Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wildlife in the Corner Garden

Pam, at Digging had a post about gardening with wildlife in mind that I enjoyed reading Friday.  She said the Garden Designers Roundtable had that for a theme this month, so I checked that post out as well.  One of the things they mentioned is that some of the posts will be about trying to acheive an ecological balance.  That is something I think about sometimes, wondering if one really can live in perfect harmony with the wildlife around them.  I do plant things with wildlife in mind, and try to keep fresh water down, but there are times I don't have positive feelings toward some of the critters.

Some people are afraid of anything not human.  Others just don't like them, and want to kill all insects and snakes on "their" property.  When I was out taking photos this morning, a neighbor boy said, "Aren't you afraid of bees?  Do they ever sting you when you get so close to them?"  I do get close to them, and wasps as well, and have never been stung.  I've had bees fly up in irritation when they got tired of me hanging around, and then back off, but have only been stung in my youth when I stepped on a bee while going barefoot.  If I was allergic to stings, I would probably keep my distance, though.  I am thankful to have garter snakes on the property.  They like all the cover here and there, including the compost piles.

As far as harmony and balance go, I plant extra lettuce for the rabbits each year, but they still eat other things I don't want them to.  I am going to have to get some rabbit fencing in order to get home grown veggies.  I don't use pesticides, except once every few years, when the slugs are bad, I'll use a pet safe product once or twice that season.  (I found beer didn't work so well, and got really gross if I didn't take care of it often.)  I would rather not have rabbits around, but they are there, so I have to learn to deal with them better.  And then, there are the squirrels...

I don't grow squashes much because of the stem borers.   Beetles eat my cucumber vines and give them a disease, but at least I get a harvest of cucumbers before the plants die.  They also eat the bean plants that haven't been finished by the rabbits yet. 

I'll have to check more of the gardening for wildlife posts out after I catch up a bit on visiting the blogs of those who have left comments on my recent posts.  I want to achieve balance as best I can.  I decided to talk about some of the plants that attract insects and other wildlife to my yard and my garden across the street for my Camera Critters post.

This photo was taken August 22.  There are two walnut trees across the street, which are not good to grow vegetables around, but the squirrels spend a lot of time there.

On August 25, some insects had found the rough goldenrod blooms opening.  I grow several kinds of goldenrod, but not the wildest invasive kind.  They always have a variety of insects on the blooms.  (Thanks to those who told me these are soldier beetles, and they eat other insects.)

The next door neighbor kids know I like butterflies and caterpillars.  They brought this over when I came home from work and a dentist appointment, hungry, and wanting to get right inside to eat.  They wanted to find a spot for it in my yard.  I told them they could put it in an empty pot on my driveway.  The put some things in there for it.  Do you know what that is?

When I first started growing this kind of agastache, which may be honey bee blue, it was sold as Mexican bee mint.  These are volunteers.  I think I had a couple different kinds, which may have crossed.  There are normally lots of bees and other insects on these blooms.

The heleniums are liked by insects as well.

I did go get my camera the day the kids brought the critter over when we saw these spiders.  They think the one on the right is a wolf spider.  I can't tell from the bottom.  I couldn't tell if the one on the left was alive.

Butterfly bushes are considered invasive in some areas, but not here.  I haven't seen as many butterflies at a time on this one as in the past, but it could be because I have more of them here and there now.

The rest of the photos were taken Friday.  I always let some verbena bonariensis grow in the vegetable garden because the butterflies like it.  I had a number of different kinds of skippers on it this day.  The dark colored swallowtail flew away as soon as I entered the scene.  I saw a silver-spotted skipper when I got home from work, but didn't get out right away with the camera.  These skippers let me get quite close.  There are 3 in this photo.  I think the open winged one may be a female common checkered-skipper.

I wonder if this is a fiery skipper. 

I can't tell which this looks like in my book, but I'm thinking the Leonard's skipper may be what I've had in the past.  (Randy E. says this is a female Sachem skipper.  When I looked back at an older post, I saw he had identified one as this, too.  They must like it here.  Thanks Randy!)

I can't remember if this one is one of those in the other photos.

The tithonia, Mexican sunflowers, are finally blooming in front of the vegetable garden across the street, and the monarchs have found the two blooms they have so far.  Last year, they bloomed much earlier, and I had more of them planted.  The monarchs love them, and last fall, there were days I counted more than 14 at a time on and around them.  It was awesome!

We have a variety of trees in the neighborhood.  This 4 foot locust tree is growing in the neighbor's side yard next to the flower bed by their house.  It's more their responsibility to cut down, but since I take care of the area right next to it, I'll probably take it down.  I couldn't find any flowers on it, but the monarch spent some time on it.

When we went to the zoo with our grandson last week, I noticed they had some pokeberries growing here and there.  I let this one grow across the street for the birds, but pulled the others.

I need to do a search for mulberry trees to decide if I want to leave this one (across the street) for the birds, and maybe try to get a few berries from it as well.

