Greeted By Butterflies

June 3, 2009 033 (3)Returning home from the big blogger meetup in Chicago we found the weather had gone from pleasant spring to scorching hot summer. The human garden dwellers may find it unpleasant to work in these conditions, but the flying flowers thrive in the heat. The Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies were out and about among the Asclepias tuberosa, pronounced (ass-KLE-pee-us)(too-ber-OH-suh). All of the butterfly weeds growing here were started from seed. It takes several years to get a nice clump and most of the larger ones are orange. This yellow, blooming for the first time this year is a nice surprise from a packaged mixture.June 3, 2009 006 (3)Sitting in a chair, waiting for these captivating creatures to land and be still is a hard task, but someone has got to do it. We normally like to take photos as the sun has moved across the sky to let the multi trunked silver maple provide shade from the blaring sun, but the butterflies prefer that bright light to dine so full sun illuminated these shots.June 3, 2009 017 (3)Nature shows its brilliance by the timing of the hatching of these masterpieces, the Great Spangleds with the opening of the buds of their most favored nectar source, the Asclepias. A grand pairing if ever there was one.June 3, 2009 018 (3)It was too difficult to choose between these shots in order to keep the post to a smaller size for ease of reading, something suggested during the blogger talk at the Spring Fling in Chicago. The effort was made, really it was.June 3, 2009 035 (3)From these close ups, it might appear that the whole garden is ablaze with color. But as Saxon Holt says, the camera lies.June 2, 2009 more 045 (3)In full disclosure, here is the long shot of the area featured in the butterfly shots. There are various things in bloom right now, but there is also a predominant sea of green from foliage. The Asclepias is at the top of the steps across the gravel path. See the little orange dots? June 2, 2009 SF 108 (3)On a final note, as difficult as it is to get a focused shot of butterflies in the garden, patiently waiting with camera at the ready, taking a photo of Rice Paper butterflies while they are sipping salty snacks from one’s right arm while holding the camera and snapping the shutter with the left hand is even more of a challenge. (Taken at the Lincoln Park butterfly house in Chicago).

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49 Responses to Greeted By Butterflies

  1. That last picture is very impressive knowing that you took it yourself! I’ve returned to a very cool few days in my garden, too cold yesterday (and rainy) to do anything outside.

    I love butterflies in the garden. They are like flying flowers, some are so pretty.

    Hi Carol, thanks. I took quite a few photos with butterflies on both hands. Not wanting to frighten them and still trying to focus and include the wings in the shot proved nearly impossible. Then I realized if I shook my arm they would open their wings, maybe for better balance. A magic moment for me.
    When we landed in Nashville, it was in the nineties, when we left Chicago it was pouring rain and chilly. I was wearing a coat and the Uggs. Like walking into a sauna. I can’t even cut the grass. πŸ™‚

  2. Sylvia (England) says:

    Frances, your photos are lovely – please do not change them, they are a high light of my day.

    One day I must grow Asclepias, it looks lovely in your photos. There are so many plants to grow and not enough garden or time to grow them – but one day…

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

    Hi Sylvia, thanks so much. What was mentioned at the blogging chat was the length of the recent postings, too much load time. I plan to post more frequently with not so many photos at one time. It will end up being the same number over a week, just in shorter bits. Hope that still makes you happy, for that is very important to me, my dear friend. As for the Asclepias, if you could see the way the butterflies hover over it all day every day it is in bloom, space would be made for it immediately. πŸ™‚

  3. Darla says:

    I love the Asclepias, I have the orange like you and the gold. Your butterfly photos are wonderful!

    Hi Darla, thanks. I am so glad you have these plants. Sometimes the orange is difficult to combine with other flowers but lately I am liking the hot colors mixed together pleases me.

  4. Dave says:

    Great butterfly shots! Even if the whole garden isn’t in bloom the spots that are make you stop and look, and that’s what a garden is for!

