Lucky Day

There was some luck that came our way the other day as we were out and about in the garden once again with camera at the ready. A steady stream of attempts have been made to get that money shot of the pink muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris, as it hits its crescendo of bloom soon. While the view from anywhere in the garden or in front in the driveway, or the best of all, the view out my kitchen window over the sink is beyond the pale, trying to capture that magic with the camera is proving beyond the difficult. Shown above, the Knockout rose is the perfect enhancement for the grass  with its dark foliage and single dark pinky red blossoms that some people find a difficult color to use. Might it be suggested to use it with the muhly grass and place it so the sun’s rays can illuminate  from behind?There was luck with the very late opening of the oriental lily ‘Stargazer’. Several packages of these lily bulbs were purchased on sale late spring at the biggest big box store, you know the one I mean, for a buck! They were scattered around, not at all following Piet’s formula of design of dense groupings of one type plant. In our defense, it was before we had joined the Piet cult that the planting took place. They had all finished blooming by the end of August, except this one. Hidden among some Salvia greggiis on the slope was this single specimen, only a foot and a half tall, but with the full sized flower wide open. Click. Next year the bloom time will probably be earlier in the summer, with the rest of the Stargazers. Remind me to throw some bone meal around their little footsies.Lucky too is the reddening of the Coreopsis ‘Redshift’. This plant was purchased while we were in Pennsylvania for a wedding and the outstanding feature of it was the dark red streaking of the flowers. As soon as it came to live in Tennessee the color of the blooms turned to solid yellow with a narrow red band in the center. Pretty but not what we thought we were getting. As it turns out, the cooler temperatures trigger the redness to return. That’s more like it.A spot of luck happened with this self sown marigold love child of Queen Sophia, Tagetes patula ‘Queen Sophia’. It has been many years since the first packet of her majesty was carelessly tossed out into the Faire Garden. Other marigolds were purchased and a bit of dilution has occured in the offspring. We adore the color orange in all things and this lone princess makes our heart glad.We are never sure if our perennial pepper, (the link to this post has been imbedded so many times that it will henceforth be provided upon request only), is going to return after late killing frosts ring the bell of death for much hardier plants, but not only does every plant return, the seedlings of the orange ball peppers return as well, no matter how small they are when winter descends upon us. Just lucky or is this the miracle pepper? Why has this not been advertised by the big growers? Is this the only place where it grows? Here and down the street at our neighbor Mae and Mickey’s, our private source.By the time you have read this  and seen the photo above, one of the drawbacks of having the caption under rather that above the pictures, you will have guessed why we consider Lady Luck to be with us this day.We were stomping around on the hellebores under the pink dogwood trees on the slope trying to get a good shot of the pink muhly grass, squatting and bending, with eyes only searching for the light streaming through the feathery inflorescenses when something flitted across our field of vision. We started snapping as the butterfly enjoyed the nectar from the wild ageratum, the name of which has changed so many times that the common name will suit our purposes here.  The light was at such an angle in the sky to shine through the papery wings. The shadow of the flower heads is apparent as though the orange wings were a shoji screen.We have seen only one other Monarch butterfly in the garden this year although we are rich in black swallowtails among others.  It was cause for revelry and joy and was written about here . This time not only did we get several shots clicked, on zoom, but accidently took a photograph of the muhly grass while still on zoom as well. The result being the first picture featured on this post. An epiphany! Treat the muhly like a butterfly and use the zoom. While many of you out there may have already known to do this, I obviously did not, so please share in a novice photographer’s glee at this discovery.The light is our friend while wielding the camera at the correct times of its ascent and descent. Paying enough attention to know just when to go out seems like an easy enough assignment. But we have found that the main ingredient for getting the shot that brings a smile is luck.

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27 Responses to Lucky Day

  1. fairegarden says:

    Just checking the comment section again to see if it is working.

