Saturday, September 23, 2006

Assorted "End of Summer" Photos

I've tried to go back and add these photos to my "End of Summer" post, but for some reason, it's not working. So I'll add them here.

First, a couple shots of my "flying flowers". The butterflies are gulf fritillaries. The flying fritillary (blurred) had amorous intentions on his/her mind, but the one clinging to the spent flower stalk was interested only in resting. This was one of several "overtures" which the resting fritillary resisted while I watched, trying to get a decent photo.

The second photo is of two bees (carpenter? bumble?) nectaring on Rudbeckia blooms. The entire plant was covered with blooms, and the blooms were hosting dozens of wasps and bees of many different species. Interestingly, the butterflies didn't seem very interested in the Rudbeckia blossoms.

The last photo here is of pokeberry berries. I love the deep purple color of the berries against the bright red of the stems and the dark green of the leaves. The mockingbirds love the taste of the berries, so they disappear fairly rapidly. This is, unfortunately, one of the plants I'm feeling I ought to grub out of the yard to make it more "sellable." Pokeberries are poisonous for humans to eat, despite being such good wildlife food, so it's a plant I wouldn't recommend for a yard where small children play.

Gulf Fritillaries Galore

For the first time in several years, we have oodles of gulf fritillaries managing to live through their caterpillar stage and pupate successfully. The first year I planted their larval food, maypop (Passiflora incarnata), we had numbers like this. But then a pair of Carolina wrens moved in and gave us a firsthand demonstration of "natural control". It's the maypop that's been winning in recent years.

That natural control on the fritillary population doesn't seem to be "working" right now, though. Not that I mind in the least. I've seen a Carolina wren recently, and the pair successfully raised a brood earlier this summer, so I'm not too worried about their survival. Right now, despite the wrens' obvious reproductive success this year, we have ragged, defoliated maypop vines, multitudes of bright orange, "thorny" caterpillars happily munching away, and dozens of pupae hanging off eaves and in lots of other creative places. (In the photos, the caterpillar is next to its outgrown and discarded exoskeleton, and the chrysalis is hanging on the underside of our trashcan handle.)

Most stunning of all, at any one time I commonly see 10 or more velvety orange adults doing twining mating flights, resting in the sun, laying eggs or (occasionally) feeding.

The garden itself may be looking pretty ragged right now, but butterflies are in their glory!

Poetry That Sustains Me

I stumbled across this poem earlier this year, and it resonates within me on many different levels. It's by Stanley Kunitz, and it's called "The Layers". Although I've seen it in several compilations, in this case it's from his book, The Wild Braid, p. 82-83:

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Summer's End

I've finally gotten back out into the garden again, spending several hours just restoring order in the back yard over the last two days. I still have serious work to do in the front yard, but I don't think that's too bad for a garden the size of mine, especially considering that I've hardly set foot outside for almost a month now.

Before I go any further, though, I HAVE to mention the activity in the butterfly garden - there are so many butterflies, moths, carpenter bees, wasps, and flying creatures of all sorts that it feels like the very flowers themselves are flying as I stand and watch.

On a more somber note, for the first time as I work, I really feel like I'm preparing the garden for someone else. I'm making the edges a little neater, being a little more rigorous in cutting back, being more careful to remove tiny weed seedlings, and generally being more "J" than I normally am as I garden.

I find myself trying to converse with the gardener who will (hopefully) come after me....

"Sorry about these variegated artemesia - they get out of hand so easily in this bed. Be sure to keep them pulled out."

"I'll always wonder about the gripeweed in the yard. I thought it was such a pretty plant when I first saw it (a mimosa seedling?!) that I left it to 'see what it would do'. Would it be as widespread if I'd been less tolerant and more vigorous in pulling it out right away?"

"What do you think about this variegated vinca major? I agree. I think I'll pull it out and save you the trouble. The bed will look much neater this way."

"Should I grub out all of the pokeberry? The mockingbirds go crazy over its berries and it is so pretty, but I understand why you might not want it around."

I sure hope the next owner likes to garden; despite losing so many pines this summer, the yard has really started to come together. The blue spiral ginger is blooming beautifully and putting up several strong new shoots. The arborvitae fern is starting to fill in, becoming a graceful mat against the deep mulch. The Florida anise is almost as tall as I am now, and looking lush and healthy after such a misshapen start to life. Speaking of misshapen, the oriental chain fern has finally put out a few fronds on the right side and is almost completely balanced now. Its large-scaled daintiness looks fantasic next to Miss Lily's sturdy peacock gingers. The Grape Sensation gaillardia is purplishly spectacular, and the Knockout roses are head-high and absolutely covered with burgundy new growth, fresh buds and fluorescent pink flowers.

I could go on and on, but I'd be belaboring the point.

One last verbal picture, though: the wild beautyberry by the back shed is so loaded with brilliant magenta berries that it gleams richly in the dappled shade. I literally stopped in my tracks when I first saw it this week, its gracefully arching, heavily laden branches swaying drunkenly in the slightest breeze.

By the time we leave, those berries will have passed through the digestive system of a variety of birds and they will have been deposited, with a healthy dose of fertilizer, all over the local area. I have to believe that at least one or two will carry the genetic wealth of their parent and grow to create grace and beauty and bounty somewhere nearby, no matter what happens to their parent in this garden.