One reason for growing a wildlife garden: If you build it, they’ll come. And they are beautiful to watch in the garden.
All photographs are from my garden. It is amazing how you build a landscape and they come and use it. I have the whole life cycle in the garden. Next post I will show the birds that come to the garden when you don’t spray insecticides.
I love gardening, something I’ve been writing about for quite a while. It is the act of dissolving into the silence and intricacies of nature.
Every bud and seedling is a glimmer of hope. I enjoy tending the soil, being active and watching this natural work of sorts become its own.
The garden starts out with seeds and a general idea and from there it becomes what it will be. I used to be a lot less enthusiastic about the summer garden than the spring garden.
The spring would come with ideas and grand hopes for wildlife and a garden I could photograph but once the summer heat kicked in, the garden would go its own way.
All of the weeding and planting would turn into a garden of brown shrivelled up leaves. I think depression has a big thing to do with it as well, all intent and excitement dies with its crippling effects.
This year is different. I’m looking at raising milkweed to sell, yes a weed but the only hope for future monarch butterflies. I am collecting passionvine and dutchmans’ pipe as well and with the addition to the family of a dog named Ranger, suddenly I am outside even in the heat, still plucking weeds, still planting.
It’s amazing how a puppy can take you out of yourself. It’s not about you, it’s about him and the garden is better because of it. As he chews on sticks and rocks, I continue to weed, water and protect.
I’m not sure how long this will last, but I’m excited to see the garden become its own even after the second hottest May. I hope you enjoy a bit of a walk through my garden.
highlighting the Dutchmans pipe – This is the amazing butterfly that will visit your garden when you plant Dutchman’s Pipe or Aristolochia vine. Even without the welcome visitor it is an easy and very interesting vine to grow.
This is the Caterpillar that will devour every bit of this perennial vine but they grow back quickly. They look a bit like slugs but if you study them closer they are quite beautiful in their own right.
Let’s get back to the plant which has its’ own unique qualities. The reason they call them Dutchman’s Pipe vines is because the flowers resemble a dutchmans pipe.
This is the White-Veined hardy Dutchman Pipevine-it is a ground cover that will come back every year in Texas and reseeds itself quite easily. The smell of the leaves are very strong.
There are several different types of vines but be wary of the Aristolochia Gigantea-it is a beautiful flower and dramatic bloom but it supposedly will kill the caterpillars, if you grow them just make sure you keep them away from butterflies seeking to lay their eggs.
These plants do will tolerate full shade and full sun with adequate watering but it prefers morning sun and afternoon shade. They do great in hanging baskets but I have mine in the ground.
The next plant is the sunflower which is not only a host plant but easy to grow from seed and a dramatic addition to any landscape.
The plant is named Passiflora after the passion of Christ, there are a lot of symbolism with the parts of the flower, the stigmata represent the three nails and the 5 anthers below them the wounds. The sharp tips of the leaves, the lance, the tendrils the flagellation of Christ and the ten pedals and sepals the loyal apostles. Read more
They won’t overtake your yard or destroy a fence. I have had the blue variety come back every spring with a heavier base, I would think if it grew well enough it could destroy a fence but I’ve never had any problems with them.
The smell of the flowers. The blooms are not only dramatic and odd, they smell like sweet candy and each species has its own unique flavor. The thorny larvae of the gulf and variegated fritillaries will devour the stands of the plant but that’s why I grow plants for the wildlife.
They are Good for Bees. Attracting bees could be a good or bad aspect of raising a plant. I always welcome them and never have been stung while treating them with due respect.
The abundant flowers are many different colors and they will cover an area in the yard with beautiful blooms through the summer. I would highly recommend this plant because its easy and needs little care. The native purple, (incense and incarnate), blue (cerulean) and some hybrids will come back after a mild winter and will grow in most places with an abundance of light.
I will have a whole new collection this year and many more photos.
Next is the Dutchmans Pipe-be patient if you plant it, they will come.
I found them at the weathered gate, rich green algae on an old broken down fence. These are all whispers of a summer past and I realize the gardener is only an introduction of seed to soil, the wind and rain are the catalysts, each bird a possible carrier of a new seed and every weed a new battle for supremacy.
Milkweed plants for Monarch – I have always been a lover of nature and wildlife gardening seemed
a natural connection to my writing, photography and painting. If you
build a wildlife friendly garden, they will find you.
My garden has been the subject matter for many photography posts, art and writing. There are several species of plants you need to have
in your garden and the fact that they are native will make your garden almost care-free.
You need to feed the adult birds, allow spaces for birds to
hunt for food without chemicals, raise their families and drink.
You need to feed the caterpillar young and have a place for the adults to feed on nectar, again no chemicals.
The first plant you need to have to help the monarch butterfly
population rebound is milkweed. There are all different species but try to stick with the native species.
For the adults, they love Frostweed and Zinnias. Both of these plants will attract them to your garden and you will not need to do much to keep these plants wild. Zinnias actually will grow well from seed and frostweed will reseed itself and feed many other species of nectar loving butterflies.
Parkhill Prairie – I got lost in the long flowing stalks of bluestem grasses, the great blue sky looming above where hawks dance in slow spirals. I sat on the cold, moist ground and listened to what it might have been like when bison and Indians roamed the backland prairie.
The clouds drifted with a calm indifference, the wind breathed and than exhaled followed by a ritual silence. Meadowlarks flew in patterns from fences and crows called out breaking the stillness, it is like going back in time.
I guess the fact that the winter chill that settled in my spine and slapped my exposed skin with pins and needles would be a good incentive not to go to the prairie. I assume that’s why both times I’ve gone there has been no one there but I consider it my oasis of silence.
I am comfortable sitting on the cold ground. My breath is still, my senses charged with the sounds as I try not to miss anything. I can hear cattle in the background and even a truck in the far distance but for the most part all is consumed with the rush of the wind through the grasses.
All that moves is the grasses, swaying back and forth as if haunted and the clouds marching passively across the plane, I am in awe of the silence and calm.
I have been dwarfed by mountains, the ocean but never by a huge open field. I have images of our history and it’s inhabitants that made a life out here and imagine the distant cows that cry out now were probably the sounds of wagon trains and troops of coyotes, maybe even the bison.
The coyotes are still here, I see their tracks and scat but the bison are long gone. There hawks of all kinds, the red tail, the kestrels and the prairie falcon, their mood is pensive with a mission. They rise and fall in the golden field as it should be.
I learned about this place from a trail guide at the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center and I have been back twice. Yet another great place I learned about from the Blackland Prairie Raptor center, great people and wonderful birds with lots of knowledge, if you haven’t gotten a chance to go on the first Saturday of the month, I would highly suggest going.
Artbygordon: Original oils on canvas, Original pastels on paper celebrating the beauty and mystery of nature. Water and night skies are my specialties.