  2. Sunita says:

    Frances, that shot of the grass is lovely. What a happy, lucky mistake, eh?
    The Monarch is , well regal is the only word I can think of. I cant get over how similar your Monarch is to our Striped Tiger (see my August post “I’ve got tigers in my garden”)
    But then that does make sense in some convoluted, dragged out way doesnt it? Monarch = Striped Tiger : D

    Hi Sunita, thanks. I did read that post and thought the same thing. They are probably related, wouldn’t you agree?

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    You should be pleased with that first photo Frances. It is definitely a $$$ shot. There are so many photo lessons to be learned.

    Hi Lisa, thanks. Think of all the lessons that could be learned if I took a photography class! LOL

  4. tina says:

    Good morning Frances! I agree that muhly grass is a keeper and great when backlit. What a surprise to have a lily bloom?! I love that perennial pepper. I am going to Google it as I’ve never heard of it. Wonder why it is not marketed? Does it taste good? Beautiful pictures of the butterfly. They seem to be out and are maybe migrating now. Hummingbirds are almost all gone here. Fewer each day.

    Good morning to you Tina. The pepper is an ornamental one, usually those are very hot or not tasty. I don’t know why this particular one comes back reliably but think someone should study it and market it! We broke down and bought a hummingbird feeder, I even got another one yesterday, since there is at least one diner there all day. They fight so that it is hoped two feeders will help them get along better.

  5. Gail says:

    The pink muhly grass is indeed lovely; I’m crossing my fingers that we won’t have frost until Halloween this year. Also that the price of gas will drop. But I digressed into planning my trip to Faire Garden…I don’t want to miss anything in your beautiful garden that could be wiped out by an October frost! On task here! The butterfly shots are delightful and I am certain that the hellebores didn’t mind being stepped on. They are not prone to complaining! I still have to try to comprehend the instruction book before I venture into a photo class! Have a great day!

    Hi Gail, you mean there’s an instruction book? ;-> I do hope you can see the muhly grass with some pink still showing, it is lovely as a tan color too, but the pink knocks your socks off. Even the top photo doesn’t do it justice. No rain actually helps because it stands upright more when dry. Those hellebores are a stout group, no lip from them at all! LOL Good one!

  6. nancybond says:

    As soon as I saw your first photo, I wanted to know what the muhly grass was! How beautiful, and what a nice backdrop it makes for so many things.

    Hi Nancy, thanks. We have worked for many years to spread that muhly grass enough so that it makes the big impact. It does self sow, not nearly enough!, but has to be spread by division and doing that at the wrong time spells death for the mother plant and the babies. Winter is the best time to divide it here, but people always want to do it while in bloom, a big no no. My neighbor across the street wants some and I had to tell her that it can’t be moved right now. It is mildly attractive as grasses go when not in bloom. I got mine years ago at Lowe’s, believe it or not.

  7. Rose says:

    Frances, You have found the Holy Grail! Oh, that was the hummingbird wasn’t it…well, the Monarch ranks close behind it. We have had ONE Monarch floating about for several weeks, but I never see it land anywhere. The stars must have been aligned just right for you:) The pink Muhly grass is so beautiful; thanks for sharing it in bloom with us.

    Hi Rose, you are so funny, thanks for being so! I thought I had seen the monarch before, but when camera is in hand, no. It was just luck and I do thank those lucky stars! And you for visiting.

  8. Chickenpoet says:

    Why won’t my muhly grass do that; or even just survive on my Country View hill? GGGRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!! Oh well, at least with gardening mistakes, the attempts at correcting them are more endless than infinity.

    The marigold pic looks so pretty. They did superb in our yard, even self-seeding, and growing after hubby rototillered them after they were sown and sprouting. All that bloomed were seeds saved from last year, and many variation of the colors bloomed that were different from the parent plants. They are on my nice list, not the naughty list, as the afore mentioned muhly grass.

