Monday, October 30, 2017

Still Open for Business

While today's big storm is bringing about cooler temperatures (just in time for some frigid trick-or-treating, of course!), for most of October it has been warm and beautiful here.  We have yet to get our first frost.

the front garden, a couple weeks ago
Due to the lack of frost, many pollinators are still out and about.  This late in the season, they will take any sources of food they can get - and, of course, the Red House Garden is still open for business.

Hello?  Any food in here?
My favorite perennial available for pollinators in October is my Willowleaf Sunflower, which gets bigger and better every year.  The blooms are sadly now over, but for much of October it was bee-utiful.

Willowleaf Sunflower
Bees go crazy for native Asters, and I am so glad that the groundhogs and bunnies finally let mine get taller than nubs this year.  Some are still in bloom in the garden.

bee on Aster laevis 'Bluebird'
The Montauk Daisies are also still blooming, though looking a little more ragged by now.

Montauk Daisies
The plant that impressed me most this year, however, was the Sheffield Mums.

Sheffield Mums in the greenhouse garden
Every time a big rainstorm comes, they look like they are out for the count, but they just pop right back up again.  Pollinators love them, and the only wildlife that bothers them is the occasional Cucumber Beetle.

"I get knocked down, but I get up again.  You are never gonna keep me down..."
Along with the late-blooming perennials, my annuals are indispensable to the fall buffet. Self-seeding Cosmos, Nicotiana, and Sweet Alyssum pop up every year in my garden and keep going until frost (or even through light ones, as in the case of the Sweet Alyssum.)

Cosmos 'Picotee'
I might actually have to buy more Cosmos seed for next year, as I didn't get as many this year.  The Verbena bonariensis, on the other hand, outdid itself, coming up everywhere and attracting hordes of butterflies to the garden.

Painted Lady butterfly on Verbena bonariensis
Like many other people around the country, I saw an explosion of Painted Ladies in the garden this year.  It was such a good year for these butterflies that a huge mass of migrating Painted Lady butterflies stretching 100 miles wide over Denver, Colorado, was recently caught on radar!  The befuddled meteorologists had to turn to social media for help to figure out what was going on.

Painted Lady butterfly on Verbena bonariensis
I've also been ecstatic to see so many Monarchs in the garden this year, after years of such dangerously low populations.  Unusually warm temperatures coupled with strong headwinds have resulted in the latest migration ever recorded, and I spotted Monarchs in my garden just a couple days ago.  I do hope they can fly down south in time to hibernate before the cold weather hits!

Monarch butterfly on Verbena bonariensis
The weather is turning colder, and I am sure it will be freezing before we know it.  Until then, we stay open for dining, and all bees, butterflies, and other pollinators are welcome!  Happy gardening as always,

and, for the little guys, bon appétit!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

When It's Not Poop

A friend recently gave me a Dictamnus plant out of her garden.  Right on top was a very interesting stowaway.

What looked like a giant bird dropping on a leaf was no dropping at all...

It is actually the caterpillar of a  Giant Swallowtail Butterfly - one we don't commonly see this far north!  It uses its disguise of bird poop to avoid getting eaten by predators.

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar
It's not the only one that masquerades as a turd for extra protection. Several different types of Swallowtail caterpillars look somewhat like bird droppings in their early phases.

Black Swallowtail caterpillar
Similarly, I don't think any predator would find the appearance of this Hover Fly larvae appetizing...

Hover Fly larvae - ugly in appearance, but very beneficial as it eats aphids
Along these lines, I noticed a new visitor to my veggie garden this year that I called the 'poop bug' until I finally looked up its true name.

It is really called the Clavate Tortoise Beetle.  I can see why it is called that, as the dark markings really do look kind of like a miniature tortoise - but I still think it looks even more like bird poop.

Clavate Tortoise Beetle (aka Poop Bug)
These beetles like plants in the nightshade family, including tomatoes, but thankfully don't usually do a lot of damage.

I think it's really awesome how nature uses camouflage to protect caterpillars and other critters from predators.  As interesting as it is, though, I think I'm ready to see some wildlife that doesn't look like poop.

Ah, much better!
Happy gardening (and critter watching)!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Berry Strange Mystery

I've previously posted about my Winterberry Holly bushes that I have on either side of my front porch.  One of the reasons I love them is that they loose their leaves in fall, leaving their branches covered only in bright red berries.  It is a spectacular sight.

The display of berries lingers into winter, often past Christmas, until the local birds discover them and feast.

My bushes are usually completely loaded with berries.  This year was no exception - until a couple of weeks ago when my Holly branches started looking much barer than normal...

For some mysterious reason, many of the berries had gone missing!

I'm not quite sure where all of my berries could have gone.

Any ideas?

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