Plant It And They Will Come

It is time now for some wildlife tidbits. We want to stress the importance of not only planting nectar plants for the various insects that bring color and magic to the garden, but their preferred larval food as well. Larval food is a necessity for the caterpillars of beloved butterflies to grow strong and healthy into the flying flowers we all love. A good site to find the larval food of butterflies and moths can be found by clicking here. Of course we don’t want to lessen the importance of the nectar delivery systems shaped like trumpets for easy supping, or should we say sipping? Shown above is a red penta, an annual here and a flower that takes a while to rev up its bloom production. Late summer into fall is when the flowers are at their peak in Tennessee. In the background are spent flower heads of the remaining lavender in the black garden, formerly the lavender hill.

And we have a visitor now. While waiting for the wings to stop fluttering so a suitable portrait could be taken of this female Eastern Swallowtail in dark form, or it could be a Black Swallowtail since that is the caterpillar we have seen around lately, it was noticed that the hind wing was stationary in spite of the moving forewing. Let’s get snapping!

Purple perilla makes a nice backdrop for the red flowered penta. Both are growing in the black garden, and our visitor fits the theme nicely. Research is leaning toward this being the Black Swallowtail, for there is no tiger marking visible in the forewing.

A flower with that same trumpet shape is Verbena bonariensis. This is a perennial here in our zone 7 and also a mighty self sower, so there are plenty of these tall gangly flower stalks for the skippers and smaller butterflies to drink their fill. This is a Buckeye butterfly, aptly named for the circular spots on the wings. Its larval food is plantain, one of our hated weeds for it is a carrier of the virus infecting our echinaceas according to some sources. But also stonecrop, which is a common name for sedum. That may explain the many holes in the Matrona leaves.

Also enjoying the Verbena is the hummingbird moth. My camera could not catch the wings clearly of this clearwing moth. Maybe it is time to look for a new camera? Uh oh, that idea did not meet a smiling face from The Financier since we just got this camera in March of this year. Maybe it wasn’t the camera but the photographer at fault for the blurry shot.

On the bronze fennel, this swollen tummied Black Swallowtail caterpillar reminds us of a locomotive engine. What do you think? Thomas the Tank Engine with a fancy paint job?

There are two more, oh joy, several of the large butterflies will be showing up soon. These guys look like they are close to full size before taking a little nap to let their food digest.

Hooray, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail newly emerged with smooth perfect skin and wings without tears to pose for some photos on the belamcanda. You are an exquisite being, my dear. What fine stripes the fur on your body show. I could stand and drink in your beauty forever.

He is perfection personified.

Wait, wait, come back! We are not done snapping your photo! Now where did he fly off to? Let’s wander around a little and see what else is happening in the garden while we look.

Ooh, a dragonfly resting on the leaf of the Viburnum rhytidophylloides ‘Alleghany’. I remember writing about the site that identifies insects with photos called What’s That Bug? Let’s go over and see what type this fellow is. Okay, he is a she it seems, an Easter Pondhawk female.
At the edge of the property are a couple of ironweeds just beginning to open their blossoms. Usually it is one tall seven plus foot stalk with flowers way at the top. This year I cut one down by two thirds early in the summer to see if there could be some branching and subsequently lower flowers for those height challenged camera wielders among us. It worked. The little skipper would not be still but gets to be on the post anyway due to his choice of perch. The dark purple flowers are often seen in meadows and roadsides around this area. I have tried to sow seeds of the two plants we have growing without luck but have not given up.

Oh there you are, partaking of the Joe Pye weed, Eupatorium purpureum ‘Gateway’. You show up nicely against the pinky purple blooms. The flowers are larger this year than they have been recently, as big as a large beach ball. The plants were moved into the soil around the decaying ferngully after the privet hedge was dug out last year, it seems to suit Old Joe.

Fully spread in all your glory.

A Common whitetail dragonfly is attached to a spent flower head of ox eye daisy with the rude Japanese privet in the background. It was surprising that he stayed still as I crept closer to snap this shot.

Those are some holey leaves there on the Passiflora incarnata, but those two bumblebees don’t seem to mind. The reddish ring at the base of the stamens appears to be the nectar source on this flower. Who knew?