    Enjoy your lucky day.
    Much Love, CP

    Hello my dear Chickenpoet, no luck for you with the muhly grass? ;-< I could not grow it in Foxfire either, but Ed grows it in PA, so keep trying. We will get you some more. Time of digging is crucial, did we give it to you at Thanksgiving? That seems like a good time, we’ll keep trying. Good drainage is a must. It grows wild at Kiawah in the sand at the water’s edge. Glad for your marigolds, I love how each one is different too.
    Love, Frances

  9. Dave says:

    I really like that grass. Did you order it or find it in a local nursery? I definitely want to add it to our garden next year. The monarch shots are great! I haven’t seen one over here in Mid TN but maybe we will before the fall is over. We just need a lucky day!

    Hi Dave, thanks. I got it at Lowe’s one year and have just divided it like crazy, killing half of those by doing it at the wrong time. Winter is the time to do it if you can get your hands on it. I have seen it in catalogs in recent years. It is so hard to photograph the drama of it. If you see it, grab it! We are not on the flight path of the monarchs here either, and it was just luck to see ours. Good luck to you!

  10. Racquel says:

    Hi Frances! I love, love, love that first shot of the pink muhly grass with the sun behind it. It almost looks like billowy cotton candy. The combo of it with the Knockout roses was genius on your part. Gorgeous! How lucky of you to get that many shots of the beautiful Monarch butterfly in your garden. They are so colorful that they don’t look real sometimes. Great post today!

    Hi Racquel, thanks so much. Even the placement of the knockouts was lucky, I wasn’t thinking of the muhly grass at all. The roses were in the front and looked stupid there, what was I thinking. I just needed some place to stick them, thinking they would probably die from being moved mid summer two years ago. The dianthus needed something larger in its midst along the steps to the top so I stuck them there. I have to keep them pruned smaller than they want to grow in that spot but when the muhly started blooming, the placement made me look like a genius. HA I was so lucky the butterfly didn’t fly away as I was creeping closer while clicking, even on the zoom. Greedy, as usual. ;->

  11. Jan says:

    What kind of camera do you use? The color is gorgeous!

    Hi Jan, thanks. My camera is a Canon powershot A720 IS. It was on sale this spring at Target because a new model was coming out. It is just a point and shoot, or that’s all I know to do with it. I take a whole lot of pictures to get just a few good ones. That day I was lucky that the zoom was still on from the butterfly shots. The color of that grass has nothing to do with the camera, it is actually much pinker or redder, depending on the sun angle.

  12. Phillip says:

    I always admire the muhly grass when we go to Florida every year. I didn’t know that it would perform so well this far north. I may have to get some of that. Nice photos!

    Hi Phillip, thanks. I had tried to grow it in my northeast TN garden before and could not. I have divided and moved several plants of it and killed them too. Good drainage, good sun and water well when planted are the best tips I can give you. I gave some to my friend in PA, middle of the state, and it does well for him along a sunny protected fence. It says zone 6 in the catalogs, give it a try!

  13. Kathleen says:

    WOW on the pink muhly grass. I’ve never had it in my garden but I can certainly understand the attraction to get a perfect picture of it. I would want to do the same if I had it. Light is definitely a photographers best friend. Something I continue to learn about too. Amazing what you find at Lowes, isn’t it?? Also, great shots of the beautiful Monarch. I can never get enough of them. We’ve had very few here in Colorado this year.

    Hi Kathleen, thanks. I find that the light is different every day with the muhly. We were just lucky with the grass and the butterfly. I was beside myself when I loaded the pictures onto the computer. ;->

  14. Cameron says:

    Frances, I love the pink muhly! The light effects are just dazzling in your garden. 🙂 How lucky to have a Monarch in the garden, too. They have been so rare this year (Monarch Waystation here with lots of uneaten milkweed).

    Hi Cameron, thanks. We have uneaten milkweed too, except for the aphids and milkweed bugs. No caterpillars on it at all. We have lots of black swallowtails on the bronze fennel though, so I shouldn’t complain.