    Hi Dave, thanks. There will be more bloom when the daylilies really kick into gear. Right now is a between time, but lilies and daylilies and butterfly bushes will be just around the corner. Getting the whole thing to look good all the time is a nearly impossible goal, but I keep trying. πŸ™‚

  5. Amazing butterfly shots. What a bonus that they bloom on the blooms.

    I’d be interested in a “photo blogging best practices” post from you, Frances. It might be of interest to others, too.

    Hi Helen, thanks. I am going to be doing a photography post each month. Last month was the first regular feature. Here is that link:

    If you search on the catagory of photography you will find other posts about taking photos in the garden. But a monthly post including a tip is something I plan to do for a while.


  6. I’m still having trouble getting focused macro shots of things that hold still. Wonderful.

    Hi Jill, thanks. I know exactly what you mean, the bees and butterflies seem to be speeding along lately. Many many shots were taken to get those few.

  7. Diana says:

    Frances — I know we couldn’t possibly do it all at the Fling, but I do wish I had seen the Nature center and the butterflies over there. I’m so glad you have pictures of the Chicago butterflies and are also sharing those in your garden with us. They are stunning on the Asclepias.

    Hi Diana, thanks. I have a special thing for butterflies and as soon as I heard there was a house there, there would be no stopping me. Only a few others went along too, but we all were rewarded with many good shots. But we missed the other parts of the park, for time ran out too soon.

  8. gail says:

    Frances, We did arrive home just in time for summer heat and humidity….those delicious cool days in Chicago are gone, but never forgotten! The Great Spangled Fritillary are wonderful and worth the patient wait…as was the Rice Paper beauty…I think you did well shooting left handed. My garden is equally green…punctuated with spots of color here and there! It is cooler today with rain….a nice break. gail

    Hi Gail, thanks. Even being left handed, holding the camera and clicking the button was a contortionist’s challenge. My hand was across the LCD screen to be able to hold my finger on the shutter. Not cooler and no rain here, yet, but there is thunder in the distance.

  9. Sylvia (England) says:

    Frances, I don’t have any problems with your posts as they are. I have a relatively slow broadband connection (we are a long way from the telephone exchange, any further and we couldn’t have broadband). I do have problems with some blogs taking a long time but not yours. But of course I will read twice as many of your posts – I just will have to be careful that I don’t miss any! I rely on Blotanical to keep me up-to-date.

    Best wishes Sylvia

    Hi Sylvia, I am glad to hear your broadband can handle the size of my blog. I changed the settings long ago to only show two posts at a time, and removed the awards to their own page. I limit the photos on my sidebar so it is the posts that take the time mostly. I think there is a way to subscribe to feeds of blogs, but that is not the way I keep up either. I use Blotanical also, but the faved blog list helps sort the posts of your faves more easily than the top 200 I have found. I do appreciate your loyal readership. πŸ™‚

  10. Randy says:

    Frances, it looks like we are on the same wave length on our posts today. πŸ™‚ We grow the Scarlett milk weed and found the orange last year. One of them went to seed last year and we have tons of seedlings this spring. I’m curious to see which one it is. I should probably thin it out some but I would really like it to be thicker. I also planted the purple but I don’t know if it’s going to make it our not, it sprouted but doesn’t seem to be growing. It’s been teeny plants for weeks now. We don’t have the yellow, but we’ll add it when we find it. I remember seeing it last year somewhere.

    Hi Randy, great minds as they say. There were several of the same butterflies at Lincoln Park in Chicago as you say at Callaway too. Too cool. I believe the Asclepias tuberosa is different from the milkweed, smaller and more drought tolerant. Lucky you with all those seedlings!

  11. Stunning as always. Those are some amazing shots. I find it hard to photograph them with my camera. I clearly need a camera such as yours

    Thanks, Princess. It is hard to photograph them for my camera too, they don’t want to stay still and when you get closer they fly away. I had to be quick with the shutter and hope for the best. Many shots were taken to get these few.