The result of all those passionvines with holey leaves is one of my favorite garden guests, the Gulf Fritillary. The larva food source of these leaves ensures a supply of these bright dark orange beauties. We have fewer this year than last, but have pulled more of the vines. It has come down to flowers or butterflies with this plant for it grows rampant and smothers anything in its path. I try and keep it along the edges of the gravel path so the planted material in the beds is safe but there are underground roots that have spread throughout that whole side of the property. Diligence is needed to spot and pull the intruders. This is a tiny flower on a nicotiana ‘Tinkerbelle’ offspring with an even tinier little upside down caterpillar moving along the hairy staff. I cannot identify him, the adult is probably very tiny also. I have enough trouble ID ing the large ones.

We came upon this Question Mark female in dark phase on the gravel outside the back door. We had not seen her before or since. It was early morning and the temperature was cool. She seemed to be sunning herself, allowing the warmth to spread through her wings to enable her to fly. You are welcome my sweet, do come back and see us. Among the larval food for her that grows near us is the hackberry tree. Many caterpillars feed on this tree, one of its redeeming qualities. I know some of you out there think highly of the hackberry, for its good insect food production. But growing up we had two very large hackberries in our backyard. There were sidewalks lining a patio where I rode my tricycle, then pedal powered firetruck then the joy of my life the pedal powered spaceship before moving on to a bicycle with training wheels then out to the front and off for the day on a pink and white Schwinn. The millions of little hackberry fruits made pedaling a pain for tiny little legs, not to mention prohibiting barefoot scampering and skipping on the sidewalks. I did not cry the day the trees were cut down, but maybe should have for the butterflies and moths that lost their delicatessen that day.

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37 Responses to Plant It And They Will Come

  1. Perennial Garden Lover says:

    Your garden is beautiful Frances. With all the beautiful blooms, host & nectar plants growing there no wonder you have so many flying visitors. I will definitely have to add some of these important plants to my garden like the pentas. In fact when I went to the garden center the other day they had just got a shipment of Pentas, Joe Pye, Black & Blue Salvias & Creeping Verbena. I will be going back soon. 🙂

  2. Ewa says:

    Frances, what o lovely collection of beautiful butterflies and moths you got in your garden.
    While planting, I choose plants that attract butterflies – this is such a lovely feeling, which I experienced this year, that I walked and group of them was flying around me 🙂 trying to seat on me..

  3. Anna says:

    Lots of healthy living going on between the humans and the critters. I think your black swallowtail may be an Appalachian Black—see if you think so. Love to see the caterpillars gorging themselves for the journey.

  4. Yolanda Elizabet says:

    So many lovely insects in your garden Frances, they must really like it at Faire garden. 😉 That hummingbird moth’s wings simply go to fast to photograph well so I don’t think it’s the camera or the photographer. 🙂

    It seems that we have chosen more or less the same subject for our most recent posts although with a slightly different take on it.

    It’s happy hour at Bliss do come if you have the time!

  5. Frances, says:

    Hi PG, thanks. That sounds like a great garden center offering those good plants, lucky you. The butterflies give so much pleasure in the garden, they are good mood boosters as we pull weeds and do other physically taxing chores.

    Hi Ewa, thanks. You must be very sweet for the butterflies to land on you, what a magical moment, it is icing on the gardening cake.

    Hi Anna, thanks for that ID, I believe you are right. Just looking at the butterflies in the garden I cannot tell between similar species, but the photos let us see the minute detail that helps with the ID. Using zero insecticides has its plusses and minuses, but the abundant buzzing and fluttering makes it an easy choice for me.

    Hi YE, your post was a riot! Thanks so much for letting me know about it, I would have gotten there eventually, maybe, but a little nudge is very much appreciated. We have similarities in many ways, I think, do you? I do hope to meet you in person some day, maybe we are long lost distant relatives!! HA

  6. mr_subjunctive says:

    Gave you a Blotanical Pick for the first black swallowtail caterpillar alone. That was awesome.

  7. Dave says:

    It’s nice to have nature so close at hand! Those clearwing moths are hard to shoot since the move about so much. You captured my favorite in the Tiger swallowtail. I need to go out caterpillar hunting, the gardener girl would love it. 🙂

  8. Gail says:

    Good morning Frances, the butterflies and all your garden visitors are beautifully photographed! It must require a tripod and waiting a long time to capture the clearwings any clearer! I like your guy! Try the video on your camera…it is fun to see him hover and dart, so much like the hummers!

