Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bending My "Rules" a Bit for Blue

In my front flower garden, I've been evolving a policy of "natives only." I'm not completely sure why I picked that bed to be so rigorous about, but it has to do with the bed having a relatively sunny location and with my not wanting to have to water it a lot. There's also the challenge of using primarily natives, grown organically, to make a strong cottage garden effect that looks good. I'm especially aiming for a cottage garden look that doesn't scream "Natives here, folks! Grown organically! Only scaggy plants need apply!"

I'm not as hardcore about using just natives as my instinct tells me to be. As Prairiewolf is apt to note, I can be a little unbending when it comes to that and to gardening organically. In point of fact, though, I have MANY horticultural varieties and cultivars that aren't of local source in this bed and I have even planted a few species that are found in nearby states but not in Kansas. (My backyard "courtyard garden" is where I tend to site my non-native species. I'm not enough of a native snob that I don't love my peonies, iris, and Knockout roses.)

All that said and put aside, I've bent my newly developing front garden rules to include a hybrid that is basically a bicontinental freak of (non)nature: Black Adder hyssop (Agastache 'Black Adder'), a plant that is half northern North American and half Korean in parentage. It's proving to be as attractive to the insect life in the yard as it is to me visually.

I'm a sucker for blue flowers, especially gorgeous spikes of rich blue flowers, and since delphiniums turn up their noses (and toes) at our surroundings here, I have to look beyond the obvious to satisfy my cravings. So when I saw this tiny little seedling in a 2" pot, offered at Dyck Arboretum's spring plant sale, and noticed the blue flower spikes shown on the plastic label, I gave in to temptation. Just one wouldn't be too obvious....

Of course, then I went and planted it front and center in the garden, a spot it seems to enjoy inhabiting. It has done extremely well and has been blooming for quite a while now. (Luckily it is supposed to be sterile, being a hybrid, so I shouldn't have to be plucking out seedlings by the gazillions.) For kicks and giggles, a few days ago I photographed a few of the insects I saw around it.

It was morning and the weather was relatively cool for August - in the upper 70's to low 80's. Skippers, especially, were enjoying the nectar feast. I don't know my skippers well at all, but I think that the orange one is Delaware skipper (Anatrytone logan) and the brown one with a big white spot on its hind wings is the silverspotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus). Both make sense as inhabitants of this yard, as the Delaware skipper's larval food is bluestem grasses and switchgrass, and the silverspotted skipper's larval food is black locust, honey locust and false indigo (Baptisia sp.). We certainly have lots of larval food for both species around here!

There was a dead monarch below the plant (more on that in the next post) and an orange sulfur butterfly (Colias eurytheme) flitting around. I was able to capture the sulfur feeding....

Since then, I've started watching this plant particularly. There are always insects on it. Fritillaries, painted ladies, monarchs, bumble bees, wasps, and skippers, skippers and more skippers. It's definitely not a sterile place holder in the yard.
Every time I look, I see at least one wheel bug on it too.
But, again, I'll leave that for the next post....


Misty said...

Your flowers are beautiful.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Thank you! They truly brighten my days.