Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Here's What's Blooming in June

It's Bloom Day in the garden blogger world. On the 15th of each month you can see what's blooming in gardens across the globe by visiting our host May Dreams Gardens for links to participating blogs.
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Here at Southern Meadows, we kicked off June with periodic rain showers and cooler than normal temperatures. Seriously, you can't beat morning temps of 60 degrees (Fahrenheit) growing into 80 degrees by afternoon. That's perfect gardening weather and you better believe I was out getting dirt under my nails! Of course we knew it wouldn't last long, after all it's June and we live in Georgia. But the garden responded with glorious blooms. Many of the sun loving perennials are putting on a show of colorful flowers, which the butterflies, bees and hummingbirds are owning.

We grow Geranium maculatum 'Rozanne' in several areas in the garden, some in full shade and other in morning sun. Both situations do well. Our newest planting is above the rock wall along a path that leads to our back driveway. Here I can enjoy the blooms as I take the dogs out for their morning stroll but small bees and butterflies probably appreciate it even more.

Stokes Aster is a finicky plant in our garden and historically I haven't had a lot of luck getting them established. Our drought took all the blue blooming Stokes Asters last year but the white and yellow, which grew side by side endured. Since I didn't dead them, some seedlings are growing, expanding the little aster spread. Our native bees and butterflies enjoy the frilly petals that invite them in to forage on the bloom's nectar.

leafcutter bee covered in pollen
Painted Lady Butterfly on Stokes Aster

The sundrops (Oenothera) are a yellow evening primrose, which I received as a pass-a-long plant a few years ago. The bees visit them constantly using the petal's nectar guide pattern, which is evident under ultraviolet light and visible to its pollinators, bees, butterflies and moths.

A new perennial shrub in our garden this year, Spirea tomentosa or Steeplebush, is popular with the bumblebees. They dance frantically around, circling the pink plumes.


We use Achillea millefolium or yarrow on our hillside gardens because it is very drought tolerant and thrives in challenging soils. The blooms support native bees and butterflies as well as attract parasitoid and predatory insects. We've pared the yellow yarrow with orange butterfly milkweed in one garden bed,

while creating a mass of pink in another, planting it with Echinacea purpurea. This is part of our garden we've named Pollinator Hill because of the concentration of pollinator friendly plants. You can visit this area of the garden and always find it filled with butterflies, bees, bettles and hummingbirds.

A favorite summer bloom is Gaillardia or blanket flower. It has reseeded in various areas in our garden and is covered in bees and butterflies during its long bloom season from spring to late fall.

butterfly resting on stem of Golden Alexander amid the Gaillardia blooms
Gaillardia hybrid at edge of driveway garden bed

A show stopper on Pollinator Hill is Rudbeckia Maxima with its tall stems and yellow brown-eyed blooms not to mention the unique bluish green foliage.

Rudbeckia maxima with rudbeckia laciniata
Coreopsis verticillata is a favorite bloom of mine. The threaded leaves and welcoming blooms just make such a dainty yet bold statement. This is one of our newly planted areas where I am trying to get the coreopsis established around some small boulders.

Hydrangea arborescens or Smooth Hydrangea is the star of our June garden. Covered in a variety of pollinators, this shade loving shrub is an essential plant to have in a wildlife garden and demonstrates that you can support pollinators in a shade garden.  Just look at the selection of visitors on the inflorescence.

Flower Beetle

Long horned beetles

Our aquatic garden is also in full bloom with photogenic water lily flowers each day. This pond is home to lots of frogs and fish. Our nine goldfish have produced 10 baby fry this spring so our pond is growing!

Next week I will be touring gardens in the Washington, D.C. area with fellow garden bloggers. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram to see lots of garden goodness.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Finding A Mydas Fly

While we were working in the garden the other day, my son stumbled across an insect emerging from the ground that we had never seen before. It is always thrilling to find a new creature and a fun challenge to work out what it is. My initial reaction is always to grab my camera so that we have  a photo to study later, especially if the creature flies or crawls off or we missed (or forgot) something in our live observation. So here is the mystery insect.