  15. ourfriendben says:

    Mercy, Frances! Just two monarchs this year?! They’re migrating here now, high up and unbelievably spectacular, like airborne flakes of fire. I seem to remember plentiful numbers of them in our family’s yard when I was growing up in Nashville, but perhaps I’m in error, or perhaps they’re just (sob) declining. I’ve always loved marigolds, for the distinctive fragrance as much as the foliage and flowers, and I must say, I love ‘Queen Sophia’ best of all. Lucky you to have her self-sow! And hmmm, a perennial pepper? I hate to be a nuisance, but yes, I’d love that link to your earlier post. Thanks!!!

    Hi OFB, we are not of the migration flight path of the monarchs sadly but usually see some strays here, more than just one. I have seen the monarchs in vast numbers one year in Canada just on the north shore of Lake Erie as they assembled in the trees before crossing the lake. It was about this time of year too and was a most thrilling sight, unforgettable. I have heard of some habitat destruction in Mexico that was causing a decline in numbers. Very sad indeed. I’m glad you like Queen Sophia, she is not fancy, but reliable for producing viable seed. Here is the link on the perennial pepper:


  16. skeeter says:

    The Monarch shot is totally awesome as is the pretty pink grass! You should submit those pictures to “Birds and Blooms” magazine! They are publishing quality…

    I find that some of my better pictures are when I am standing further away and zoom into the subject. Dont know why this is, must be a digital thing… lol…

    Hi Skeeter, thanks so much. I don’t know why some of my pictures turn out so much better than others. I could really save myself a lot of time and effort if I knew that. Sometimes the zoom makes a good photo, but other times it is all blurry. I was just lucky that day is all there is to it.

  17. rusty says:

    Excellent pictures, I am always chasing butterflies in the garden with my camera but I never can get pictures like yours. You are very good nature photographer.

    Hi Rusty, thanks but I cannot accept that compliment without saying that my better shots are pure luck. If only I knew what made them good, the settings, etc. on the camera, I could do so much better. The luck is helped by there being lots of things to take pictures of around here. I do appreciate your kind words though.

  18. Marie says:

    What a beautiful post 🙂

    Hi Marie, thanks so much. Glad you liked it.

  19. semi says:

    Ohhh I love the first pic. I have some but no together like that. I saw a monarch today. It was a lucky day. Love semi

    Hello my dear Semi, thanks. I have seen a monarch before at your place, you are lucky too!
    Love, Frances

  20. Kim says:

    Frances, that first photo of the grass is spectacular – and now I want (need) some of that beautiful grass too. And the shot of the Monarch with the sun through its wings – if you don’t mind, I’m going to let Cindy Dyer ( know about it – she edits a newsletter for Happy Tonics (, an org devoted to the Monarch. Cindy asked to use the photo of a caterpillar in one of my recent posts, but your butterfly photo is of the knock-your-socks-off variety! I’ll bet they’d love to use it. May I tell her about it?

    Hi Kim, thanks. I would be happy for your friend to use my photo, but would like full credit for it and a link to the post, is that asking too much? I don’t know the protocol for this sort of thing but do want to protect my work and not have it used without my permission. I don’t load my photos onto flickr or any other site like that for that reason. I know some people have their name on their photos inside the picture, but I don’t want to do that either. But am I being naive and people are already using my photos now? Can you advise?

  21. deb says:

    Frances, the muhly grass and knock out roses look awesome together. I never thought about putting them together, but you bet I am going to do it now. Thanks for the great combo.

    Hi Debbi, thanks and welcome. If you’ve got the muhly grass, do it. The color blend works!

  22. Robin says:

    It was your lucky day! A great monarch picture and the beautiful picture of the pink muhly grass!

    Hi Robin, thanks, it sure was. Unlike you and your pix, mine are pure luck while yours are pure art.

