Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Horticulture Magazine Garden Verse Contest

It's incredibly pricey to enter at $15 per 1st poem, then $10 for each one after (and only for a $250 prize), but someone out there might give it a shot. Deadline is 9/1/09.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monarch Dive Bombing a Swallowtail

Enjoy the pictures. I took dozens to get these few. Three monarchs didn't like this one swallowtail competing at the various liatris. (Which is why I'll be planting much more this fall--liatris I mean, not butterflies.)

This monarch cat had nothing to do with the above, but you know in about two weeks it will. Tasty milkweed flowers. I've noticed monarchs are placing eggs between flower buds, not just on leaves.

Unrelated, I just think the black chokeberry shrub's berries look nice--not black yet, but soon.

Friday, July 24, 2009

International Tell an Old Joke Day

I give you book titles:

The French Chef
by Sue Flay

Tight Situation
by Leah Tard

I Lived in Lincoln
by Helen Earth

by Wayne Dwops

by Ima Dubble

Neither a Borrower
by Nora Lender Bee

The Scent of a Man
by Jim Nasium

Fallen Underwear
by Lucy Lastic

Leo Tolstoy
by Warren Piece

Wind in the Willows
by Russel Ingleaves

Why Cars Stop
by M.T. Tank

Look Younger
by Fay Slift

It's Springtime
by Theresa Green

40 Yards to the Toilet
by Willy Makeit and Betty Wont

Brown Spots On the Wall
by Who Flung Pooh

and of course

Yellow River
by I.P. Freely

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Swallowtail Porn

Just go with the titles, ok? Some sharp pics from my Canon Rebel XTi. And this swallowtail was the FIRST insect I've seen on the butterfly bushes this year, and then another swallowtail came seconds later--all while two monarchs were nearby on the milkweed. Everyone was laying eggs between nectar breaks. Egg. Drink. Egg. Drink. Egg. Drink. It was about breakfast time I suppose. (Yes, I'm slowly going insane this summer with no book project to work on. Bummer. Last summer I wrote 150 pages and read dozens of books, so I get this one off.)

As always, I suggest clicking on the images to expand.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monarch Porn

Seriously. Look at that guy on the rudbeckia maxima and liatris. Yee ha! (It's great to finally see some monarchs after a spring of none--a spring that was perfect for them.)

Bees wanted a little sumpin' sumpin' too.

Alas, this foreplay looks like it's gone terribly wrong. Click to expand and fill me in on who that killer is.

Good to have these guys around. Not related to the other pics. Or is it. You tell me.

Unrelated as well. Here's my rain barrel I got over 2 months ago for PhD graduation and finally installed this week. It's surprisingly about full after only .20" of rain. I did find a dead bumble bee on the debris screen. So the image is related. And rain water is sensuous. Right?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Insects Won't Touch Non Natives This Year

I've been amazed to see that my four large butterfly bushes haven't had one butterfly, bee, wasp, fly or anything else on them to date. I'm sure that'll change this fall, though. Or not?

The coneflowers, culver's root, eupatorium, liatris, milkweed, thistle, ironweed, well these are absolutely plastered with insects (nota bene, milkweed + liatris = monarch mania). This makes me feel good--even the insects seem to be discerning in their plant selection, just as I've been. It's paying off! Party at my house! Right now. Seriously. Come over. I just set up my cold beer tap. We can play with my styrofoam airplane out back, too. (Not a euphemism.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Our Wounded Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly

For a few days he's been fluttering about the garden as best he can (I think it's a he) with a torn / missing right wing--see below. I've tried putting him on some nectar plants, but he goes into shock and limps away to some dense foliage of another nearby plant. Butterflies don't live long anyway, and though I'm a stronger believer of tooth and claw now than I was a few years ago, there's still something that feels wounded in me, too. I don't think that's sorrow, or pity, or even compassion; I think it's much more narcissistic--and that's what feels truly uncomfortable.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Birthday Garden Pics

Mine, not its. Though, you know what, they're close enough. It was about 2 years ago this garden was nothing but a bed of mulch. Et maintenant, vas-y.

That's sweet autumn clematis on the arbor, the native one mind you. In its second year it is 10 times larger. Cool.

Can you find the monarch caterpillar above in the milkweed buds? Free caterpillar if you can. (click to open larger)

This goldfinch was picking out liatris petals and eating them. Whatever, you know?

First year with echinops and I am enjoying the balls, just not their aggressive foliar nature.

Then again, that's why we have 5,000 grasshoppers. Sigh.

Greyheaded coneflower, ironweed in back.

'Swan' echinacea and little bluestem.

Culver's root either looks angelic or demonic depending on my mood. It's an elusive classification for me. Either way, it looks painful.

Vervain is interesting, though petite blooms on 6' plants. These are placed right next to the ironweed--a mistake, since they get lost in the entanglement of ironweed stalks.

The above pics were taken with two cameras: a Canon PowerShot SD800 IS point and shoot, and a Canon Rebel XTi. Can you tell the difference? I sure can. And I'm amazed at how the time of day and angle of light can be used more effectively with the Rebel, if you know what you're doing. Or are occasionally lucky.

Monday, July 13, 2009

They Came! Monarch Cats!

What's nice about my time off from writing is that I've been doing nesting type things, like staining a bookshelf, cleaning up the office for the next book, and gardening. And now, finally, noticing that the monarchs have indeed been here a few weeks though I'd given up hope. Last year we had over 30 larva on just one plant.

Today it was 3 larger cats, a small one, and several eggs on swamp and sullivant's milkweed. Nothing on whorled, poke, tuberosa or the others--yet. But soon the leaves will be gone, and not because of grasshoppers.

Over lunch today it was nice seeing dragonflies, a black swallowtail, moths, bees, wasps, and two monarchs (male and female--you can tell easily from a distance because the males are at the flowers lounging while the females are hard at work on the leaves). Lots of life, not to mention the lone resident baby bunny who runs if I get within 20 feet.

UPDATE -- And black swallowtail cats are here, too!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How To Scissor Grasshoppers

And the zen-like euphoria it produces.

Option 1 -- It's easiest to approach them from behind. Slowly, very slowy close the gap between the blades, then snip fast. This works about 20% of the time.

Option 2 -- Get them against the fence; it's harder for them to jump away or to get cover. Works about 25% of the time, but you scratch your fence.

Option 3 -- This is the best! They think that you can't see them so they scurry to the underside of a leaf. Well, considering how much damage they've done to almost evey type of plant in my garden so far (and it ain't even August yet--we're talking complete skeltonization of 3' x 3' plants and hundreds of hoppers), I'm willing to sacrifice a leaf or potential flowering stem to get them. Just snip right through the leaf. Approximate the middle of their body by their attennae and legs sticking out from behind. Works about 50-60% of the time, if not more once you get in the zone.

The art of grasshopper killing with scissors is an ancient one, handed down from the Chinese and Japanese bonsai masters--and popularized by Mr. Miyagi with his catch-a-fly-with-chopsticks technique. Try it! Not only will you feel calm and focused, you may have killed or seriously injured a female grasshopper.

In my book, even a legless grasshopper isn't as much of a threat as a two-legged insect. (And obviously the bigger they are, the easier they fall.)

Let the hate mail and comments for disgust ensue, but keep in mind pepper spray and molasses isn't working (esp molasses), and I don't believe in pesticides. This seems pretty darn organic to me, especially as I scissored about 20 tonight.