It is slightly larger than the size of a hornet but has a black abdomen with clearly defined segments and an orange ring. Antennae are clubbed, has large eyes and clear wings. Observing the eyes is a clear giveaway that it is probably in the Diptera (Flies) order. I thought perhaps it was a species of robber fly I'd never seen before but the body shape wasn't quite right. We did some online research but weren't confident in our findings.

I put a photo out to the Insect Identification Facebook page to get some help. Bingo! It was identified as a Mydas Fly. The Mydidae Family are a small group of approximately 470 species of flies. After narrowing down the insect family, I wanted to see if the specific species could be confirmed so I submitted the photo on BugGuide and they validated that is was a Mydas clavatus.

Apparently not much is known about the lifestyle of these flies. What we were able to research is that the females lay fertilized eggs in the ground near rotting or dead wood. Indeed, in our garden this happened close by an old stump. Here is a video on oviposition (credit: cotinis-Flikr) we found online.

The larvae eats other bugs it finds in the ground such as June Bug larvae (oh and maybe even Japanese beetle larvae...if only we could be so lucky!). The larvae pupate in small chambers created in the soil and emerge as flying adults.

Look closely at the photo above and you can see that the Mydas Fly we stumbled upon had just emerged from its chamber in the soil. As the adult was acclimating to its new environment it remained very still, allowing us to study it. We also read later that they are reluctant to flee and slow to move if approached by a predator, which is what we experienced.

This is one of the largest flies found in North America and lives in many environments such as forests, meadows and open spaces. Adult Mydas flies visit flowers to consume nectar. The adults have also been presumed to be predaceous, like robber flies or horse flies, but there is no observational evidence to confirm this.

I think we can safely add this one to the beneficial insect list for our garden. Now, we'll be on the look out to see if we can spot this fly on our blooms around the garden. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Garden Walk: In Our Own Back Yards

It's garden touring season and I'm kicking it off with a local tour right here in our own county. Every other year, our county Master Gardener group holds a garden walk, which is a self-paced, self-driven, day-long, rain or shine event. The residential gardens on tour are those of members of the Hall County Master Gardeners and reflect the passion of each of these gardeners. What makes our group distinctive is that each member usually has a specialty. It could be ornamental, edibles, turf, native plants, plant id, IPM, or youth gardening. This diversity is reflected in the members' private gardens, their labor of love. This is where they experiment, do hands-on learning and get creative. So, let's tour~

Garden of Tammy Dellinger

Tammy's focus is on fruit gardening. A grove of fruit trees makes up the back corner of the property. The trees are beautifully pruned and healthy and best of all, full of fruit.

Behind the orchard are clean rows of blueberry shrubs. Also full of plump berries almost ready to be picked. I love her design and neatly kept beds.

On the other end of the garden are rows of blackberries. This has to be one of the most brilliant trellis designs I've ever seen. Made from metal fence posts and wire, they make for easy picking and maintenance

Yum! Look at all that delicious fruit ripening in the sunshine.

This same design is used in the vegetable beds for growing tomatoes. This photo better illustrates how these trellises were constructed.

In the front garden Tammy has created a butterfly habitat around the utility boxes. This often neglected space in homeowner's gardens is nicely designed with butterfly welcoming plants and an attractive solar powered water feature.

The garden of Terri Andrews

Walk into this certified habitat garden, and you immediately hear the sound of rushing water from the waterfalls that flow into a natural pond. This pond can be enjoyed by the homeowners from many rooms inside the home as well as back patio.

The flower beds that use the fence as a backdrop are filled with pollinator friendly plants, including perennials that support bees and butterflies. A mature coral honeysuckle grows happily up the fence and is frequented by hummingbirds.

Garden walks aren't always held when gardens are at full bloom. One often has to envision what a space would look like when many of the plants are blooming, but Terri has advantageously used contrasting foliage and texture to keep it interesting.

The piece de resistance is the 'potting shed', which was purchased from a box store and modified with a pitched roof, beams and windows. I've gone to heaven!

check out the tiled floor!

