Lessons Learned: Summer 2013
Summers are typically hot, humid and dry in the Southeast and for the past three years we have been experiencing extreme drought. This summer however it rained, and rained, and rained some more.
And we didn't just have showers. There were many times that we experienced monsoon like conditions. We took to checking and emptying the rain gauge daily. Our summer rainfall broke down like this:
June = 9.57 inches
Our total annual rainfall as of the end of August was 51.04 inches compared to 2012 which had 37.03 inches for the entire year. It is crazy how the weather can change from one year to the next!
So how did all this rain impact our garden? Well, all those drought tolerant plants that I have been incorporating into our garden didn't like all the rain and several perished. As a result of the lack of sunshine many plants did not bloom until much later in the season and I was concerned about the lack of nectar plant available for the insects and hummingbirds.
The cooler and wetter weather had a devastating effects on some of the butterfly populations that frequent our garden.
I didn't have any black swallowtail caterpillar on any host plants the entire summer.
While numbers were down for certain butterfly species, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail numbers appeared higher this summer
as did the silvery checkerspot.
So who liked all the rain? Honestly, I enjoyed the refreshing change. It meant that I didn't have to spend my days hand watering the garden. The down side was that all the rain days did limit the time spent in the garden.
We had a few first time visitors to our garden due to wetter conditions.
Slugs and Snails are NOT typical in our garden. Why do they always go for the blooms?
Other first timers included the dogwood sawfly. They devoured our red twig dogwoods until there wasn't a leaf still standing. I was hoping some of them would become bird food (especially since there were so many!) but the birds didn't seem very interested in them. According to all the research I did, the plants shouldn't be at risk from their ferocious appetites.
The weeds grew, well, like weeds! They loved all the rain. But, don't dismiss all those weeds so easily. What I found is that when you give your weeds a chance to grow you discover that some of them are not "weeds" at all but native plants volunteering in your garden.
I have found passion vine volunteers all over the garden. This is the largest patch which is growing amongst the roses that have become a trellis for them.
If you take a step in for a closer look you find...
I have found a lot of Virginia Creeper volunteers around the garden too. I know a lot of people mistake this for poison ivy. Remember "Leaves of three let it be, leaves of five let it thrive". This vine will make a nice ground cover and beautiful color in the fall.
The important lesson here is to get to know your "weeds". You may find that they are valuable native plants that support the wildlife in your garden. They may not necessarily be growing where you would put them in your landscape plan but they have planted themselves where they know they will grow best. And often, they are a better judge of that than I am. I look at these volunteers as an element of surprise in my wildlife friendly garden and I will work the garden design around them.
This summer, under the advice of our hummingbird experts at Georgia Hummers and Bird Watcher's Supply, we added more hummingbird feeders in the hopes of attracting more hummingbirds to our garden. Since hummingbirds are very territorial over feeding sources, grouping several feeders together allows more hummers to feed at them at the same time. A hummer can't possible defend four feeders at once. Brilliant advice!
We counted 10 hummers around a single feeder in July and 18 in August. Who knows we could have more. We are filling some of the feeders twice a day. The feeders are busiest in the mornings and evenings and the hummers seem to have a feeding order and favorite station from which to drink. Hummingbird migration is underway so keep your feeders up and filled (more info on their migrations here). Who knows, you may end up with an overwintering hummer as we did last year. See my post on our Rufous visitors here.
What did you experience in your garden this summer? I am joining Plant Postings for Lessons Learned meme.
Next up, I will be talking Seasonal Celebrations for the upcoming Autumn season.