Summer Flowers Bring Pollinators

Summer Flowers Bring Pollinators

The information below was originally posted last weekend.

A lot of flowers are blooming in the garden now and they are looking pretty good because we have not had many thunderstorms to knock them over nor have we had drought. This is the time of year that you can hear the cicadas and crickets, and start seeing more butterflies and bees on the flowers.

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Monarch butterfly depositing eggs on swamp milkweed.

IMG_9611Swamp milkweed in bloom. I am watching for the Monarch caterpillar, but am not too hopeful as we have a lot of predators around, such as wasps, that hopefully keep a check on the cabbage moth worms

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Agastache ‘blue fortune’ giant hyssop’ in the front, with a visiting bee. The yellow flowers are Heliopsis helianthoides false sunflower ‘summer sun.’

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Black-eyed Susans are cheery in front of the ornamental grass Miscanthus ‘Morning Light.’ The Russian sage on the right is flowering a lavender color and the pink hydrangeas are having their best year.

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Close up of Black-Eyed Susans

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A view of the yard mid-summer. The chinquapin oak tree has tiny acorns on it and it keeps growing each year. The pole beans are climbing the bean structure and starting to produce. Vegetables and flowers are doing their thing around the yard.

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The coneflowers seem to have multiplied around the yard and I love it. Liatris spicata blazing star flowers are blooming in the background.

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Joe Pye weed and coneflowers in a pink part of the garden.

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I have not had time to investigate what insect is sitting on this coneflower. I can see its little claws and it has wings as well.

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A question mark butterfly sunning on the laundry rack.

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Closed wings on question mark butterfly.

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The first and only nasturtium flower in the garden so far this year. I planted two packets full of seeds, but some of the other plants are very small, probably due to lack of rain. I am too lazy to water this time of year….

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Pink flowers of the yellow wax bean plants.

IMG_9608Zinnias and dill. Both are great butterfly plants. The dill is a host plant for black swallowtail caterpillars and the zinnias attract butterflies, bees and goldfinches.

Indigo Bunting, Skunk, and Garden Update

Indigo Bunting, Skunk, and Garden Update

We enjoy the garden this time of year, but also like to venture out in the many natural areas near where we live.

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Dan got a picture of a male indigo bunting singing in a tree at Lake Katherine last Saturday morning.

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The dragonflies are active this time of year.  This might be a blue darner.  I am seeing fireflies at night in the garden now, too.

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This monarch was at Lake Katherine on the thistle plants last week.  I may have seen one Monarch in our yard this year, but that is about all.  My zinnias are just about to start blooming, so that will attract them.

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I am going to sneak in this very blurry picture of an eastern bluebird that we saw in the Palos forest preserve yesterday.  The mosquitoes were after us when I was trying to take this picture, so that is my excuse for the poor picture!

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On our walk yesterday we passed this stump with interesting fungi.  I don’t know if you can see the hole in the log just below the top fungi, which looks like a nice home for some critter.

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Back in our yard, the monarda, bee balm, that I planted two or three years ago finally bloomed for the first time.  We have it growing in our tall grass area.

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One day this week I was working at my desk and looked out of the window to see something black and white that caught my eye.  We had left the back gate open and the skunk must have come in, snooped around for a minute, but then went back out the gate, which we then closed.

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Here is a closer look at one of the marigolds that was behind the skunk in the picture.

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A peek into my garden where things are getting going.  The cucumber is just starting to take off on the right.  Behind that I just planted two little tomato plants that my Arab neighbor lady gave me.  I don’t really need more tomatoes, but I am curious to see how they will do and I seem to have room right now for them.

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I took this picture of the zucchini plant about a week ago.  Since then it rained a little and there were a few flowers and the first small zucchini is coming along. Get ready for zucchini!

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We have been picking and eating a lot of raspberries in the garden this week.  Dan and I have each had a couple of good handfuls a day.  I throw in some mulberries and service berries into my morning oatmeal, too.

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There were quite a few blueberries on the Duke blueberry bush, but it seems to take forever for them to turn blue.  I think this bush is dying.  Our soil is not acidic and this bush does not really get enough sun.  But it has made a great effort to produce this year.

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Pink hydrangea.

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This morning we went to the McGinnis slough in the forest preserve in Palos Park.  As we were looking at the great blue herons and egrets we noticed a deer walking in the slough.  It seemed to be eating lily pads.

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Its ears were perked up and it looked our way a long time as we looked at it.

Rain:  As I was writing this post we just had a nice rain shower.  It was just over a tenth of an inch, so not a lot, but even that should help everything in the garden, as it has been a bit dry recently.  It cooled the temperature down, too.

Blooming Flowers and Biting Mosquitoes

It has been a raining summer and the mosquitoes are winning the battle.  A lot of flowers are blooming in the garden now.  If some of the pictures are not the greatest it is because each picture comes with a mosquito bite!  The garden has a lot of places where mosquitoes can congregate under a lot of foliage.  It doesn’t seem so bad if we walk on a trail somewhere else.

