Bees, Fungi, Grasshoppers and Hummingbirds

Bees, Fungi, Grasshoppers and Hummingbirds

This is always a fun time to be taking pictures in the garden.  There are too many mosquitoes to want to do much weeding, but the garden it packed with pollinators on all the September flowers.

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Bee on Caryopteris.

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I have two caryopteris bushes that are covered with bees these days.  My best guess is carpenter bees.  I can count 6 bees in this picture.  They love the sedum, too.  The ornamental grass in the background is miscanthus ‘morning light.’

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The sedum has turned pink.  On the back left is the other caryopteris bush and on the right is the blue hill salvia that is blooming again after a hair cut earlier in the summer.  The sedum is most active when the sun is shining, attracting a lot of flies, skippers and bees.

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I zoomed in to take a closer look at the bold-faced hornet.  My research says this critter is in the yellowjacket wasp family that live in those big hanging nests in trees.  I wonder where the nest is.  If you are not in danger from bothering the nest these are considered beneficial insects due to their predation of flies, caterpillars and spiders.  Wikipedia says that adults also drink nectar which they feed to their larvae.  The designs on the body are really fascinating.

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I moved over to the blue hill salvia to photograph the busy bees there.

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But my camera wanted to focus on this mystery mushroom instead.

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Funky fungus

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Recently I noticed a large area of fungi.  I am not sure if they are the result of the deterioration of our old silver maple tree or if it is just from wood chips breaking up or what.  I am not really an expert on fungi, but the fungi area is five or six times larger than this picture.  It looks a little bit like wasp nests….

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Unknown critter on my plastic chair this morning.  Is it a wasp or a moth or something else?  There are so many unknown small creatures in the yard now.

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When I went to pick pole beans I found these two grasshoppers next to each other.

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In the little messy meadow there are a lot of little grasshoppers and damselflies these days.

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Next to the meadow the turtlehead flowers are in bloom and behind them the coral mums are getting ready to bloom in October.

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Russian sage and solidago rugosa goldenrod ‘fireworks.’

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Monarch on Russian sage.  I have not seen monarch caterpillars on my milkweed yet, but realize that some of the monarchs that have been visiting recently have been male.  I noticed that when I looked back at some of the pictures I posted in previous blogs that show the pattern when the wings are open.

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There have continued to be two monarch on the zinnias each afternoon this past week.  The goldfinches have continued to pick the petals off to get at the zinnia seeds.  There is a butterfly festival at Lake Katherine tomorrow, 9/18/16.

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Hummingbird at neighbor’s feeder.  There have been at least two hummingbirds very active in the yard the past weeks, as they live in the mulberry tree behind our backyard.  At least five times I have seen a hummingbird chase after a monarch to scare it away.  I suppose they share the same nectar in the flowers.  I did not believe it at first, but after multiple times I saw that the hummingbirds thought they were the boss and were trying to enforce it, not very successfully.  I think the ones I am seeing are female or immature as they have not had ruby throats.  We do not have a hummingbird feeder, like the neighbors on both sides of us, but the hummingbirds are busy in our yard every day.

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The flowers on the east fence are prettiest this time of year.  In bloom in orange, yellow and white are nasturtiums, alyssum, zinnias, marigolds and mums.

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I thought all of these mums I planted two years ago, I think, had died, but some have come back and started blooming now.

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Butterfly bush flower and nasturtiums.

If you have lasted through all these pictures, thank you!  I don’t blog as often now, so I seem to accumulate a lot of photos between each post.

Caryopteris, Chinquapin Oak, and Green Beans

The pollinators are shifting over to the caryopteris and soon the sedum.  The zucchini are multiplying.  The neighborhood trees are producing acorns and other nuts.  Just when summer seems to be coming to an end we anticipate really hot weather this week.

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The caryopteris bluebeard is blooming now and covered with bees and other pollinators.  The sedum is just about to bloom and turn pink, as the black-eyed susans die away.  I just dug out the hydrangea so that I can put a nice big circle of mulch around the chinquapin oak.

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Bee carrying pollen on legs on caryopteris bluebeard.

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First sedum blooms.

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Our chinquapin oak is looking healthy.  The laundry posts block the view….  We really love this tree.  Have we said that before?  We planted it in 2009 and it was about 7 feet tall then.

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Acorns on chinquapin oak.

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I saw this baby chinquapin seedling under the crabapple tree.  We pulled up two of these oak seedlings today.  I hope the birds and squirrels plant more of these trees outside of our yard.

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Blue jay in bird bath.  One afternoon I heard the blue jay squawking in the chinquapin tree and then squawking in the bird bath.

