At the end of another cold snap, it’s fun to look back at pictures of the garden in its prime.
Front view of the front yard:
Obviously, as I’ve documented at length already, black-eyed susans were the star of the show. Blooming from late June to mid-August, taking up a huge spot right in the front of the garden closest to the street, they were amazing.
This is the year that the cup plant “leaped” — more than a dozen new plants grew away from the original cluster.
Bonus: these were young enough that they were just my size. (The older ones are several feet above my head, so I usually don’t see these flowers up-close. The ones at the top of this website were taken when I was holding a camera above my head while standing at the top of a ladder.)
White snakeroot, which was in our backyard before we were here, spread to a new area in the backyard, and also to the front yard:
Joe-pye weed seedlings made themselves comfortable between the pine tree and the sidewalk:
Of course, not everything succeeded.
Trout lily and bluebells didn’t grow, but this was completely my fault. I never got around to planting them, and the little pots blew over in the wind and then something ate them.
Blazing star was eaten by rabbits (though I planted more seeds in the fall to try again).
Vegetables didn’t grow, again. Tried in a different spot this time, too. This might be the last time; we can rely on farmer’s markets and the co-op for our fresh veggies instead.
Even the path through the garden: it disappeared around the end of June, engulfed by plants that I didn’t have the heart to pull out (or the time to transplant).
Every year it seems as if one non-native perennial fades or doesn’t survive, and this year it was evening primrose’s turn.
Allium: perhaps fading like other perennials, perhaps just overshadowed by
bigger, flashier plants around them.
From the Landscape Revival plant sale: bishop’s cap, native false indigo, and three kinds of milkweed. (More stories to come another day about milkweed.)
Lobelia from a friend. This is one of my favorite photos of the year because I have no idea how I managed to get the tussock moth caterpillar to photobomb this flower. One day I was transporting caterpillars from the backyard (which ran out of milkweed) to the front yard (which had plenty) and apparently chose that moment to stop and take a picture of a lobelia!
Purple giant hyssop, yellow coneflower, joe-pye weed, and pearly everlasting, dug up from our front yard to donate to a Wild Ones fundraiser:
Squash plant that volunteered in the flower garden — though it waited until October, so no actual squash were produced:
Bishop’s cap, which I bought in June and normally blooms in the spring, apparently didn’t want to wait for next year, and bloomed in its original pot in July:
Peachtree borer moth:
I wasn’t sure how to describe this one on Google to find its name, so I posted it on Instagram and asked for help. Within minutes, I got an answer: brown marmorated stink bug nymph.
(More posts to come about new bugs.)
Culver’s root with a stalk that split into six:
Rabbit caught in the act:
Pretty American Lady butterfly next to a faded coreopsis:
Here’s what I wrote on Instagram in June, on my first master naturalist anniversary. I think it summarizes my year’s exploration nicely.
Today is my master naturalist birthday: one year ago I earned a certificate for completing the prairies and potholes course. Taking this class was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because it reinforced my growing interest in the natural world. Since then I’ve learned a lot and committed to environmental stewardship through events such as invasive species removal, wildflower planting, and seed collecting. But my favorite place to explore remains my own front yard.
Late this summer I decided to participate in a million milkweed challenge. A local environmental restoration organization asked volunteers to collect seeds from common milkweed, whorled milkweed, and butterfly weed, which will be used to grow plants and also used in seed mixes. Milkweed is vitally important because it’s the only thing that monarch caterpillars eat, and its flowers also attract other pollinators.
At one point in June, just one small section of our front yard looked like this, so in late autumn there were plenty of common milkweed pods to be found:
Here are some
and here are some
…though I decided to just leave this pod.
I didn’t collect every last pod, especially leaving the ones that had already opened so the seeds were starting to fly, so there is plenty of seed left over in the yard to regenerate next year. I still ended up with a table full of ripe pods:
I decided to remove the seeds myself, rather than turn in pods, and that meant I had a lot of work to do. Since the collection process had taken place over several weeks, by the time I began working, not all the pods were in good shape anymore. Some had already opened and started to separate
and some of the pods had gotten a little damp due to weather, so I found a few pods like this:
Those squiggly lines aren’t worms, they are sprouts!
(I discarded pods like this and only included fresh seeds.)
To remove the seeds, I held on tightly to the “fluff” end of the pod, then scraped downward across the seeds to loosen them into the container.
This pod is going smoothly.
This one ended perfectly: all the seeds came off easily.
But sometimes, no matter how tightly I held on, the seeds didn’t cooperate — and with not a lot of patience for picking up seeds one by one, when that happened, I set that pod, fluff, and seed aside.
Wayward seeds still attached to their “parachutes” floated all over
and once I realized just how many seeds were falling through the wire table down to the patio stones, I put on a tablecloth and caught quite a few that were missing the container.
About three hours and 159 usable pods later, I had one gelato container filled to the brim:
And what I’m left with now is a bag half-full of fluff.
I recently heard that a Canadian company is starting to make jackets using this for stuffing instead of down or synthetics. Maybe I could go into business! (Though at about one coat or pillow a year, it wouldn’t be a very lucrative business.) The fluff is super-soft.
I’m several weeks behind on posting these photos of the garden. Most of these photos were taken October 20 and 25.
The last turtlehead held out until the 20th:
The new native false indigo turned yellow:
So did the whorled milkweed:
Lots of pretty goldenrods:
A gathering of large milkweed bugs on bee balm:
Butterfly weed seed pods popped open:
Beautiful red stems of giant purple hyssop:
The spiderwort cultivar resprouting:
Hepatica leaves visible, though I didn’t see flowers reblooming like many other people did:
A squash, unexpectedly growing in the flower garden:
Part of a paper wasp nest, probably carried in by wind:
Milkweed fluff stuck on bee balm:
I could watch bees crawl in and out of turtlehead flowers all day. Mostly it’s just bumblebees and honeybees that do this, because they’re big enough to open the flowers. And I see more bumblebees than honeybees here.
They force their way into the “mouth” of the “turtle” and rustle around inside for quite awhile, then exit and find another flower to repeat the process.
Video of a bumblebee from a few years ago:
Sometimes they need to stop and regroup after they exit, brushing the pollen off their antennae or eyes, I assume.
This flower has a honeybee inside, barely visible.
This year, at first, I thought I had noticed a difference – bumblebees climb out backwards, while honeybees turn around and climb out face-first – but then I saw a bumblebee turn around, too. (And the video above shows a bumblebee that turns around, so I had seen that before.) In fact, I don’t seem to have any photos of bumblebees backing out. So much for that theory.
This one is my favorite: looks like it was quite the effort to squeeze out of this blossom.
Only a little hint of the insect inside.