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The Joe Pye Weed – Eupatorium ‘Gateway’ – is starting to bloom.

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A few pink hydrangea flowers are blooming on our small bush.

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Hydrangea arborescens ‘Incrediball.’  I wish I had gotten a hydrangea with smaller blooms that were not so heavy.  Last summer I had good luck with drying them, though.

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Hydrangea close up.

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We have had three Kniphofia – red hot poker flowers this year.  Maybe a few more will continue to come…  The blue flowers on the left are spike speedwell.  The Russian sage is starting to come on strong.  On the left is miscanthus ‘morning light’ ornamental grass.

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The liatris spicata and the Shasta daisies are blooming at the same time.

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Bee visiting liatris spicata – blazing star.

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I spent a little time deadheading these mums today.  It has been too cold and wet to do it before, so it was a bit of a job.  The alyssum reseeds itself every year here and there in the garden.  It is easy to pull out wherever I don’t want it.

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Swamp milkweed.  I tried planting regular milkweed from seed this year, but have not succeeded so far, though I am still trying.

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This is the only picture I have of some bee balm that is getting going in our little meadow.

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With the rabbits and all the mosquitoes we ended up cutting back some of our little meadow to give some room for a little hickory that a squirrel planted in a good place.  We will see if this hickory catches up to the taller bitternut hickory we planted in the front yard.

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The first pink zinnia calls to the butterflies.

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The dill is flowering.  Dill is good food for the black swallowtail caterpillars.

Native and non-native plants:  I planted a lot of flowers before thinking about incorporating more native plants into the garden.  So I have a mixture of both.  Often the native plants really attract the pollinators, though some non-native ornamentals do well, too.

Cooking:  My cooking this week included these ingredients from the garden: broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale, bok choy, onions, red potatoes, small eggplant, parsley, oregano, thyme, a few strawberries and blueberries, and 5 wax beans that the rabbits missed.  With all the mosquitoes this year I have not been too upset to have the rabbits eat the pea and bean plants.

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.

Red Hot Poker and Butterfly Weed

I have been trying to attract butterflies to the garden and give them some habitat to survive, since much of their habitat has been destroyed.  This time of year I start looking for caterpillars and butterflies.  I like to put a lot of bright colored flowers in the garden to draw the butterflies in.

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Red hot pokers flowers, butterfly weed, and Russian sage.  I like orange in the garden!  When I sit at my desk by the window I look out at this.

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Pollinator on butterfly weed.  I have two large stands of this plant in the yard.  Today I was standing on the patio when I saw a monarch butterfly on our butterfly weed right by the patio.  I tried to stay still in case it wanted to deposit some eggs, but it flew away.  That is the first monarch I have seen in two years.  I hope it comes back!

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Shasta daisies.  I got rid of almost all the Shasta daisies I had in my garden, but left a couple just because they are cheery.

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Coreopsis ‘moonbeam’ with blue hill salvia.

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‘Incrediball’ hydrangea.

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We took a walk this morning starting out from the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center in the forest preserve.  Up ahead is Long John Slough, a little lake where we stopped to watch a variety of wildlife.

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As we stood at the shore we saw something that at first we thought was a beaver.  Then we thought is was an otter.  We finally realized that it was a muskrat.  There was a muskrat couple busy working this morning.  This one is swimming with a bunch of grass in its mouth back to the other muskrat.  We could not see the den, or whatever a muskrat home is called.  The water lilies were beautiful today.  In any case it was a gorgeous day to stand on the shore and watch the activity.

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Toadstools in the forest.

We forgot our bug spray in the car and the horse flies and mosquitoes started chasing us at this point!

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Unidentified butterfly.  The picture is a bit fuzzy, but I included it because it did not look familiar.  I was not sure how to identify this butterfly with its wings closed…

The zinnias are starting to bloom in the yard, so that should start bringing the butterflies in.

Damselfly, Birds, and Irises

Bees, birds, and various bugs are more active and fun to take pictures of this time of year.

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I saw a lot of damselflies in the grass meadow.

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The dove couple love to hang out at the birdbath and socialize.  They don’t really jump in much, but they take their time preening and pretending this is their territory.

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Dan also got a shot of the goldfinch couple at the birdbath.

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We were so excited to have a robin build her nest in our crabapple tree.  Yesterday morning we had the ladder out and did not see any eggs in the nest, but maybe there are some today.

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The irises are the big show this week!  The robin is near the top of this crabapple tree.

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Blue iris

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Ant on chive flower.

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Dan turned the compost on Saturday.  It is not quite ready yet, but moving along.

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Dan was my big helper this weekend.  Here he stood to stretch his back!  In front is baptisia australis – false blue indigo, and the leaves of the chinquapin oak and the hydrangea.