  12. Well, if gardening hasn’t taught you patience- then butterfly shots with your camera has! Just stunning photos as usual, Frances! I love the Rice Paper Butterflies! Happy June to you- your garden is so beautiful πŸ™‚

    Hi Tessa, thanks and Happy June to you as well. Patience is not one of my virtues, I would try for a while, then get frustrated and do something else. Finally I was able to quickly get a few, more from persistence than patience. HA πŸ™‚

  13. easygardener says:

    Great photos. The butterflies in my garden are an unsociable lot – always on their own – and never staying still. Which is why I still haven’t managed to take a photo.
    Lucky you didn’t have a butterfly on each hand for the last picture. That would have been tricky πŸ™‚

    Hi EG, thanks. These don’t stay still much either, it is sheer luck to get any kind of clear photo. As for the butterflies on my hands, they were on both hands! πŸ™‚

  14. I love butterflies and have spent many hours attempting (with some success) to photograph them. What amazes me is how far and fast a butterfly can move. And how hard it is to catch them with their wings open when they are at rest. Thanks for these lovely pictures.

    Hi Hands, thanks. You have written a great truth, when at rest, the wings are folded, very hard to get a shot with them open. Sometimes I follow along and keep trying, but when the Asclepias are blooming, they at least hang around the same flowers for a while so I know where to look.

  15. Brenda Kula says:

    What a sight those are! Beautiful specimens too.

    Hi Brenda, thanks. They are fresh and new, not tattered like they will get later in the season. Last year I counted 16 on that patch of Asclepias but never got a photo of that many together. One cannot count and shoot at the same time. πŸ™‚

  16. Catherine says:

    How lucky to have so many pretty visitors at once! I’ve been seeing more and more flying through our garden lately. I’m hoping that when more of my butterfly attracting flowers open they’ll stay to visit longer. I keep reading about butterfly weed, I’m going to see if it will grow here.

    Hi Catherine, thanks. I do hope you can grow this plant, it makes for an easier photo op. There are many flowers for butterflies here, but most are not as easily accessible for the camera toting gardener. The Asclepias is right at the edge of the gravel path, I can sit in the chair and wait then creep up upon them and click away.

  17. Tatyana says:

    What a treat to see these images! Your patience was rewarded, and thanks for sharing with us, Frances!

    Thanks, Tatyana. I am so glad you enjoyed them.

  18. Hi Frances

    Flying flowers indeed!

    Beautiful images. That Asclepias tuberosa is such a nectar bar.


    Hi Rob, thanks. Nectar bar is so apt. There are few other flowers where so many can dine at once and stay somewhat still for their portrait to be taken. I don’t even have to squish other plants since this planting is at the edge of the gravel path, so convenient.

  19. Pam/Digging says:

    Lovely images. I just saw butterflies at Jamie and Randy’s too. It’s hot summer in Austin too, but that won’t surprise anyone. πŸ˜‰

    Hi Pam, thanks. Randy and Jamie’s photos were great. There were lots of the same butterflies at Lincoln Park as they saw at Callaway. Hot in Austin? Surely you jest. πŸ™‚

  20. Wow! πŸ˜€

    Thanks, Happy, glad you liked them. πŸ™‚

  21. Racquel says:

    What a nice welcome home inspite of the heat. πŸ™‚ I love the last shot with them on your arm.

    Hi Racquel, thanks. Since the butterflies love the heat, I must love it as well, for I do love when the butterflies are inhabiting the garden. The magic at the Lincoln Park butterfly house was a high point for the Chicago trip for me. I was very sweaty, for they keep those habitats quite warm. πŸ™‚

  22. Keep those photos coming! In my talk at the Flower & Garden show, I referred to one of your photos as “Porno for Hortheads.” Those butterflies seem made for the Asclepias – is that ‘Hello Yellow’ in the first shot? And what is your Clematis in the wide shot, ‘Emilia Plater’?

    Hi MMD, thanks, that is a funny description! The yellow is from a packet of mixed colors, I was hoping for something other than orange. There is a darker one too, not really red, but more so than the orange one. The Clematis is Betty Corning, the most floriferous I have.

  23. Joanne says:

    Waw! amazing photographs thank you for sharing them.

    Thanks, Joanne, so glad you enjoyed them.

  24. lynn says:

    Hi Frances, funny what you say about spots of color only…I’m looking out the window now and, other than the roses on trellis, it’s a sea of green! My sundrops are in buds so soon it will be a sea of Rice Paper butterflies…a first for me! Great job on that one-handed shot.

