A Hive Of Activity

Winged creatures are everywhere in the Fairegarden this fall, buzzing, fluttering and humming.

One plant is throbbing, bobbing and weaving with all of the take offs, landings and sippings going on.

Aster tataricus ‘Jin Dai’ is the Heathrow of the garden world in my backyard right now. It is the busiest spot of them all as the tightly packed petals gradually loosen their grip and expose themselves to the wonderful world of insects.

One butterfly that is a little less common than the others here, an American Painted Lady, can’t get enough of Jin Dai’s charms.

All sizes of bee types are hovering and landing on this stand of Jin Dai. This group of three plants was replanted closer together after seeing an impressive display at the UT fall plant sale. Click here to read about it and see their Jin Dai planting. (This happens to be one of my most favorite posts, by the way.)

Since that epiphany about planting technique, plant them close together, pack ’em in!, other areas have received similar treatment with a satisfying payoff.

The much longed for Holy Grail of image captures, the feeding hummingbird is getting closer. The hanging feeder with the sugar water mixture was wonderful for viewing the little birds, even as they rested on the round railing surrounding the spigots.

But the territorial birds would always chase each other away if another tried to feed at the same time. And there were wasps who would even chase the birds away while feeding. It was disheartening when those wasps would even get inside the house when the glass sliders were opened. Down came the feeders and it was decided that the hummers would be viewed and enjoyed from special plantings just for them out in the garden.

Red Salvia ssp. are a big draw, but it is this mass planting of Cuphea ignea that is the prime feeding ground right now. A dozen small plants have foundered all summer, disliking the heat and droughty conditions. The cooling temps and rains of September have brought about much more blooming and the hummers are there often, taking advantage. I am there as well, with the 20x zoom camera, Canon Powershot SX1 IS, turned on and pointing at this planting, standing about ten to fifteen away. Being far enough away to not discourage the hummer feeding seems important. Being able to find the hummer in the viewer and click before she moves on to another flower is the more difficult task. I get excited and giddy upon seeing the hummers and had decided this past spring to simply enjoy their presence rather that thinking of pixels, to better enjoy life, the universe and everything. Here is a story about that decision, if you are interested. But circumstances were right on this afternoon, the sun was a bit too bright, the wind was a bit too breezy, but the little bird remained at these Cupheas long enough for three clicks of the shutter. The results are not perfect at all, but the fun is in the striving. Onward.


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14 Responses to A Hive Of Activity

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Your garden Heathrow is a beautiful draw. My hummers like the black and blue salvia best of all the flowers in my garden. I will have to remember to plant some red salvia and cuphea next year.I bet LTB is a big boy now. Have a great week.

    Hi Lisa, thanks and you too, have a great week, this first one in October. Black and blue salvia struggles here, but does get visited. I think the hummers like all of the salvia flowers, with those nice trumpet shapes that they can stick their beaks into.

  2. Frances I too just try to enjoy the critters not getting too close. Enjoying the moments are why I garden….so wonderful to see all the pollinators…they are few and far between here now.

    Hi Donna, it is wonderful just seeing these sweet creatures out in the garden. If I happen to be standing there with the camera on and pointed at the flower they chose to visit, even better! Sometimes they are in the shot and I don’t even know it until the images are loaded onto the computer. That is always a fun surprise. We will have another month or two of critters visiting flowers here. I will be going out with the camera a lot.

  3. I also had to take my hummingbird feeders down due to honey bees. Our summer was so hot and dry, but my Miralibis seemed to thrive and the hummers were happy again. I have also spent several hours hiding behind trees and shrubs trying to get that special shot. I usually end up with the end of the tail. I also have a Canon Powershot and I carry it everywhere. Even when I’m on the back of the motorcycle, I’ve been able to get some pretty decent shots.
    Really enjoy your blog, Brenda

    Hi Brenda, thanks for those kind words. The Mirabilis would be perfect for the hummers, lots of trumpet shaped blooms. If I am sitting there trying to get the good shot of the hummers, using the tripod would help!, they either don’t show or I just cannot sit still that long. If I am working, weeding, down on my knees, the hummers come right up to my nose. Sometimes I think they would poke me in the eye if I didn’t wear glasses. HA I love my camera and it fits inside my purse without a problem, too.

  4. Gail says:

    Frances, The bees are beeutiful and I adore them. They do love asters and ex-asters. Jin Dai and the species are some of the most visited flowers on a sunny day. I didn’t put up feeders fro the hummers this year, no matter what I did the pests invaded them. On the other hand the red cuphea and salvia are a hummer diner every day. Someday, I hope to get a photo, yours are splendid! xoxogail

    Thanks Gail. I felt bad when the hummers would come to the window where the feeders had been before, hover there and look inside the glass as if to say, “Hey, where’s the food?”. But there is plenty for them out in the garden. Sunny days do see the most activity. I often wonder what they do when it is raining?

