Exploding Echinacea & Other Pillars of our Summer Garden
|Echinacea purpurea with Eastern Tiger Swallowtail|
Standing in front of my Piet Oudolf inspired perennial bed with its mass planting of Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower), Liatris (blazing star) and Peroovskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage), I observe hundreds of pollinators at work.
|mass planting of echinacea purpurea|
This bed is excellent at attracting a variety of bees, beetles and butterflies large and small.
|Pipevine Swallowtail on purple coneflower|
Our summer garden is all about the pollinators. Every plant that excels here in the heat, humidity and often lack of rain, was chosen for the purpose of providing for butterflies and moths, hummingbirds, bees and wasps (yes, they are friendly pollinators too), beetles, flies and ants. They are what gets me motivated to go out and brave the red-hot heat and keep the garden going when it is so tempting to stay indoors in the comfort of air conditioning.
|Gulf Fritillary butterfly on passiflora incarnata|
On the hill garden where we have introduced a variety of perennials that can handle drought and heat, we have several species of hybrid echinacea.
|Echinacea x 'Evan Saul'|
The large reddish-orange petals of the Echinacea x 'Evan Saul' is part of the Sundown Big Sky series. The fragrant blooms are a real standout and prolific bloomers.
|Echinacea x 'Evan Saul'|
Another beauty is the appropriately named Pow Wow Wild Berry Echinacea. It's vibrant color livens up the butterfly garden with its intense hot pink color. It was breed for its darker flowers and more compact growth habit which helps it stand up to our summer pop up thunder showers.
|Pow Wow Wild Berry Echinacea|
Yarrow has intermingled with this clump which complements it nicely. Allowing plants to mix makes it easier for pollinators to feed because they don't expend so much energy flying around looking for nectar sources.
Our white echinacea has become a host plant this year for the silvery checkerspot butterfly. The caterpillars have been rather ruthless munching away at all the leaves and petals, leaving the stalks bare. But, how can one complain when they
|silvery checkerspot caterpillar on white echinacea|
morph into this exquisite butterfly!
|Silvery Checkerspot on Stokes Aster|
Another June bombshell is the button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). The pollinators go crazy for these bodacious blossoms.
|gulf fritillary butterfly on Cephalanthus occidentalis|
If you have a moist area that gets sun to partial sun consider this native shrub. The pollinators will be slurping out of your blooms.
|yellowjacket hover fly (aka good news bee) on buttonbush|
They'll also let you know when the blooms are not quiet ready for drinking.
|honey bee on unopened cephalanthus occidentalis bloom|
Coreopsis are little rays of sunshine around our garden. The wispy stems provide movement in the garden when sweltering summer breezes sway them to and fro. It makes it a little more challenging for pollinators to visit the blooms as they flutter to stay on the landing pad but they still are excellent at attracting a wide variety of visitors.
|Silvery Checkerspot butterfly on Coreopsis 'Cosmic Eye'|
|Variegated Frilitllary butterfly on Coreopsis 'Cosmic Eye'|
|bee visiting coreopsis 'Cosmic Eye' (hybrid variety)|
The flamboyant florets of gaillardia are cheerleaders in our summer garden. They are free flowering and very dependable. You just can't go wrong with this wonderfully colorful native prairie plant.
And, the pollinators just dig right in. The bees especially, plunge head first, disappearing into the bloom. Often times multiple bees do a dance around the disc jockeying for just the right spot.
So, how is your summer garden thriving? Do you have some standouts that work well in your garden? I would love for you to share your favorites in the comments and be sure to include what part of the country/world you garden.
(Friendly reminder: Be sure to stay hydrated while working in the garden! We had a frightening experience at camp last week where one of the kids got dehydrated and suffered heat stroke. It was a serious reminder that we all need to drink lots of water while outdoors working in the summer heat)