I typically start my day strolling through the garden, coffee in hand. I enjoy waking up to the sounds of the birds singing as the sunrise peers over the hilltop. The bright spring blooms also say good morning in a friendly way. And wildlife encounters are certain. This is my quiet time each morning, before the hustle and bustle begins, when I often take photos of the garden.
At the front of the house summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) has erupted into bloom. This silver spotted skipper butterfly made a quick stop for a bit of nectar before flying over to the nearby dwarf black locust 'twisty baby' (Robinia pseudoacacia 'Lace Lady'), a host plant from the legume family.
One morning I was lucky to catch sight of a green lacewing cleverly camouflaged on the leaves of the same black locust tree. These are beneficial insects that are general predators and the hungry larvae will eat a wide variety of slow moving insects such as aphids, scale, mealybugs, spider mites, thrips and white flies.
Nestled amongst the summersweet and black locust is St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum), a wonderful woody shrub that is a bee magnet.
The blanket flowers (Gaillardia) are a long season bloomer growing among a grouping of pots by the driveway where they get full sun all day long. The butterflies love their open face blooms but they are often frequented by bee flies.
The purple passionvine (Passiflora incarnata L.) began to emerge throughout our front beds in early May. They took over the front bed and sidewalk last year and I promised myself I would keep them more contained this year so we could walk to the front door. However, as quickly as they poked their heads out of the ground the variegated fritilliary butterfly found them and rapidly laid eggs.
The leaves are now dotted with various instars of tiny caterpillars. Both variegated and gulf fritillary butterflies host on this vine. Now what to do? Do I move the caterpillars to a few vines that will grow up the trellis? Do I relocate the vines and hope they survive along with the caterpillars? I wanted to dig some of them up to pot as pass-a-long plants for our Garden Walk, maybe attendees will get a bonus caterpillar.
In a timely way, numerous nectar sources are beginning to bloom which will support the adult butterflies. Southern ragwort (Senecio anonymus) grows in sun and part shade conditions around our garden and has been blooming prolifically for the past several weeks. The daisy-like flowers are a favorite of small bees and syrphid and tachinid flies.
We have several varieties of yarrow (Achillea millefolium). A tough perennial that we have grown in several sunny locations throughout the garden but it does best on our hill garden and is spreading happily. Just coming into bloom it is often frequented by butterflies who like the flat top for an easy landing. It is one of several host plants the American Painted Lady butterfly uses for laying eggs.
Amsonia 'Blue Ice' has been prolific all month and is a star in one of our front beds where it receives full sun. Deer resistant it has been a good choice for this part of our garden plus the mounding habit gives it a shrub like appearance.
The periwinkle blue, star shaped flowers grow in lovely clusters making it very showy.
At the edge of the woodland garden grow a variety of native columbine including this new addition (Aqulegia vulgaris 'William Guineness'). I am very fond of the deep purple and cream blooms and they attract lots of pollinators, including hummingbirds.
Soft pink fuchsia blossoms (Stand Up Peggy) are paired with mouse ear hostas in pots in the woodland garden and are often visited by the hummers.
The red hot poker plants (Kniphofia uvaria) are just now coming into bloom and the hummingbirds immediately find them. It is such a thrill to watch these birds hover in motion as they reach to the back of tubular blooms and then in a dash they are off to another part of the garden.
Indian Pink (spigelia marilandica) is an absolute show stopper. Its unique tubular flowers are a hummingbird favorite (notice a pattern here). It is paired with blackberry lily 'hello yellow' (not yet blooming).
Abbeville Iris (Iris nelsonii) a native to Louisiana grows in our pond garden alongside spiderwort (Tradescantia) and has been putting on a good show this month.