    Hi Lynn, thanks. Those yellow sundrops are open here along the wall behind the main house. The bees love it but it sure does spread. The Rice Paper butterflies are tropical I am sure, they were in the butterfly house, not outside. But they were so friendly. πŸ™‚

  25. Janet says:

    The Asclepias tuberosa are great!! I took some shots of it in the Learning Garden today. Since when do we need to have full disclosure?? Sometimes those tight shots are more pleasing than the wide shot– no weeds, no grass, no dead stems, no bare spots…etc. etc.

    Hi Janet, thanks, it is a plant I could not be without. At the blogging talks, people asked for more long shots. I agree, the macros are prettier, and think the solution is to show both views, don’t you agree? πŸ™‚

  26. Randy says:

    That sounds even better. I’m going to do some research on it!

    Good deal, Randy. The milkweeds need more moisture than I have on this sloping lot, but we are still trying to grow them, with poor results. The Asclepias is much much happier here.

  27. linda says:

    Wow Frances, lots of butterflies in your garden. At first I thought those photos were from the nature museum in Chicago, there are so many of them.

    Hi Linda, thanks. They just showed up after I got back, the timing with the blooming of the Asclepias I suppose. We don’t have the variety that was present in Chicago, yet. πŸ™‚

  28. Meredith says:

    Those butterfly pictures are simply stunning. I’ve been trying to capture pictures in my Austin garden, but without a zoom lens, it’s a challenge when they won’t stay still with me nearby! I’m glad to hear that the milkweed takes a couple of years to fill out — mine seems to be on that time path…

    Hi Meredith, thanks and welcome. I don’t use a zoom lens for these shots, my old camera, the Canon Powershot A720 does not have a very good zoom. I just have to be patient and get close enough to use the macro. It took several tries over a period of hours for them to allow me close. The Asclepias tuberosa is not milkweed, the common name is butterfly weed. I think milkweed is A. incarnata? That plant needs more moisture than we have on our sloping lot, but the A. tuberosa is more drought tolerant. Hope your milkweed can grow to maturity and be covered with butterflies. πŸ™‚

    • Meredith says:

      Ah, ok — I think what I have is Asclepias curassavica — tropical milkweed. When I started planting in the fall, it was the only milkweed I could find available at the local nurseries. I’ll have to get some tuberosa now! But I did discover just now that the aphids are back…

      Hi Meredith, I bought A. curas. last fall also and it did not come back. It was iffy anyway, but oh so pretty. I have seen more aphids than normal this year too, but the ladybird beetles are here in good numbers as well.

  29. Semi says:

    I love the yellow butterfly weed. That last picture is amazing, I can’t imagine how magical it was. Glad you are back. Love semi

    Hello Semi, thanks. You would have loved the butterfly house, they would have been all over you. It is good to be home, but the garden looks like it needs a lot of work after what was seen. πŸ™‚
    Love, Frances

  30. I’m not a very good liar myself, so maybe my Canon can step up for me! I’m sorry I missed the garden, but I was feeling cheap… my butterfly weed almost has buds, so I’m hoping to spy some butterflies for free in my own garden!

    Me neither, Monica, but the Canon does make it very easy to give the wrong impression with those macro shots. People asked for more long shots in Chicago, so both long and close up will be shown if possible. Sometimes I forget to take the long shots while searching out the pretties. Our own free butterflies are the best kind. πŸ™‚

  31. The pictures are gorgeous–the camera can’t lie about that! It’s great to know that you got such beautiful asclepias blooms when growing the plants from seed. I am always impatient with growing plants from seed, but I should remind myself with shots like these that good things really do come to those who wait!

    Hi Ramble Rose, thanks and welcome. It has taken several years to get plants of the size that can accomedate so many butterflies at once. These plants grow along the roadways here in plentiful numbers, so they should be easy to grow. Maybe that is why they are hardly ever seen for sale at the local nurseries, leaving seeds the only way to get them other than mail order. I do plan on ordering more seeds however! πŸ™‚

  32. Rose says:

    Frances, I learned this past weekend what a butterfly magnet you are; now I see they love your garden as well! These shots rival the ones taken at the Butterfly Haven. I’m hoping my asclepias eventually bloom this year, and thanks for the pronunciation key. Glad you chose to show all the photos; sometimes more IS better!

