It’s a strange time in the garden: even though it’s summer, not many native plants are blooming. The spring ephemerals and even the stretch-season wild geraniums are done, but most of the summer flowers haven’t opened yet. Right now it’s just Golden Alexanders…

small black bee facing down on Golden Alexanders

…and Philadelphia fleabane, which volunteered in the lawn.

dozens of small white flowers with yellow centers, green grass in the background

But there’s still a lot going on in the garden. After a lot of May rain and now early June hot temperatures, the plants are looking good, getting bigger by the day. Lots of shades of green, and lots of different textures.

green plants: pearly everlasting, bee balm, iris, blue vervain, butterfly weed, cup plant, black-eyed susan, stiff goldenrod

pearly everlasting, culver's root, bee balm, small pine tree, Golden Alexanders

And the wildlife is buzzing along. Last Sunday, I spotted…

American Lady butterflies and monarch butterflies have laid eggs, which are now American Lady caterpillars

two small black caterpillars crawling on pearly everlasting leaves

and monarch caterpillars.

a just-hatched monarch caterpillar curved on a big common milkweed leaf

And more monarchs showed up to lay more eggs.

female butterfly holding onto a common milkweed in an egg-laying pose

Every time I walked through the garden, I kicked up clouds of damselflies. Dragonflies were busy, too, but I haven’t gotten close enough to get a picture yet.

damselfly resting on black-eyed susan

Aphids and other similar insects were everywhere, so it’s about time for ladybugs to show up to keep them under control.

dozens of red aphids on yellow coneflower

I keep checking for swallowtail caterpillars on the Golden Alexanders, especially since I saw a butterfly last month, but so far I haven’t found any.

Golden Alexanders leaves

Ants were busy managing their colony under stepping stones.

vertical stone on the far left with some small brown ants, a cluster of white eggs, and many ants crawling on top of a structure of woodchips and holes

And a skipper butterfly stopped by.

small brown-and-yellow butterfly looking away on a hyssop leaf

So while the first glance is a lull in the garden, the reality is anything but boring.

In late April I noticed that the wild geranium section had multiplied since last year. This transplanted wildflower was a solid mass of green leaves.

wild geranium leaves filling the frame

I couldn’t wait for them to start blooming because I imagined a crowded sea of pinkish-purple flowers.

about three dozen flowers, viewed from above

A month later, that proved true. One afternoon, I couldn’t seem to stop taking photos.

a stem with three open flowers viewed from the side, two of the styles visible

three flowers tightly clustered so their petals push against each other

two open flowers and a bud about to open

four blooming on one stem in the foreground, only one pointed toward the camera, with lots blurred in the background

a bee curved around the style

an ant walking near the edge of a flower

four flowers in the foreground, viewed from the side, with many flowers blurred in the background

the entire cluster of flowers, viewed from the top

Plant source: Transplant from my mom’s garden.

More about wild geraniums

I added two sessile trilliums to the woodland garden late in 2014. They have done well for two years, and this year I was watching as they came up again.

a large flower on the left, a medium-sized flower in the middle, and a small flower with only the stem and one of three leaves visible, viewed from a standing position

But apparently I wasn’t watching very closely because it took me awhile to notice a third flower popping up, too, this one hiding under the leaf of one of the original flowers. It looked like a baby hiding behind a parent.

same flowers but viewed from the side, so the smallest one on the right is more visible as it's unfolding

I went back to look at earlier photos, and sure enough, there’s a hint of a third growing; I just wasn’t paying close enough attention to notice.

two emerging folded leaves, the right one with a smaller stem right next to it

Soon after, the stem of one of the older flowers broke (or was chewed or otherwise disturbed)…

same three flowers, but the left stem is broken and curved, with the flower's leaves now flat on the ground, purple flower blooming

…and two days later, the same thing happened the other old one.

similar photo as previous, but with two open flowers on the ground and one closed flower standing

The “baby” stayed upright and flourished…

a single flower with a long stem, three green-and-purple leaves, and a purple flower partially opened

…and even the two broken flowers did okay from their new positions on the ground.

all three flowers blooming, the left two on the ground

Sessile trillium (common name: toadshade) is a native plant, though it’s not native in Minnesota; its range is south and east of the Midwest. Apparently it does not smell good, though I haven’t noticed this. I wish I could remember where I bought it.