I could spend hours in this place enjoying the charming space and looking out onto the garden, but this customized structure, complete with a kitty door, is home for the two 'outdoor' cats that patrol the garden.  Lucky kitties!

pampered kitty
A dry creek bed helps slow down excess water flow from the steep slope, protecting the patio below as as well as prevent erosion. Not only is the feature functional but it also provides habitat for ground dwelling critters and a nice basking spot for butterflies and lizards.

The back pergola provides access to the side of the house, where Terri has skillfully used this often overlooked space for her vegetable and herb garden. These beds take advantage of this sunny area and are conveniently located near a rain barrel for easy watering.

Garden of Liz Dietz

It was just a few years ago that this garden was a blank canvas, just waiting for the hands of the right gardener. Liz has created a space that incorporates all her favorite plants.

This is a lovely example of a 'garden within a garden', which provides more planting space and the illusion that the landscape is actually bigger than it is. 

Rocks of varying sizes have been meaningfully placed throughout the landscape and appear as if they have always been there.  Plants have been specifically selected from Liz's list of favorites and planted around the hardscape features.

An appropriately sized, luscious vegetable garden is a focal point in the back garden.

Garden of Chris Michael

This garden is located on a hilly part of Gainesville, and sits directly on Lake Lanier. When Chris purchased the home in 2009, the front garden was an inhospitable hillside of red clay. What he has created in a short eight years is extraordinary.

a magazine worthy garden stairway

A long stone stairway from the street to the home below invites you to walk through the terraced garden filled with shade loving specimen plants.

A balanced mix of trees, shrubs and perennial plants are the foundation of the steep terrain. Hostas and ferns are intermingled throughout.

Some of my favorite features are the natural elements of surprise, modeled here, by ferns growing out from under lichen covered rocks.

A carpet of moss is cushioned around the natural stone steps. Many of the plants in this garden are one of a kind and it is landscaped to perfection. This garden belongs on the glossy pages of a magazine.

Pollinator plants have purposefully been placed in the sunnier pockets of this mostly shade garden. I think it is brilliant how the St. John's Wort has been pruned up to allow more planting space below the shrub and show off the stone retaining wall.

Behind the house, beyond the trees is the lake. I can only imagine how much fun Chris's dogs have frolicking along the waterfront.

One of the challenges living in this area is deer pressure. Plants are often a welcoming buffet to these sweet creatures, making them a gardeners nightmare. Under normal circumstances, their dogs patrol the garden and keep guard. It just so happened that a few nights before the garden tour a neighbor had a party and the dogs were safely kept indoors. The deer took advantage and helped themselves to the buffet munching on the king-sized hostas. Times like these call for a good sense of humor and roll with it attitude.

Garden of Bobbett Holloway

This is a garden with a heartwarming story. More than fifty years ago Bobbett's father began creating this garden to provide his wife with a flower a day. As Bobbett says "he provided the bones and I added the fluff".  Her father began the design of this unique garden on a lot that has road access on both sides. You'd never know it now standing in the garden with its towering trees, several that have been awarded champion tree status.

It is breath taking to stand beneath such a stand of old-growth trees. I had to pull myself away from looking up all the time. It is a birds paradise with such a grand canopy and Bobbett has outfitted the garden with bird boxes and berry producing shrubs to their delight.

Despite its location, the mature garden feels very private, almost as if one is in a secret garden. Around every turn there is something new to discover. Like this cleverly repurposed lawn mower, which now functions as a rolling plant stand for her calamondin tree.

Or this impressive poinsettia, which Bobbett has been growing for five years. Talk about a green thumb!

Bobbett's hydrangea collection is impressive and rivals her azaleas, which are the best in the county.

The dappled light in this shade garden is magical. It is a refreshing reprieve on a hot Southern summer day. Truly a gardener's delight.

This tour will be back in 2019 and my garden will be one featured on this walk. But next up is the Garden Blogger Fling in Washington D.C. and surrounding area. I can't wait to be thrown into more garden goodness!