    Speaking of hummers! Is your hummingbird feeder in sun or shade? Not sure where to hang my newest garden addition! Near the porch is a good spot! Now it’s off to the Woodthrush to get a pole!

    As always you tell a great story! I would love to see your family photos or movies of little Frances on her riding toys, a wonderful montage! It would be a perfect kodak commercial…”Turn Around, turn around…she has babes of her own”.


  9. tina says:

    Beautiful butterflies and it helps you ID them too!

  10. Siria says:

    Your garden is beautiful Frances, it is no wonder you have all these incredible creatures that inhabit it! Your post is always a lesson to learn from. Thank you!

  11. Frances, says:

    Hi Mr. Sub, why thank you so much! Did you think it looked like a steam engine? ;->

    Hi Dave, thanks. She will be, or already is quite the nature lover with you as her guide. Lucky girl.

    Hi Gail, thanks and good morning to you. I forgot to have you show me how to get the video to work on my camera along with cutting the bark on the maple. Have you done it yet, I sent you the link for the rachet pruners? The instructions said to put the hummer feeder in the shade so as not to heat the nectar, mine is in shade most of the day, just a little morning sun. No photos of me as a child exist anymore sadly, they are all in my mind's eye now. At least that way I can be as cute as I want to remember!

    Hi Tina, thanks.

    Hi Siria, thanks so much and glad you enjoyed it.

  12. Roses and Lilacs says:

    Frances, we are of like minds. I just put butterfly photos on my blog. “Great minds think alike” as my father says.

    Your photos are stunning and you give wonderful information on attracting them and providing plants for the larva stage.

  13. Nancy J. Bond says:

    What beauties! And great shots.

  14. Frances, says:

    Hi Marnie, thanks for directing me to your butterfly post. Great shots and I am so envious of your monarch. We have not seen any yet this year. There have been several other butterfly posts recently, lots of great minds out there. ;->

    Hi Nancy J., thanks so much. Glad you enjoyed them.

  15. Gisele Schoene says:

    Thank you so much for the lovely comment you wrote on my blog. Next time I go to Asheville for sure I will stop by for a yummy ice cream. Yes, I would love to meet all these wonderful TN bloggers. Let me know when you meet close to Knoxville. I know your garden is beautiful, now I see it also has many wonderful little creatures.

  16. Benjamin Vogt says:

    Wow, what shots! A great time of year, isn’t it? Minus the college year starting again on Monday… sigh…. Thomas the Tank Engine! Ha! I remember watching him (and George Carlin) with my little sister when she was growing up. What memories–I really disliked that show, but she was mesmorized, and I liked palying with the trains she got, so it worked. Indeed, the black swallowtail larva looks like a train–never thought of that. You should come teach my English classes about metaphor and simile.

  17. Aunt Debbi/kurts mom says:

    Frances, what a great butterfly post. Love the pictures.

  18. Frances, says:

    Hi Gisele, it was my pleasure. We will surely include you next get together. I would love for you to see my garden and see yours as well. It will happen.

    Hi Benjamin, your monarchs are more plentiful than I have ever seen in a garden, although I was fortunate enough to see them gather in Canada in the fall to begin their flight across Lake Erie, thousands of them in the trees. So sorry for your school starting, but maybe it will be your best year ever! My own kids missed the Thomas years, but the oldest grandson was a maniac for him. He spent some major wealth accumulating the merchandise, it was pricey and plentiful. And fun to play with. You are too kind about teaching your class, my writing style makes teachers cry, and not in a good way! ;->

    Hi Aunt Debbie, how nice to see you and thanks.

  19. PS says:

    Just lovely.


  20. Mr. McGregor's Daughter says:

    Your photos are so great, I agree for the most part w/ the Finanacier. I think it was a problem of the light that prevented you from getting a clear shot of the moth's wings. I haven't had any butterfly visitors recently because the Carpenter bees are back, poking holes in all the trumpet shaped flowers & sucking out all the nectar. Why can't they just stick to the coneflowers & Rose of Sharon which is designed for them, & leave the trumpet things to the butterflies & moths?

  21. Frances, says:

    Hi ps, thanks and welcome.

    Hi MMD, thanks. So you don't agree that I need a new camera? You are probably right. We have those bees too, but they prefer our deck to the flowers. ;->

  22. DP Nguyen says:

    Lots of happy butterflies and bees in your garden! The photos are so beautiful. I’m so amazed that you can take them without the animals flying away.