More about sessile trillium

a patch of white flowers in the sun

Rue anemone or false rue anemone?

another patch of white flowers in the sun

The previous two pictures look really similar. (There’s even a log in each!) They’re white flowers, approximately the same size, with very similar leaves. But they’re different: all of the flowers in the first photo have five petals, but only some of the flowers in the second photo have five petals, and most have more than five.

I can always remember that there is a distinction in the petal numbers, but I haven’t been able to remember which is which without looking it up. Thank goodness for

yet another patch of white flowers, each with five petals

Color might help: if it’s pink, it’s rue anemone. But with such similar common names, what are the chances I’ll remember that? Slim.

closeup of four pinkish flowers, one with seven petals, two with six, and one with five

In addition, both can be white, so it’s not safe to rely on color. So it’s back to counting the petals. False rue anemone always has five petals; true rue anemone has between five and ten.

closeup of a white flower with eight petals and several smaller flowers drooping away

However, that rule has never stuck with me. I have to keep learning it and re-learning it. Even in my own garden — where I have one of these flowers but not the other…

six white flowers, two with five petals, one with six, one unknown, and two missing several petals

… the only way I know for sure is to look at the tag.

an out-of-focus white flower next to a plant tag that says rue anemone

This year, I posted this problem on Instagram and asked if anyone has a mnemonic to help. Within a couple hours, a new Instagram friend, Jenny Stratton, responded with this spur-of-the-moment suggestion:

Five is false, ten is true?

Let’s give it a try:

sunny shot that focuses on a couple flowers in the foreground, with many more blurred in the background
All of these flowers have five petals, so it’s false rue anemone


focus on one pinkish flower, with many more around it
All of these flowers have [up to] ten petals, so it’s [true] rue anemone
It works! And I’ve managed to remember this saying for two weeks.

closeup of one pinkish flower with seven petals

One problem is that five petals could mean either flower. But a patch of true rue anemone, as far as I have seen, never has all five-petal flowers. In fact, I usually don’t see any with five; it’s usually six or eight. As long as I am not in a hurry and look at the entire patch of flowers instead of just one individual, I’ll get it.

closeup of one white flower with five petals, with half a dozen more in the background

Learn more about these flowers

The first thing I noticed in the garden this afternoon was a butterfly flitting around the pearly everlasting.

blurry photo of a black-and-orange butterfly resting on a small, light green plant

When I got closer, I noticed that there was another one nearby – and then another and yet another. I managed to get a photo with two of them in one frame.

two of those butterflies close together among seedlings

Altogether, four American lady butterflies, possibly already laying eggs! I couldn’t wait to get inside and write a post about this.

But then I started seeing other new discoveries in the garden. I’m way behind on the phenology report and need to get recording!

Irises are showing purple.

about a dozen iris buds, some with dark purple tips

I hope these are first-year cup plant seedlings (because there are close to a dozen of these, so it would be nice if they’re a good plant).

plant with red, rhubarb-like stems and large but relatively narrow, toothed leaves

Peonies are already covered in ants.

one round bud in the foreground, two in the background, all covered in small ants

Ferns (not my favorite) are already huge.

at least six nearly fully-grown ferns

The invasive creeping bellflower is already out of control.

the entire frame covered in dozens of green, elongated heart-shaped leaves

The creeping charlie is everywhere, too, although that is at least somewhat manageable. Tonight I pulled this by hand for 30 minutes and actually made a large dent in the strawberry / vegetable garden.

the entire frame covered in short plants with lots of purple flowers

Back to the wanted plants: Canada violet, joining the wood violets that have been blooming for a couple weeks.

white violets in the foreground, light-purple violets in the background

Baby wild ginger leaves, next to the fading flowers.

two dark purple triangle-shaped flowers, to the left of one small, green, rounded leaf

With any luck, this will be the first time we’ve had more than one jack-in-the-pulpit! I spotted three shoots.

And the large-flowered trilliums are finally open.

a drooping three-petaled flower that is starting to open

I can’t decide if that was my favorite find, or if this is instead: common milkweed making an appearance. Monarch butterflies will be here any day now, looking for places to lay their eggs. Grow quickly, milkweed!

six or so tightly packed, short milkweed stems with new leaves standing straight up