  5. Rose says:

    Congratulations on finding the Holy Grail, Frances! My hummers have really enjoyed the ‘Black and Blue’ salvia now that it’s finally blooming, but I have yet to get one photo of them anywhere but at the feeders–I guess I’m too slow:) Beautiful photos of all your winged critters. I’ve seen more Painted Ladies this fall than I’ve seen in years.

    Thanks Rose, but that is premature on the Holy Grail thing. These photos are at least clear enough that you can tell it is a hummingbird visiting those flowers. There is plenty of room for improvement! HA The Painted Ladies are rare here, or else I haven’t been paying attention. Lots of activity on the asters and others. When the sheffies bloom, they usually get visitors, too. Fall is a good time to take photos, the critters are usually a little slower then.

  6. Alison says:

    I much prefer just planting flowers that attract the hummers, rather than a feeder that has to be refilled and cleaned and taken in and out in freezing weather. I appreciate the struggle to capture their beauty. That’s a pretty aster, and you did get some marvelous shots of the bees.

    Hi Alison, thanks so much. The hummingbird feeders do a wonderful job of attracting the little birds and make it fun to watch them from inside the house. But those wasps proved to be too aggressive. It is fun to see which flowers the hummers will like best, Salvias are always a favorite and I like the greggiis since they do well here. The Cupheas are annuals, but still worth growing. I have taken cuttings of C. ignea to get a better head start next year.

  7. June Mays says:

    I just stumbled across your delightful blog. I am a garden designer in Sewanee TN and wondered if you are close enough to exchange garden visits. I would love to pick your brain about blogging, as well. On Saturday, October 6, I am hosting two garden seminars ( The Potager and Big Ideas for Small Spaces) at my home demo garden in Sewanee. If you would like details, email me.
    June Mays

    Hi June, how nice to hear from another East Tennessee gardener and blogger! I will check out your seminars for more information. They both sound interesting!

  8. Yes, certain asters attract an amazing number of pollinators. Calico aster is another one, at least in my yard. Though in general there have been fewer pollinators this year, maybe the drought.

    I hope more pollinators show up for you. The Calicos are one of the natives that came with the property here and are just beginning to bloom. Jin Dai is always popular and stands upright by itself, unlike some of those floppy natives. There should be a good group of Gulf fritillary butterflies this year, the passion vine is covered in catts. Some years there are none or just one. I never know what to expect.

  9. *waves* Hello, stranger! did I tell you I was now a bee-keeper? Oh yes indeedy. I have 4 hives currently – thats about 200,000 honey bees in my care. By Spring I will have 12 hives, that’s about 600, 000 bees. I wished you were a bit closer – I’d send them all to forage in your beautiful garden. All the best xx

    Zoe!!!! I am so glad to hear from you, and that news about the bee-keeping is wonderful! I was just thinking about you since an old post popped up in the stats page that had a comment from you about how to grow P. auriculas. It inspired me to go out and plant the very sad ones I had in the ground into a box to better appreciate and take care of them. Then there is this comment from you the very day! I wish you were closer, as well. I would buy honey from you and your bees would be very happy.

  10. sweetbay103 says:

    Pretty soon everybody will be clustered around the asters here too. In Nov. ‘Miss Bessie’ and the groundsel tree flowers are literally covered in butterflies and bees because those are the only two things left blooming!

    Great capture of the honeybee coming in for a landing!!

    Thanks Sweet Bay, so nice to see you here! It does help make the flowers popular since there aren’t that many going now. The asters and goldenrod, along with the sheffie mums will take us on into winter. Thank goodness for them!

  11. Crystal says:

    So nice to see the bees thriving in your garden. Here in the UK, we have had an appalling summer, and the lack of bees has been very noticeable. I grow a lot of bee friendly plants, but hardly any bees have been on them this year.

    Thanks Crystal. I am so sorry about the bee issues in the UK, have read about them and worry. In a comment above, Zoe has taken up beekeeping. That seems a good thing to help out the bee population. May she have wonderful lucky keeping them going!

  12. Wonderful pictures! You always have a great eye. Thank you for the info on which type of camera you use. I have a Canon Rebel and it’s a little too complicated for this amateur photographer. I would have bee hives in my yard – I certainly have the room – but my back neighbor’s son is severely allergic to bee stings, and I can’t take the chance. I had a hive in an old woodpecker box once a few years back but they all perished when the temps dropped dramatically here…yes I know in South Florida, who would have known?

    Hi Dawn, thanks for those kind words. A fancy camera would be too complicated for me, as well. The point and shoot on auto is what I like to use. I am one with the A720. If and when something ever happens to it, I will be very sad. I admire your thoughtfulness about the bees and the neighbor. So sorry about your freeze out of the hive, too.

  13. sharon says:

    my goodness you live in the garden of Eden!!!!.I am sooo envious…I sadly am to far south for dogwoods..ibut the neigbor bext door has a huge one…..I never see blooms…..now I long for a visit!! haha

    Thanks Sharon, the garden has grown up nicely. I have worked ceaselessly in it and continue to do so. All gardens are a journey, not a destination. You can visit the over 800 previous posts to see more!

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