The male yellow finches have begun to shed their brilliant yellow plumage in favor of their winter wear. Temperatures this morning hovered around 40 F. A few timid leaves have started to give up their green and the bald cypress in the front yard is trying to decide when it should turn bronze. Fall is here, if not officially, then spiritually.
I’m always a little alarmed when I see a lot of the same bug on a plant. Sawfly larvae, japanese beetles. It’s like a marauding gang has landed. So, when I saw dozens of mustard colored beetles on the Tardiva hydrangea, I had a sinking feeling that I once again had uninvited guests.
Thanks to the internet, though, I identified my new visitors as Soldier Beetles. And, it turns out they are very beneficial bugs. Soldier Beetles are related to Fireflies (we call them Lightening Bugs). They eat aphids, other insect eggs, and larvae. They are also excellent pollinators. Apparently they come in a variety of colors. In England, they are red and were named after the British army uniforms.
Tardiva is in full bloom right now, and so is Limelight. This is the bittersweet time in the garden. The lilies have faded. The echinacae are beginning to look tattered. The liatris blooms have reached the tip of their long stalks.
But the hummingbirds are beginning to migrate south and this morning, three of them are feasting on the garden. They perch on a powerline then flit about the garden, chasing each other, it seems. I wonder if these are juveniles who hatched earlier this summer. The only hummingbird native to Michigan is the Ruby Throated Hummingbird. They have been known to eat insects, sometimes plucking them mid-air. Forgive the very blurry picture. This was the best I could get from my kitchen window. These little guys just won’t stay still long enough for me to focus, adjust light settings, etc.
This Bloom Day finds one day lily still blooming. Good old reliable First Knight continues to deliver.
But though the day lilies have gone, the Tardiva and Limelight hydrangeas are following nicely.
And, the old Rose of Sharon is still blooming. The butterflies and hummingbirds love it. The hummingbirds are beginning to migrate, so the tree is a welcomed dining opportunity.
The Mac and Cheese echinacea provides a wonderful warmth to the garden. And, the Pink Double Delight has really taken off.
The Moonflowers have done their usual vigorous thing. I had to cut them back because they completely blocked the path. The moths love them at night.
But also blooming is the white phlox. And it provides the perfect backdrop for the red carpet rose that seems to love its spot in the Secret Garden.
The caryopteris is just beginning to bloom. I’m afraid I’m going to have to pull out most of it in the fall. It is just too big for the space I have. I hate to see those wonderful blue spires go, but they’ve become too much of a good thing.
One of my favorite hostas is also blooming today. Stained Glass has lovely fragrant blossoms. I often cut hosta flower stalks off because I think they look messy. But I let Stained Glass bloom all it wants.
This pretty swallowtail butterfly couldn’t get enough of the Fragrant Angel Coneflowers yesterday. I was actually hoping I could get pictures of the Cedar Waxwings that have been eating berries in the park. And while I could hear them, I couldn’t see them. But Ms. Swallowtail was very compliant.
Swallowtails are common butterflies in Michigan, but their size and lovely colors make them a welcomed visitor, nonetheless.
Something else that was unexpected in the Secret Garden is a pink hibiscus (rose mallow). I had completely forgotten that I’d planted it. And, in fact, I dug it up last spring thinking that whatever it was had not survived the winter. Luckily, I forgot to toss the rootball before I went on vacation. When I returned, there were green shoots coming out of the rootball, so I replanted it. I kept thinking that it was some sort of oakleaf hydrangea, but, honestly, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. Color me surprised when I saw dinner-plated sized pink blossoms.
The Tardiva Hydrangea is blooming now, a welcome event just as the daylilies fade. I hate to see them go. I’ve been pulling out the flower stalks so that the clumps look tidy. The liatris is doing quite well. I love how it blooms from the top down.
They say the heat dome that gave us temps in the 90’s has moved on, but it’s still hot and humid here in west Michigan. But the day lilies know it is their time to shine, and shine they do! It’s also time for the crocosmia and this is its best year. I love that bright red.
But also blooming is the old rose of sharon. The bees and the hummingbirds love it.
So, today, this is what the Secret Garden looks like.
It’s been a day! A friend and I launched Cookies and Hostas today at Grand Rapid’s Fulton Street Market. We had hostas and other perennials from our gardens and I baked buckets of cookies to sell. This idea began back in a blustery March when snow still hid our gardens and my friend pointed out that between the two of us, we probably had enough hostas to divide and sell. And because I AM the cookie lady, another friend suggested we sell cookies and hostas. Hence the name. My friend sold several hostas. I, on the other hand, sold tons of cookies. I sold out of the red velvet cookies first. The oatmeal cherry pecans were popular all day and I only had broken cookies by the time we packed up. The oatmeal cherry chocolate chip were pretty popular, too. My friend will be out of town next week, but I’m going back with more cookies. It means I have to prepare them in a licensed kitchen, but I have access to one and will do a marathon baking session.