  23. garden girl says:

    Gorgeous Frances! You have such an abundance of beautiful winged creatures. How delightful it must be just observing them.

    Capturing a clear shot of a hummingbird moth is quite a feat no matter how great the camera. Capturing a clear shot of it’s wings with as fast as they beat. . . now that I’d like to see!

  24. Frances, says:

    Hi DP, thanks. You have hit upon the difficulty of getting these shots. I don’t sit there for long with the tripod set up, but rather am stalking them and snapping quickly. Many shots are taken to get a couple of good ones. All my photos are like that really, just luck and persistence.

    Hi Linda, thanks for dropping by. I think Robin of nesting got a shot like you were talking about, but she has a fine eye and a better camera. I am not making excuses, or maybe I am, but even with a good camera I don’t have the patience. We do have lots of buzzers and fliers in the garden, it gives me great pleasure to serve them.

  25. ourfriendben says:

    Great post, Frances! I love hummingbird moths, too, and am as excited when I see one as when I see an actual hummingbird. (Ruby-throats here, too, but one of these days I’m hoping to see a rufous.) And of course, all the butterflies are beautiful. As is your reminder to plant food for butterfly larvae if you want to see adults!

  26. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    The wildlife in your garden is just beautiful Frances. I even like the tiny inch worm. Of course they have a gorgeous varied smorgasbord to choose from, lucky bugs.

  27. Frances, says:

    Hi Ellen, thanks so much. I had seen the ruby throats in the garden earlier this summer but do not see the red on the ones visiting us right now. I love the little moths also, so sweet and easier to get close to even if the camera can’t get a good shot.

    Hi Lisa, I can hardly keep up with you. You are a speed commentor. HA Thanks for liking the little guy, he is pretty sweet.

  28. Rhonda says:

    Frances, have the same beautiful black and blue butterfly as I do..isn’t he pretty? Are pentas perennial in SE TN? I had tons in Florida and loved them, but I figured they were annuals here. Thanks for the water comment on my blog..and guess what? just as I finished that post it started to rain..hooray…must have been your husband washing the car that did it..LOL Did you get any of it over there?

  29. Rhonda says:

    Okay, I answered my own question..just missed that part I’s an annual..darn it..but I might consider them anyway.

  30. Frances, says:

    Hi Rhonda, no rain here yet, but we haven’t given up hope. The pentas are definitely annuals only here, but they do well and are very drought tolerant. Sometimes they are hard to find, I get mine at a little nursery in Knoxville. I do love the black swallowtail and today say our first monarch, finally!

  31. Susie says:

    Hi Frances,

    I really enjoyed looking at your blog. Your blooms are beautiful and the photos are great. I loved how you captured all those lovely insects and butterflies. Thanks for sharing.

  32. chuck b. says:

    Larval hosting equanimity requires a serenity of mind I’m still trying hard to attain. I mean, I don’t spray anything that’s for sure, but being emotionally generous with my garden’s foliage continues to be a struggle for me. You can be my guru.

    Your iris is ready.

  33. Frances, says:

    Hi Susie, thanks so much and welcome. The buzzers and flutterers are as pleasurable in the garden as the flowers here. Glad you enjoyed them too.

    Hi Chuck, oh goody! Bring ’em on! How we feel about seeing holes in our leaves, or even the whole plant eaten to the ground is mixed, but think yin and yang. Every good thing is offset by a bad thing in this world. Learn to love the good and tolerate the bad. How is that for guru advice? I am full of it! HA

  34. Skeeter says:

    Frances, I must correct you with an often mistake on one of your butterflies…. The one you say is the Black Swallowtail is actually a Pipevine Swallowtail. The main difference is the Black has two rows of orange spots while the Pipevine has only one row… when I did the posting on the Flying Flowers, I had them together so you can see the difference… Here is that posting sight. I dont know how to set a link to comments. Sorry… Check it out and see if you agree….

  35. Frances, says:

    Hi Skeeter, thanks for stopping by and helping with the butterfly ID. What isn’t shown in the photo is the other side of the wings. They are not black and blue only but have the rows of yellow spots. Also the caterpillars are everywhere on the fennel. I agree, some of them are hard to tell.

  36. Rose says:

    Frances, Your garden is always a feast for the eyes; obviously, it’s a feast for wildlife as well. Beautiful photos!

  37. Frances, says:

    Hi Rose, you are so sweet. Thanks for the kind words.

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