I have reduced the size of the brush pile I was intending for the butterflies to take shelter in.  The rabbits have taken it over for their nest.  Speaking of rabbits, their favorite foods here are the leaves of peas, green beans, sweet potatoes, and romaine and buttercrunch lettuce.  They'll eat all kinds of lettuce and this year, included more leaves from flowers in their diet, which they eat to the ground.  Some of the flowers have recovered, and some of the sweet potatoes are trying to, but the peas and beans did not, and more of the lettuce than usual was eaten too far down to recover.  If I plant them, they will come!  (When I first posted, I forgot to point out the stand of lamb's quarters that I left for the ladybugs, which we didn't see as many of as last year.)

When I learned that fennel blooms attract predatory wasps, they were already forming seeds, so I didn't cut them back.  I've seen a few swallowtail caterpillars on the fennels, dill, and parsley this year, not as many as some years.  I didn't make it out to the gardens as much as usual, though, either.

Back home, the veronica, 'Sunny Border Blue' has bloomed all season, with some deadheading, and always has bees and/or butterflies on it.

I cut a few springs of this winter savory in the curb bed to dry for cooking each season, then enjoy the blooms along with the bees and such.  There were at least 5 bees on this 12ish inch wide plant when I took this photo.

The Joe Pye weed, 'Gateway' seems to be drawing bees.  This is the first year for this plant.

I think it's a butterfly bush leaf this insect is on.  Do you know what it is?

If you haven't looked in your yard lately, see what kinds of critters you can find near you.  Visit Camera Critters, hosted by Misty Dawn by clicking the link in my sidebar.


  1. It totally escapes me how anybody can achieve an ecological balance. Mine has tipped decidedly in favour of nature. The wasps and blackbirds beat me to my figs, the cabbage white butterfly larvae have overnight destroyed my one and only delphinium stalk, the Hawaian orchid snails ( 2 mm across) have disfigured all late-flowering clematis flowers, my 2 foot high yellow berberis has just succumbed to more cabbage whites, as have three hybrid teas and all stock. They work apace and what seems wholesome today, will be totally leafless tomorrow. I am hard-put to find one single whole leaf at the minute.

    But then, our ecologist son thinks I am a terrific gardener: he doesn't notice the half-eaten petals or the holey leaves; he only sees the insects, moles, birds, frogs, pheasants (who are fussy and eat grey leaves only), bats, foxes, badgers, deer, rabbits, hare, dormice, weasels, stoats, polecats and whatever else decides that my place is a free-for all.

    I honestly do not understand how other gardeners can have impeccable plants with uneaten leaves. I take my hat off to them. Maybe they have led a blameless life and are being rewarded :-)

  2. We thought the beautiful smiles of flowers are exclusively ours. They smile at other creatures too and they reward sweet nectar to bees to lick for pollinating service. I guess the leafy veggies do the same with their green grins. How would plants know, they are grown solely for the gardener. For zillion of years, they are perpetuating the concept of living together, with creatures big and small, man included. Cheers, have a great weekend. ~bangchik

  3. Looks so wonderful...such a great variety of insect life! Joe Pye seems to be the Belle of the Ball for my right's covered in bees from morning to night...I've never seen them go so crazy over anything before...of course, it's a bit hard to get decent photos when they are 8' tall!

  4. Love the pokeberries, just took some similar macro shots on a garden walk. The insects are soldier beetles, they eat aphids.

  5. That's a whole lot of wildlife in a garden :)

    Wonderful photos!

  6. Hey,

    I too garden for the insects, most plants have some sort of attraction to wildlife whether it be the insects or birds.

    Just trying to give back what I can to nature, since we take so much away.

  7. Sue,
    You always share such lovely photos! I hope you will over-winter the cocoon. It is a moth of some kind, and with that little horn-shaped protrusion at the end, I'm wondering if it's one of the sphinx moths.

  8. Hi from David & Melanie,
    We've not had a vegetable garden since the early 90s, so the stakes are not quite as high when it comes to bugs and critters. I'm now calling our garden a wildlife garden more than any other label. I'm also trying hard to swing back to planting more natives. Today I had a monarch flying from plant to plant searching for Aeschlepius. I usually plant them on the corner, but couldn't find any this year. I honestly can tell you..I called out to that monarch and said, "I'm sorry". Guess that puts me squarely on the wildlife side of the coin.
    About those holes in the leaves...yes, I have had to really adjust to this. Since I've always been an organic gardener, I'm used to some of the problems. But I too wonder how some gardeners can have picture perfect plants all the time. Still, we try. One thing for certain; native plants get eaten more than exotics and that's the way it's supposed to be. Right now, I'm watching the squirrels eat all the green pecans just befoe they ripen. I'm not happy, but what can I do?

    I'm new to garden blogging and really enjoy your pictures and garden. It was a nice discovery. We'll be back to visit.
    David/ Tropical Texana Houston,TX

  9. It seems to me that you have created a lovely corner oasis for all the critters in your part of the world. You have such a wider variety of plants, I am always amazed at how much you have going on--and I am sure all the wildlife appreciate it.

  10. Great post on balance, and lot of interesting things to see here!

    I love that the neighborhood kids brought you that...thing! how sweet!

