The Giant Swallowtail Butterfly

by Donna Lewis

Last Saturday, it was hot and windy, so it was hard to get photos of butterflies when the plants were swaying in the breeze.  But I did the best I could. There were several species of butterflies in my garden today:  Gulf Coast Fritillaries, Pipevine Swallowtails, Clouded Sulphurs, and the big Giant Swallowtails.

This is very late in the year for these huge butterflies to be here.  I think the extended hot weather has brought about this event.

Giants are so graceful and beautiful. You can recognize them by the two bands of yellow spots across its open wings, and the small eyes at the bottom of their hind legs. They can be as big as six inches across. They love citrus tree leaves and may defoliate small trees. It will not kill the tree.

They love Rue, Butterfly Bushes, Coneflowers, Sunflowers, and Zinnias. 

Their host plant is the Prickly Ash. They lay their little orange eggs on top of the leaves. As it hatches into a caterpillar, it changes its appearance to look like bird droppings. Who would want to eat that?

The chrysalis stays in place through the winter.

So, if you see something that looks nasty on a leaf, leave it!  It may be a beautiful butterfly next spring.

Remember who you are gardening for.

Summer’s End

by Donna Lewis

I took a walk in the garden and just outside to look at the new emergence that the rain we had a week or so ago had brought.  Many things I thought were dead came back to life, maybe just for a short time, but it shows us nature trying to repair herself.

Toad is happy to have some water.

Fall is here, and things will change as they are supposed to do.

Hawk on the lookout for tasty morsels.

The land will rest for a while.  We will wait for spring again.

As the saying goes…a picture is worth a thousand words.

Hey there, readers. This is Sue Ann. Our frequent blogger, Donna, has been in a lot of pain this summer, and has hurt her back again. Please send all your good thoughts her way, so that she can heal and get back to taking care of the life in her garden.

Donna, we appreciate you so much!

A Non-native Vine Beloved by Bees: Sweet Autumn Clematis

by Donna Lewis

Today it is cloudy and looks like rain. But in the secret garden there is a vine that is beautiful and blooming like crazy. When I get close to it, I can hear and almost feel the honeybees doing their thing on it. It’s a beautiful vine.

I cannot remember how I came to have it, because it is not a Texas native vine.

I try to buy native as much as I can.  I also try to plant things for the pollinators. This plant is common in India and other Asian countries. So, I guess you could call it naturalized because it does great here.

I have seen it in many magazines covering arbors and fences. It is lovely and the tiny white flowers blend well with any other colors. It climbs well.

It blooms at the end of the summer when normally you don’t have much going on. That is refreshing. 

It can get invasive, but the little beginner plants are easily removed.

I have this vine in a half-shaded area. When wet, the birds love to wiggle around in it getting a bath.  The tree frogs also like it because it is moist. The garden’s inhabitants really like it.

As you can see, it really has some good qualities, and it is very pretty.  No thorns. I like that.

You will have to decide for yourself if it’s for you.

As I always say…who are you gardening for?

The Guardian

by Donna Lewis

Hummingbirds do not like to share their nectar flowers or the feeders they claim for their own. Right now, I have about four to five Ruby throated hummers hanging around.   They are most likely heading back south of the border. The plant they like the most in my garden is the coral honeysuckle.

But when it comes to the feeder, one little guy will not let anyone else have a sip. He sits on top of the L bracket that holds the feeder on our front porch.  He sits there all day until dusk. I’m sure he spends more calories protecting the feeder than he would if he would just share. Somebody’s mother needs to have a talk with him.

I tried to get a good photo, but I am shooting through the glass window, so it’s not the best photo.

The butterflies in my garden also protect their flowers from the hummers. They try to run the hummers off.  And they do a pretty good job of it.

What happened to, “We are family, I got all my sisters with me?”

So funny. Who are we gardening for?

What a Difference Some Rain Makes

by Donna Lewis

I thought most of my pollinator garden was done for.  I could not afford to continue watering every day just to keep the plants alive.  And yes, most of the plants are Texas natives.  Still, the 100-plus degree temperatures were too much stress for the plants to bear.  

I also put out sprinklers every evening around 6:00 pm for the tons of birds that came to cool off.  It was so nice to see them bathing and just having a happy get together with their friends. But a very high electric bill was putting a dent in our budget. The plant watering would have to be limited, but the birds would still get their sprinkler party in the evening.

The watering caused our electricity to go up because the pump on our well is electric. I wish I had an old windmill to do the job, but they need maintenance also. In my younger days I could have climbed up on an old wooden windmill. If I were to fall off now, it would be bad. While I used to bounce, now I break.

Anyway, after about three inches of much needed rain last week, so much stuff popped up again that I thought was gone.  YAY!  Now for a few days all I have to do is clean and fill the bird baths. 

We still need to keep thinking about and observing what plants did make it through the extreme weather, because this heat with no water may become the norm. What and how we garden must change.   Just keep looking and learning.

Hooray for milkweed!

And remember, who are you gardening for?