Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer is the best time!

It's summer. It's hot. It's humid. It's rainy; so rainy, in fact, that I keep getting "flash flood warnings" from the National Weather Service on my phone. Actually, we have gotten a nice amount of rain here but in northern Iowa they have gotten way too much, and our rivers are swelling - and flooding too.

In addition to working in my own garden, I've been helping a fellow Master Gardener who is having some pain issues to whip her garden into shape (i.e., weeding and deadheading).

Mosquitoes abound after all of the rain. Ticks are around too. And those 17 year cicadas - have you heard about them?

 The periodic cicadas emerged after 17 years underground, where they fed on tree roots. They will mate, lay eggs, and in 4 - 6 weeks, they'll be gone. Their offspring will emerge in another 17 years.

Some people think they are extremely "yukky," but I think their story is kind of cool. We have had a few in our yard and many more in some areas of town.

 Walking about the garden, you'll note the blueberries are beginning to ripen. They don't all ripen at once, which is a good thing. The robins and catbirds have been chowing down and I've picked my fair share as well.

 My one and only delphinium. They are so pretty; I think I will be adding more next spring.

 The beebalm is striking. I use it as a repeater in multiple areas of the garden. It really stands out.

 The annual rudbeckia are colorful as well. Not sure if this is two plants growing together, or if the flower starts out plain yellow and then develops the red center.

 Red and purple look nice together. Here, it's larkspur and achillea (yarrow) 'Paprika.'

 There isn't much more delicate and beautiful than a ruffled poppy. This is poppy somniferum 'Lilac Candy Floss.'  I planted these from seed and they self-sow.

 While walking in this area of the garden, I noticed a sweet fragrance. I thought it might be the poppy, but no, it was the common milkweed. I allow these to grow for the monarchs.

 Speaking of milkweed, this is swamp milkweed and I think it's absolutely gorgeous.

 Sedum along the stone pathway

 Hydrangea 'Incrediball' is a great performer. This plant is only two or three years old.

 The coneflowers are beginning to bloom now. They are absolutely one of my favorite flowers.

 Clematis (cultivar unknown) is doing well in the garden. I need more of these beauties - I probably have 15 or so but room for more!

Tortie, Garden Supervisor

Summer is the best of times. So many fun things to do, better food, no snow to shovel, and, of course, FLOWERS!!! I find myself continually looking out the window onto the garden when I'm inside...and I like what I see. Uniquely mine, designed by me, but growing and thriving through the grace of God.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Tales of the Monarch and Black Swallowtail

They're here! Black Swallowtail caterpillars have arrived (already) in my gardens.

Below, some pretty butterfly/caterpillar photos from a past summer:

In 2011, I wrote about the life cycles of the Black Swallowtail and Monarch and I thought you might like to read about them again.

This is one of the earlier instars of the Black Swallowtail caterpillar; it will turn to the green/yellow/black (first photo on this post) as it gets older and sheds this skin.

An interesting fact about the life cycle of the black swallowtail: caterpillars that pupate earlier in the summer leave the chrysalis as adult butterflies in about ten days. 

Caterpillars that pupate later in the season may experience diapause, a delay in development which is a physiological state of dormancy used as a means to survive unfavorable environmental conditions, such as temperature extremes, i.e. winter, drought, or reduced food availability. What this means is that these caterpillars rest over the winter in their chrysalis and hatch as adults in the spring time. This is one reason that some environmentalists say you should delay cutting back/cleaning up your garden waste from fall to spring. (I'll still be cutting mine back, but I'll be very mindful and observant of possible chrysalis in amongst my plants.)

Now, a little information about Monarchs.

Monarch caterpillars on the butterfly weed. The life cycle of the Monarch is incredible. The cycle begins with a tiny egg, which is generally laid on some type of milkweed.  When it hatches in about 4 days, it is as a tiny caterpillar that eats and grows for about two weeks.  When I have been observed these wonderful caterpillars (and black swallowtail caterpillars as well) over two weeks, their growth rate was simply incredible.

I've lost track of the butterfly-to-be when it forms a chrysalis. I've heard that the caterpillar moves from the milkweed to a suitable (hidden?) location. It is in the chrysalis for about 10 days before emerging as a beautiful butterly. Its life as a butterfly lasts from 2-6 weeks.

Note the larger caterpillar and smaller one are sharing the same leaf! I thought this made an interesting photo.

Speaking of interesting, did you know that there are 4 generations of Monarchs born each season? It all begins in March/April when the first generation is born and goes through the 4 stages of the life cycle: egg, caterpillar (larva), chyrsalis (pupa), adult butterfly. In May/June the cycle repeats for the 2nd generation. July/August is when the 3rd generation is born.

In September/October the 4th generation is born - egg, caterpillar, chyrsalis, adult butterfly...but THIS generation does not die. It migrates and lives for 6-8 months in Mexico or Southern California. The Monarchs begin awakening and mating in February/March of the next spring and then lay their eggs. After living for much longer than the other 3 generations, with their purpose met, they finally die. (Information from

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Lots of pink in the garden

There's a lot of pink in the gardens right now.

 'Comtesse de bouchaud' looks gorgeous right now, with more blooms to come.

 I believe this is some type of dianthus (or it could be phlox). Love the color combinations.

The roses in front of my house look great. I only lost one from this area. The other eight I lost were from the back - and not close to the house as these are. I think that gave them some protection.

 I have some lovely pink peonies (cultivar not known).

Not pink, but certainly pretty - Peony 'Star Power'

 Now to look at a few non-pink bloomers...above is Clematis 'Betty Corning.'

 This is a type of loosestrife. It's not invasive; I've grown it for 20 years and its' spread has been very manageable.

 Evening primrose

I found a used nest under a tree. I added a birdie and Ron wired it into the tree. How cute!

Pretty in pink!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ah, sweet pie!

Recently I purchased Ms. American Pie Buttery Good Pie Recipes and Bold Tales from the American Gothic House.

Since then, I've been on a pie-baking binge! There are so many fantastic pie recipes in the book, and thus far I've made 10 of them.

 My coconut cream pie turned out to be a very pretty pie! And it was delicious, too!

 Last evening I went to a book signing/pie demonstration by the author, Beth M. Howard. Here Beth is talking with someone and looking over her book. Both of her books are on the book rack on the left.

 Beth making pie crust

 I showed Beth my handwritten list of her pie recipes that I've tried so far. She wrote a very sweet inscription in my book and encouraged me to keep on making pie.

What a fun event!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Every day brings change in the garden

Every day things look different in the garden. For instance, the white peonies that were gorgeous yesterday have brown edges today, and the closed buds on the Martagon lily are beginning to open today.

My Martagon lily - I know it is a "species" lily but don't know a specific name.

 The lupines, one of my favorite flowers, are blooming now.

 There are many clematis at Sunsplash Gardens; this one is happily climbing up a birdhouse pole. I don't know the name.

 'Josephine', a favorite of mine


 'Piilu' is a small (short) clematis.

 'Proteus' on the left and 'Princess Diana' on the right


 Geranium 'Johnson Blue' is just full of color!

 The orange Oriental Poppy is blooming now too.


 Wrens are building in this gourd birdhouse.


Supertunia 'Vista Bubblegum' is filling in nicely. This is a fantastic petunia and I use her throughout the gardens.


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