monarch butterflies sharing a meal on a zinnia bloom
Sumac in fall colors
Skippers on downy aster blooms
November~fall colors dotted the woodland garden. In the kitchen garden the lemons and calamondin were ripe for picking. Seeds were ready for collecting and even expired blooms look pretty in the garden.

view of woodland garden with fall color

Meyer lemon

Expired zinnia blooms

December~We had the two Rufous hummingbirds banded that are overwintering in our garden. Winter always seems to produce the most gorgeous sunrises in our area and we enjoyed numerous mornings with coffee in hand and stunning skies. The birds were much more active at the feeders this month due to colder temperatures.

Rufous hummingbird resting in rose shrubbery

sunrise view at front door

Nuthatch snacking at peanut feeder
Thank you for sharing this year with me in our garden as we continually learn and grow. I look forward to seeing y'all in the New Year to share more adventures and witness nature's miracles. Happy 2013!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Holiday Season

Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space. ~ Dave Barry

A little humor is always good during the holiday season when stress levels can run high. I hope you find time to relax, rejuvenate and replenish the soul during this time. Today is the last Sunday of advent. We lit the fourth candle today and recited our German poem:

Advent, Advent
ein Lichtlein brennt
erst eins, dann zwei, dann drei, dann vier,
dann steht das Christkind vor der Tür!

Tomorrow will be spent baking sweets and savoring family time.  I am truly blessed to have such wonderful readers and I can't express enough how much I appreciate your insight and views. May you and your loved ones have a very joyous and healthy holiday season.