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Blue jay’s bright blue feathers

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Pole bean blossom.  The rabbits have left us alone for a while and the pole beans have come back.  I picked quite a few green beans today, for the first time this year, and put them in some soup we cooked up.  We threw in half a red cabbage, collards, zucchini, turnips, broccoli, tomatoes, and potatoes from the garden, along with some herbs.  A couple of cans of beans added a little more protein and we have meals for a few days.

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This is the time of year when the zucchini patch takes over the garden.  Only one zucchini plant successfully survived from the hill of three seeds I planted, but it seems pretty healthy and bountiful, though some mildew is coming on the leaves now.  In front of it on the left, the collards are doing really well this year, too.

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Just have to throw in one more picture of a black swallowtail caterpillar on parsley.  We have several caterpillars chewing on parsley around the garden this week.

Celebration!  Celebrating 35 years of marriage to my true love tomorrow.  I am glad that he likes nature, too!

Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Strawberries

We have been eating lettuce for a while, but yesterday we cooked up some soup with our first head of cauliflower, and we need to harvest the first head of broccoli today.  We have been eating a lot of strawberries this week.  Actually Dan reached his limit of strawberries, but I still have room for more!

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This cauliflower was a lot smaller than the ones last year, but probably about 7 inches across, so big enough.  The soup we made also had asparagus and mushrooms from the farmer’s market.

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It looks like I need to pick this broccoli head for super.

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Potato flowers.  I planted red potatoes this year, but these potatoes came up from whatever we missed getting out of the ground last year.

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Backing up you can see the same potato plants on the left, next to some flowers  – Penstemon digitalis (foxglove beard tongue), a native plant.  In front are wax beans that are getting crowded out by the potatoes.  I can always plant some more wax beans, if I get around to it.

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Tomato flower.  These are “Amish paste” tomatoes, that were so good last year.

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I have been picking one to two pints of strawberries a day.  Rain and heat help.

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Strawberry rhubarb sauce.  I have made three batches this year.  I realize how much rhubarb I threw in the compost pile the past years…  Of course, it requires a lot of sugar, but other than that there is no cost to me.  I have been enjoying it with some yummy ice cream.

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Our neighbors cut down some weed trees, and with them the raspberry canes.  Raspberries come on second year canes, I believe, so they are growing back for raspberries next year.  And now we have some growing on our side of the fence, the right side, too!

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I think this is oakleaf lettuce.  We pick leaves off and more grow back.  We have romaine lettuce and some baby kale for salads and smoothies, too.

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A few flower pictures, too…  Blue hill salvia, max frei geraniums, and penstemon digitalis.

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The alchemilla lady’s mantle plants have been big this year.  Behind them the catmint is blooming.  On the right in front is the caryopteris and the baptisia australis is in back.  I could get rid of some of these plants, but I don’t have to pick weeds here, or at least I don’t see them, when the plants are big like this.

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Straight through the opening in the last picture – the spike speedwell royal candles are blooming and the gaillardia are getting going, too.

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Geranium ‘rozanne’ with lady’s mantle in the background.

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The joe pye weed on the right is starting to get tall.  Last year I pinched them back.  I think I will not pinch them back and leave them with some supports this year and see how tall they get.  In front are white foxgloves, liatris getting ready to bloom, and foliage of the turtlehead flowers.

Sightings:  A chipmunk that seems to be under the hostas or the irises.  The rabbit persists.  We are learning to live with it, but give it chase now and then.

Sedum’s Visitors

The sedum is in full bloom.  I often take a break and go out to see what has come to visit on sedum’s sweet landing pad.  Talk about pink!

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Red-spotted purple butterfly on sedum.  This one had fresh, beautiful wings.  While I was taking this picture there was another red-spotted purple butterfly on the sedum that had torn, dull wings.  It looked like it had been around for a while.

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Spider hiding in sedum.  I might not have noticed this spider, but when I was filling up the bird bath I saw this spider run out and unsuccessfully try to nab a wasp that was on the edge of the sedum.  It looked like this spider had a fly in his web that he had already caught.  There are so many flies on the sedum that it seemed like a great strategy.  I have seen quite a few other spiders around the garden this week.  I only like spiders from a distance!

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Bee, maybe a carpenter bee, on sedum.  Aren’t those tiny flowers beautiful?  I can see how all the pollinators would be attracted to this area where they can just walk around and graze on the sweet nectar.

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Silver-spotted skipper on sedum.  Here you can see the open flowers on the left and the almost open flower buds on the right.

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This year I planted my pole beans at the end of the sedum bed.  In the back on the left you can see the blooming blue caryopteris, which is also buzzing with bees now.  If you want to plant a sedum bed, just visit a friend with sedum and break off four to eight stalks.  Stick the bases of the stalks in the ground and water it until it gets established.  You may have to water every day or twice a day and then slow it to just once a week.  Now I never water them.