  23. Dee says:

    Frances, the title to your newest post made me laugh, but it was this post which made my heart sing. How grand that we can all share our adventures in photography and capturing the light. I’m happy that you got such great shots of such a rare visitor.~~Dee

    Hi Dee, thanks so much. Singing hearts are the best kind! ;-> Luck was with me that day.

  24. Kim says:

    Frances, what I’d do is just give Cindy a link to the post. If she thought the photo was usable, then she’d contact you and ask permission. You retain all rights and get a photo credit. Unfortunately, the group is a non profit and can’t pay, but they will send you a hardcopy of the newsletter. And if Cindy doesn’t think the photo is worthy, I’ll eat my latest sheet of junk paper from my printer (and send you a photo to prove it). I just didn’t want to point her here with a “possible publishable photo” subject unless you wanted me to mention to her. She’s a garden blogger, too, but I didn’t want to call you out unless you wanted to be called out. So, I’ll send her to your great post and then let her take it from there.

    Thanks for clarifying that for me, Kim. I was feeling bad about not being charitable with my photos but at the same time didn’t want to open the door for use without permission or credit, which may be happening now anyway, but I am not aware of it. I appreciate your taking the time to explain what was going to happen. I would never expect or take money for this sort of thing, but want to have control over what happens to it. This scenario sounds like something that could work for us all, but I would really like to see a photo of you eating your latest junk paper. ;->

  25. Pam/Digging says:

    That muhly is stunning, Frances, and I can see that it pairs wonderfully with the red Knockout rose. Mine aren’t even close to blooming yet.

    I think you’re exactly right that luck accounts for our best photos. But your odds for getting that lucky photo can be increased by taking lots of photos, trying different angles, shooting at different times of day, and experimenting with different settings on your camera. You did all that, and voila! A beautiful shot. Don’t be shy about taking credit for it. You worked for that shot.

    As for whether your photos are being used on the Internet without your permission, I would bet money they are. Do you visit your Dashboard to look at your incoming links? You can sometimes find photo thieves that way if they have kept your URL embedded in the photo (instead of saving it on their own computer and renaming it). You can also look at the referring URLs on SiteMeter or other visit-tracking software, and when you see a URL you don’t recognize, you can visit and see why people are coming to your site from it. Often it’s because that person has used your work without permission. Sad but true. I try to look at it as a compliment, but it isn’t easy to feel benevolent about rip-offs.

    Hi Pam, thanks for that, but your photos are way more professional than my occasional lucky one, but I appreciate the support. My dashboard has not shown any photos being used so far, but I have only been on wordpress a couple of weeks. Most of the posts and photos are under the blogger banner, even though they were transferred to wordpress. I am still getting search hits on blogger even without any new posts there. I will check the urls for photo lifting, thanks for the tip, although I can’t do anything about it and might as well not even bother. Sigh.

  26. Kim says:

    Frances, you are going to have to wait on the photo of me eating paper. Cindy has looked at your photos and said she’d be in touch with you – she agrees that backlit Monarch photo is wonderful. She’s a professional photographer, so that’s praise! 🙂 But, knowing me, there will be future opportunities with the junk paper – I’ll just have to take my foot out of my mouth so I can eat the paper. 🙂

    Hi Kim, darn. I am patient and will wait. I look forward to hearing from Cindy and thanks for recommending my shot.

  27. Oooh… between you and Pam, I SO want to grow some muhly grass next year. Even though I have stated many times that I am NOT a pink girl! (It’s more of a ruby color, really… that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. lol.)

    Hi Kim, oh no, it is not really pink, that is just the name to distinquish it from the other muhly grasses. ;-> More ruby, I agree. With the light behind it, the darker it looks too. Give it a try! BTW, my lily seed heads are starting to dry out and open, the regales anyway. The golden splendor is getting shriveled and turning brown, next they will open and show the papery seeds. How are yours? Just interested is all. ;->

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