Why Leave Seedheads On?

We are now having nights in the mid-30s, so leaves are turning and the seedheads are ripening on the Echinacea and Rudbeckia. Although these plants are swaying right up to the edge of the sidewalk, the goldfinches have been very interested and hungry—and very hard to photograph with a phone. They are nervous little creatures.

This young goldfinch has been stuffing itself on Rudbeckia triloba seeds. Photographed on October 18, 2019.

Young goldfinches need fuel. According to Audubon, goldfinches do overwinter in Michigan, so they will need food in the coming months. They are also vulnerable to our increasingly warm climate. Michigan will be too far south for them in the summer by the time the average annual temperature increases by 3°C, which at current rates could occur by 2080.

The goldfinch photograph is roughly 25% of the area of a larger photograph which was taken fully zoomed, so the focus is not its best—a telephoto lens on a real camera would allow for much better results—but it captures the reason to leave the seedheads on for a while.

Prairie Rose’s Show Is Brief but Lovely

The prairie rose, Rosa setigera, is a native that dodges budworms by budding up after the budworms have hatched and are munching on nonnative ornamental roses.

This year it stayed chilly well into May, delaying both budworms and rosebuds. The prairie rose made the most of our unusually wet weather by putting out several new canes. It seems to be quite happy in a high spot in the rain garden on the east side of the house, where there is plenty of morning and early afternoon sun. Continue reading “Prairie Rose’s Show Is Brief but Lovely”

The Monarch and the Echinacea

Unfortunately, it is just one monarch and not monarchs. I have not seen many this summer. I was about to run errands when I spotted this one. It was a very flitty butterfly that did not want me moving around—if I moved, it flew off, circled around, and came back—so I stood as still as I could and took photographs that really should have been sharper.

Several Echinacea blooms in various stages from just unfurling to getting a little worn out, with a monarch showing off the underside of its wing.
A monarch butterfly who was very determined to sip nectar from the rain garden Echinacea. Photographed July 15, 2018.

At this point in July we have had no rain in two weeks, so butterfly potables are probably in short supply, adding to the monarch’s woes.

In addition to the Echinacea in the front, I have milkweed running through a patch of daylilies behind the smoke bushes in the back, where they won’t upset people who get nervous about any wild element in the yard. It’s not an ideal patch, but it is a lot better than nothing. My neighbor has swamp milkweed in his rain garden as well; we are the oases in the food desert for the monarchs on our block.

Prairie Rose Is Hymenopteran Heaven

No one would call me adventurous, but I decided to take a risk and put our native prairie rose, Rosa setigera, in a relatively high spot in the rain garden. It started budding up in slow motion—handy when budworm eggs were being laid—the buds were not even there yet when my earliest rose buds elsewhere in the yard were being infiltrated. Some of the size difference is due to the number of petals in the flower, but much of the difference is due to timing of development.

Side-by-side photographs, taken about 3 weeks apart. The Morden's Blush bud was significantly larger in mid-May than the prairie rose buds photographed 3 weeks later.
Roses in bud: Prairie rose, left, photographed on June 6, 2018; Rose ‘Morden’s Blush,’ right, photographed on May 17, 2018.

The sprays of prairie roses start out as hot pink single flowers with a beautiful yellow crown of stamens and a very obvious pale green pistal, then fade to a pale pink or white flower with pink spots and a small heap of dried-up stamens curled up and into the pistal.

A spray of Rosa setigera, from a hot pink bud and newly opened flowers to fading flowers that will shortly lose their petals, with 2 metallic green bees collecting pollen, one in side view and the other in top view.
Rosa setigera in bloom. Photographed on June 30, 2018.

Continue reading “Prairie Rose Is Hymenopteran Heaven”

A Rain Garden Update

Someone told me that they heard that we have had over 6 inches of rain this May. The most remarkable part is that we have not been having any of the horrible weather that has been plaguing many other parts of the country. According to our local NBC station, it is only 0.04 inches from the fifth wettest year on record for this area—and Alberto may have some contributions tomorrow and Thursday. Continue reading “A Rain Garden Update”

The Rain Garden Hooked Up and In Action!

So what has been happening in this garden? August is a quiet month. The plants just wait for rain.

I have been stumped over connecting up the downspouts to the rain garden because of tree roots by the southern downspout, and some very ambitious nannyberries that I realized were in front of the northern downspout. Continue reading “The Rain Garden Hooked Up and In Action!”

C. R. A. P. in the Rain Garden

Contrast. Repetition. Alignment. Proximity. C. R. A. P. These are basic design principles, but not the only ones. This is a very handy mnemonic—a memory device—that I learned from William’s The Non-Designer’s Design Book* in another century. She laid it out as P. A. R. C., but it is just naughty enough for my students to remember when it’s C. R. A. P.

I’m a sucker for green and for texture. Green is very restful. On the other hand, an endless expanse of the same  texture, even in green, can become either boring or overwhelming depending on the scale of the texture and of the plants. Continue reading “C. R. A. P. in the Rain Garden”