Echinacea purpurea: a Hive of Activity

Echinacea purpurea is a scruffy-looking plant when it’s not in bloom. It gets interesting when the flower buds start developing. They are very individualistic, and both the flower buds and leaves noodle around while the plants manage to stay stiffly erect.

Echinacea purpurea flowers developing. Photographed on June 25, 2021.

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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.

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”

More Rain Today Than in the Month of June

I cannot believe I’m saying this, but I was very happy to be blasted out of bed shortly after 5 a.m. by very loud thunder. When I looked out the window, the rain garden had plenty of puddling in it, so it was doing its job keeping at least some of the rain from running off down the sidewalk and into the overtaxed storm drains.

By 8 a.m., the silver maple had stopped dripping enough that I could walk around and enjoy my second cup of coffee. The hydrangeas looked terrific. Looking more closely, I realized that a month with many more promises of rain than actual rain had taken its toll. The flowers heads are smaller than usual, and the individual flowers are quite a bit smaller, but the green of the leaves was already shifting from that piny, water-stressed blue green to a much brighter and greener green.

Annabelle hydrangea, closeup. The individual flowers are just over half of their usual diameter, due to a very dry June. Usually the petals hide the stems behind them completely. Photographed July 7, 2017.

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