    Hi Rose, you are pretty sweet yourself! Those butterflies liked your purple top too. The Asclepias is one of the only plants where the butterflies stay still long enough for photos, hope you can get some shots when yours blooms as well. As for the pronunciation key, I will be including that, for myself along with others. πŸ™‚

  33. Beckie says:

    Frances, I am in awe and sat here with my mouth open as I was looking at your photos. Frame them!! I finally got butterfly weed started here by sowing seeds. One bloomes a little last year, but this year several are really getting big abd have buds on them. I had coveted that plant for a long time. πŸ™‚

    Sorry it is so hot there, we are having a cool wet spell-yes I am grinning. But your weather is perfect for sitting and watching the butterflies.

    Thanks, Beckie, you are too kind. Last year when the Asclepias opened, the same thing happened. I didn’t know there would be so many butterflies on the plants at one time. This year I have been watching and waiting. The largest of the plants still has many unopened buds, so there may be even more to come. The Asclepias do like extra water I have found. I like the thought of you grinning too. πŸ™‚

  34. Hi Frances, beautiful! Both the flowers and the butterflies, you are so clever with your camera. It is really hard word to get nice shots of butterflies but you are a master.
    Take Care / Tyra

    Thanks, Tyra. Patience and lots of shots and lots of luck too. πŸ™‚

  35. skeeter says:

    My wild (planted by the birds I assume) Butterfly weed is back again this year and blooming as well. I am so excited about that! The butterfly bush is opening up also and a bit early I might add. The temps have been weird this spring but I am only going to assume that weird is now the new normal. πŸ™‚ Your one handed left hand shot is wonderful. Thanks for your patience as it brings a smile to my eyes today! Love those Flying Flowers…And yes, pictures do lie at times…

    Hi Skeeter, you are so lucky to have nature planted butterfly weed. It is all along the roadsides here, planted the same way I suppose. I have to stand on my head and hold my breath to get it going here, but once germinated and identified, it does well. Glad you liked the left handed shot, I am left handed luckily. πŸ™‚

  36. tina says:

    I thought it was cute when someone said “Who knew Frances was such a butterfly attractant?” They sure loved you in Chicago and at Faire Garden. Wowser! Lots of butterflies! Gorgeous! Glad you are back safe and sound.

    Hi Tina, thanks, but I must have missed that. I was really sweating in the butterfly house in Chicago, I read that it is kept at 84 degrees, optimum butterfly temps so no wonder. Those 90 degree temps that greeted me when I returned were not welcome, but the butterflies made it much more endurable. I appreciate your good wishes too, my friend and hope the same for you at some point. πŸ™‚

  37. Patsi says:

    Are they really pictures you took ? Just kidding….
    Really Amazing !!
    So many beautiful butterflies. Now I’m jealous.

    Now Patsi…… HA! Those are all my photos. Last year about this time those same Great Spangleds hovered over the Asclepias in great numbers. This year I was looking for them with camera at the ready. The heat brings them out I believe.

  38. Les says:

    I try to include few broader shots among the macros in my posts. I also enjoy seeing the context inwhich other people’s plants grow. Your photos in this post were stunning.

    Hi Les, thanks. I enjoy seeing the big picture in the gardens of others too. Several people in Chicago made mention of that so it will be shown more often. Got to please the reading public. πŸ™‚

  39. WOW Frances what a plethora of butterflies on your butterfly weed. It was such fun to watch you trying to take pictures of the rice wing butterflies at the butterfly house too. Obviously there is a reciprocal love there.

    Hi Lisa, thanks. The Asclepias is a butterfly magnet, but mostly it is the Great Spangleds hanging around it. The swallowtails show up later in the summer. I am checking the bronze fennel for caterpillars though. I do love butterflies. I have a tattoo of one on my right should in fact. Do you think they know? πŸ™‚

  40. Frances the Butterfly Queen. So far this year they haven’t been out much, but I think they are more summer time floating flowers up here. And for sure they don’t like this ongoing monsoon.