  11. Hello,
    I always love looking at your beautiful garden, animal, insects, flowers, it's full of life.

  12. I felt totally absorbed in this wander through your garden world! A real "feel good" experience! Even though I didn't know many of the plants you mention, it didn't matter! The joy of discovery was wonderful!

  13. So many beautiful critters and great photos.

  14. Sue,
    Your thing in the pot is likely a beetle or moth, I'd cover it with dry leaves. The skipper is a female Sachem, very common. Leonard's are extremely rare and very late season, in fact the last butterfly to fly of the season.

  15. Hi, Sue. Thanks so much for the link, and for joining in on the discussion about wildlife in the garden! I didn't get into the subject of pesky critters in my GDRT post (others did though), but I certainly have my fair share of wildlife that I'd really rather not have: armadillos rooting up my plants, deer chomping them down, etc.) Still, you have to learn to live with them. Once you've fenced them out where you can, you'll still have them in the front garden, so you learn to live and let live.

    I think your mystery insect is a stink bug. Yes, a pest bug because it sucks plant juices, but I have them too and they never do too much damage.

  16. Great shots!!! I don't know what that huge caterpillar is.

  17. Your garden is full with action! Love the butterflies. As for the bees, they stang me many times, even in the face, when I was a child. I still like them.

  18. Sorry I don't know what that thing is in your pot. you captured some great pics of your wildlife.

    I finally saw my first Monarch of the season a couple of days ago. They are so pretty.

  19. I am never very happy when the deer demolish all of my hostas in an evening, but I do enjoy the dozen plus butterlies on my buddelia.

    Thankfully, this year the deer have not been around.

    I have a friend who had one Sedumn Autumn Joy and removed it because she did not like the bees.

    I have dozens of them just beginning to turn pink. Each plant has up to a dozen bees/hornets on it all the time. Last year was the first time I have ever gotten stung. I think they are worth the risk!

    I enjoyed seeing all of your insects today.

  20. You always have the most amazing collection of critters! I love seeing all the insects that visit my garden, except of course the Japanese beetles. I'm reminded of a non-gardening friend that once said to me she didn't grow flowers because she didn't like bees. I shook my head in dismay!

  21. With such a variety of plants, it is no wonder your garden is full with activity, large and small.Very nice photos.If your Mulberry is not near any buildings, it is a great tree for wildlife. Near buildings would be bad for the structures.

  22. You have a lovely garden! I always enjoy seeing wildlife in my garden. Regarding insects, my theory is, if it's outside, it's their world. Inside is my world, where they don't belong. I try to garden as organically and eco-friendly as possible. I know I am doing a good job when I see all the little critters enjoying themselves. And I also remember that nobody's world is perfect.

  23. Beautiful photos, Sue! I have been planting more and more for the butterflies, bees, and birds here and have been more than rewarded by their visits. But it is a challenge to encourage wildlife without letting them destroy your garden. I was looking at my sweet potato vines yesterday, trying to figure out what was causing all the holes in them. I discovered tiny caterpillars on the underside of the leaves. I debated about using some insecticidal soap on them, but decided they're annuals and won't survive much longer anyway. But if these were prized perennials, I might consider some kind of intervention--trying to find that balance is difficult.

    By the way, the insects on your goldenrod and agastache are soldier beetles, which I've discovered are beneficial insects.

  24. I love getting pictures of the critters in my garden. I got a photo of a praying mantis I didn't even know was there until seeing the photo full-size on the screen. Interesting to read that fennel blooms attract predatory wasps. My fennel got chewed down to stumps by the swallowtail caterpillars, so it never got a chance to flower. It's starting to put out more leaves though.

  25. Sue, your yard is becoming more beautiful and the gardens more full and mature all the time! :-) Love the header photo!

    In honor of Grandparent's day, check out my Sept. 1 post.

  26. Sue, Thanks for the shout out about Garden Designers Roundtable, it seems like this month's topic of Inviting Nature In was a popular one. I didn't realize that predatory wasps like fennel flowers, I'd been cutting many of mine off since they seed so prolifically but now I think I'll stop that pratice and invite the wasps in. In my garden, the two perennials that the bees and butterflies simply love are Joe Pye Weed and Agastache.

  27. Hi, Sue, Sorry I haven't visited you lately but I was out of the country. Love all the plants and critters in this post ... you never disappoint your readers. I look forward to catching up on the posts I missed while I was away. Pam x

  28. Dear Sue, after reading your sweet comments and visiting your blog, I feel we must be kindred spirits. I smile when you talk about the kids bringing critters to you. Those are moments I cherish. The kids, but also the critters. I love wild life in my garden and there are very few bugs that I won't tolerate. BTW I love your gardens. The pics in this post are beautiful!

  29. A good way to teach kids at an early stage.
    That was interesting to read, especially with the pictures.

  30. Hi, Sue;
    Mine is a wildlife habitat where the wildlife is happily taking over. Most times it's great. Aggressive birds dive bombing me, not so great. I'm getting much better at dealing with squigglies but I doubt I'll ever think happy thoughts about the snakes who've decided to call this place home.

  31. That was a lovely tour round your garden. Thank you :-)

  32. A beautiful blog,pleased to have found it, :-)


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