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The bean pole structure is heavy with beans, but did not fall over this year with the added support. Almost three weeks ago I got stung by a bee or wasp on my foot while I was picking pole beans.  I am not exactly allergic, but don’t do well with bee stings so I decided to stop picking the beans, since we still have plenty of yellow wax beans to eat.  Of course the pole beans kept coming.

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Pole beans and ‘Incrediball’ hydrangea.  My first idea was just to leave the beans until they dry on the vine and then cook them like dried legumes.  However I read that you can also shell the beans before they get completely dry and it is a little like shelling pea pods.  That way you can avoid the tough outer skin, but not need to soak the beans before cooking them.  The hydrangeas were looking pretty good, so I just brought in another batch of them to dry in the house.

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I bought some ginger at an Asian market this spring and stuck it in a pot to see if it would grow.  It was slow going, but now the base is bulging some and it looks like I will have ginger to eat before long.  I am not sure what a good recipe would be….

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Here is the view from the patio, where I read and took a nap today.  The abundance of mosquitoes this year has dimmed my appetite for much gardening.  I am keeping my eyes on the ‘fireworks’ goldenrod in the back center of this picture that is just starting to turn yellow now.

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This is the time of year when I really enjoy that flowers along the walkway to the garden in the back of the yard.  The yellow mums have been blooming since I planted them in the spring.  The orange zinnias are getting going and there is always a lot of alyssum.  A few petunias and hosta flowers add a blue touch and in the front I still have a few coreopsis tickseed blooming.

Time to cook:  We have a tiny cauliflower that grew from a shoot after we cut out the big cauliflower.  That will go into the weekly stew of garden vegetables.

August Snapshots

The late summer flowers are starting up now.  There is always something to keep the bees buzzing.  The weather has been a little drier now, but with a few occasionally showers to keep things somewhat green.

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Facing west you can see the tall sunflower, which is getting ready to bloom.  I got a packet of sunflower seeds in the mail as a promotion, and of all the seeds I planted only this one grew.  Right now it is between 9 and 10 feet tall.  In front the sedum is getting ready to bloom, but right now the caryopteris, right in the middle of the picture, is busy blooming and attracting many bees.  Behind is the spice bush, which had a hard year, but is growing back up from the base.  The Baptisia australis – blue false indigo has set some big seeds which are cool looking.  On the left the catmint was cut back mid-summer, but getting ready to bloom again.

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Caryopteris and bee.

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Seed heads of Panicum virgatum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ – switch grass.  In the background you can see the big seeds of the blue false indigo.

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In another corner of the garden the hydrangea macrophylla foliage has been great this summer, but with just one flower.  Now that the plant finally seems happy, maybe I will get more flowers next year.

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Here is a close up of the hydrangea macrophylla.  My understanding is the alkaline soil produces pink flowers and acidic soil produces bluer flowers.  It looks like I have a little of both colors here.  The soil is alkaline, but it is planted right by the three arborvitae, so maybe they make the soil a little more acidic…

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Comma butterfly on Joe Pye weed.  It looks like I captured a soldier bug in this picture, too.  I tried to get a picture with the butterfly wings open, but the wings opened and closed too quickly to get a picture in focus.  The Joe Pye weed has turned brown now.

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I love dragonflies.  It was a windy day and this dragonfly, a widow skimmer, was hanging on to this grass stalk as the breeze blew.

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Bumblebee sleeping or resting on pink zinnia.  It was just laying on the flower, but when I got very close it flew away.  Maybe it was a cozy bed.  This bee seemed to be more yellow than other bumblebees I have seen in the yard.  I am doing my best to provide habitat for native bees.

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It looks like we have fewer acorns in the Chinquapin oak tree this year.  The squirrel was in the tree this week and that prompted me to see if I could see any acorns in the tree.  I just saw one or two with a quick glance.

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A week or two ago I put the rest of all the onion bulbs that I bought in the spring into the ground.  They came right up, so I will either have green onions that are big enough to eat soon, or if they overwinter, I will have an onion patch in the spring.  Also the lettuce and kale I planted last week germinated right away in the cool wet weather, so maybe we will get to eat that before cold weather comes.

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I planted three tomato plants this year.  In front is ‘gold medal.’  The red ones are ‘Amish paste.”  I also have a nice cherry tomato.  I made a big batch of our favorite spaghetti sauce and froze a few buckets.  It looks like we will have to cook up another batch to keep up with the tomatoes.  Or maybe I will have some tomato salads!  The flavor of the Amish paste is excellent.