But today is also Bloom Day, and the garden is, indeed, blooming. Below are pictures of most of the blooms.
I’ve been telling myself that I really needed to get a telephoto lens for my Nikon and today was the day. I work in the summer so I can afford to get things like this. So, I brought the lens home, attached it to my camera and went out into the Secret Garden to greet the world through a long lens. I could hear the red-tailed hawks in the park. They like to hang out in one of the larch trees that stands just beyond the fence that separates my yard from the large city park that attracts birds and frisbee golfers. Two red-tailed hawks took up housekeeping in the park and now have two babies. Big babies. I was hoping to get a glimpse of them rustling around one of the big old pines. But all I saw and heard were robins, blue jays, and grey catbirds. I turned, wondering if I might see more birds lurking in my neighbor’s yard. And there they were. Two juvenile red-tails sitting atop my garage not 50 feet away.
Red-tails aren’t usually common back yard visitors, but because a pair has built a nest in one of the tall pines just west of my back gate, they are this summer a common sight and sound. It appears that the parents position the young birds in various trees in the park and then let them learn about the world from those tall perches.
But red-tails are common in North America. They are large hawks, and from a distance a female red-tail might be mistaken for an eagle, primarily because they have a similar silhouette. I used to see red-tails on my 45 minute drive from my previous home to my office in Grand Rapids, sometimes perched on a road sign, hunched over and scrutinizing the ditch, watching for any movement that might suggest a meal. I never thought I would have a family of four as neighbors. Both these juveniles eventually flew over me, swooping off the garage and heading for a tree in the park. Even as “babies” their wing span is impressive. Adult red-tails can have a wing span of 43 to 57 inches. That’s roughly four and a half to five feet.
And while my attention was tuned to the hawks, I did manage to notice that more day lilies are blooming. This prairie blue eyes is one of my favorites.
I know that on my Blotanical profile I say that red is my favorite color in the garden. But I also love those blues. And the gardens are singing the sweet blues today. The Hidcote Lavender (lavendula angustifolia hidcote) is in full bloom and so is the Jean Davis Lavender (lavendual angustifolia cv. Jean Davis), which is pink. But never mind. The Endless Summer (hydrangea macrophylla endless summer) hydrangeas are sorta kinda blue.
I still haven’t gotten the right amount of acid applied to the soil around several of them. The Nikko Blue (hydrangea macrophylla nikko blue) is anything but blue.
But the perennial geranium is bravely battling its way through the White Dome (arborescens ‘dardom’) hydrangeas and showing off its bright blue blooms. These are especially pretty against the white lace caps.
But I’ve noticed something. Or, more accurately, I have NOT noticed something. There seem to be fewer bees humming around the hydrangeas. It may be the weather has been too wet or too cool. I’ve seen honey bees, but very few carpenter or bumble bees. Bumble bees are social, but carpenter bees are solitary so don’t think there was a hive collapse, primarily because carpenter bees don’t live in a hive. I wonder if they were victims of our hard winter.
The Royal Candles Veronica (Veronica spicata royal candles) is a pretty backdrop for the Lady’s Mantle.
But perhaps the big news of the day is that the first of the day lilies bloomed today. Hemerocallis ‘Crystal Pinot’ wins the race. I suspect others will pop open within the next few days.
The red carpet rose is also blooming. And, it’s looking splendid against two perennial geraniums in the Secret Garden. I wish I had recorded this variety of perennial geranium. It blooms a little later, but is so nicely behaved. Unlike the unnamed geranium in the lower garden, this variety doesn’t get leggy and flop.
I am totally in love with the rose campion (lychnis coronaria). It doesn’t live very long, at least in my garden, but I’m willing to replant it every few years just for the lovely velvety grey foliage and the vibrant pink blooms. It sits in my lower garden where I can see it from my kitchen widow. I have a little desk in front of that window and often pop open my laptop and work there. Since there are bird feeders outside the window, the cat usually joins me.
Tuesday evening we got more than four inches of rain within about 30 minutes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that much rain fall so fast. But it’s been a rainy June and the garden is almost too lush. I’ve thinned some of the hostas already and no one would know. The New Dawn climber is threatening to take over the fence. And, actually, I don’t care. I pruned the lilacs in hopes of getting more blooms next year and to give the climber some breathing room.