    When did you have this blogging discussion? At Saturday night’s pizza dinner?

    Thanks Christopher. It was super hot when I got back from Gail’s on Monday. It has cooled some today but is supposed to heat up again tomorrow. No monsoons here. The majority of the butterflies will come later on, summer into fall. Of course summer is racing towards us! Hmmm, the discussion was in the downstairs computer area at the hotel after dinner, maybe Saturday after pizza? Or Friday after the official dinner, I really can’t remember. There was a handful of people down there, not the whole group. Most of them went to their rooms but the hard core stayed up too late with blog talk. You would have liked the equality of gender numbers too. πŸ™‚

  41. joey says:

    You chose wisely, dear Frances. Moments like this might never again happen … your butterflies love (remembering the Chicago photos) and missed you.

    Hi Joey, thanks. Yes, you are right, seize the moment! πŸ™‚

  42. Jenny B says:

    What lovely pictures you were able to get of the butterflies in the Asclepias. It was almost as if they knew how beautifully their colors complimented one another.

    I agree that close-ups can give a wrong impression of the garden, but in my case that is a good thing, as my garden is always a work in progress and I never want anyone to see it as a whole (mess)! LOL!

    The last pic of the Chicago butterflies was absolutely breathtaking! I know you must have been thrilled that they liked you so much.

    Hi Jenny, thanks. It is a good mix of orange and yellow tones, I agree. I also agree that the garden looks much prettier in the close ups, but we want to show the context of those pretty macro shots too. The butterfly house in Chicago will always be remembered fondly, that has never happened to me before even though several other butterfly houses have been visited. πŸ™‚

  43. Kanak says:

    So many butterflies together…and so beautiful too. The last photo is amazing. Loved it. I’ve never had more than one butterfly landing on me/my hands at any point of time.

    Hi Kanak, thanks. Even one butterfly landing on us is magical, you are lucky! πŸ™‚

  44. Kathleen says:

    We have everyone’s cool weather I think and I am a “heat lover” so still patiently waiting… No butterflies in my garden yet but there isn’t a shortage in yours. My goodness. How beautiful to see so many sharing the asclepias. Have a great weekend Frances and stay cool.

    Thanks Kathleen, it has cooled down a bit, to the high eighties now, you would love it here! I know your butterflies will show up when the heat comes to your place too.

  45. TC says:

    Still waiting for the heat to arrive here. It’s some warmer today, and I hope to start seeing flutterbys on a regular basis soon.

    You are welcome to some of our heat, TC. It has gotten to the point that I can no longer work in the sun now, must go out early or find a shady spot to work and weed. Your butterflies are just waiting for those 80 plus days. πŸ™‚

  46. Lola says:

    Love the butterflies Frances. Great shots of them. I’ve only seen a couple here. I agree the rain must be driving them away. We’ve had another 3 days of it. I think I must invest in a pontoon.

    Hi Lola thanks. I remember reading somewhere that the butterflies need to dry their wings before they can fly properly, poor things. Hope you have sun by now.

  47. Spectacular pictures, no wonder you couldn’t choose! The combination of butterflies and butterfly weed is brilliant, in many senses of that word. I do think the best way to get good closeups is to really know what you are shooting (I just use macro, too); that takes time, but it’s worth it. And why not pay attention to the spots in the garden that are nicest right now? No one has an all-perfect garden all the time; as with people, we can just pay attention to the best and do our best to be tolerant and patient with the rest.

    Hi Pomona, thanks. I like your way of thinking. In real life, I hardly see the bad bits, but in the photos they just jump out at us for some reason. Funny how that works. πŸ™‚

  48. mothernaturesgarden says:

    In a long shot, it may appear nothing in going on, but when you show us your close-ups, it is like a delightful visit to your garden….second best to being there. πŸ™‚

    Hi Donna, thanks. It really is pretty even in the long view in person, but conveying that with the camera seems so difficult for some reason.

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