September 23, 2014

Roses, Hydrangeas and Snowberries in a Vase

 'Vivid Pearl' snowberries are ripe in the garden and are making a valuable contribution to recent arrangements.

'Princess Alexandra of Kent' English roses provided the most color to this vase, while buds of 'Abraham Darby' promise to open over the next few days.

Curving stems of 'Hall's Purple' honeysuckle and variegated pineapple mint drape down from the main cluster of flowers.

'Vivid Pearl' snowberries aren't really vivid, but their soft pinkish color looks well with many of my English roses.

I have four types of mint (peppermint, spearmint, strawberry and pineapple mint) growing in pots on the back porch, and the leaves on the pineapple mint look the best right now.  The others have all flowered and let their leaves fade. 

Stems of 'Limelight' hydrangea fill out the vase.  I often pull off some of the lower flower clusters on the hydrangea stems to fit them into small arrangements.  This vase is definitely one of my favorites from the season, and it went to one of my favorite friends.

September 15, 2014

Annual Gardens in South Arc and East Rectangle of Spokane Temple

Here are a few photos of the annual beds on the south and east sides of the Spokane Temple.  We use bold colors in the south arc because soft colors look washed out by the intense sun bouncing off the white granite walls of the temple.  Above is a 'Double Cherry Profusion' (or Zahara?) zinnia with a 'Big Green Leaf' begonia on the left and 'Dakota Gold' helenium on the right, plus a touch of parsley at the bottom right.  Marilyn and I noticed parsley in some of the annual gardens at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, so we decided to try it here.

This wide view of the south arc garden shows purple fountain grass (Pennisetum) reaching above the other annuals.  I had high hopes for these grasses but they didn't grow tall enough to create the effect I was imagining.  We had to buy two types of fountain grass to get enough for the different gardens, and the plain old Pennisetum purpureum that we used here didn't grow nearly as vigorously as the hybrid 'Prince' fountain grass in other beds.  Deep violet petunias, red zonal geraniums and single flowered orange 'Profusion' or 'Zahara' zinnias add to the mix. 

Marilyn and I have already submitted a list of requested plants to the grower for next year, and the plan for this area is to simplify a bit and use just the two colors of zinnias, violet supertunias, red geraniums and lime sweet potato vines. 

The south arc may not have turned out quite as good as planned, but the two pots outside the south gates turned out better than I imagined.  The 'Prince' purple fountain grasses here grew like mad.  You can't see it well from this angle, but a 'King Tut' papyrus is planted next to the grass and also did well.  Since we have deer and rabbit pressure out here, we used violet 'Imagination' verbena instead of petunias and some red Celosia and red ivy geraniums. 

Here is a final photo showing the east rectangle.  This little garden is completely surrounded by pale concrete, so I thought it would be nice to use dark, dramatic colors.  We keep the plantings here short since wedding photographers often pose groups on one side and shoot from the other side, and we don't want the plants in their way.  'Blackie' sweet potato vines and 'Dakota Gold' helenium did well in this area.  Unfortunately, we couldn't find the rusty-orange 'Sedona' coleus I had selected, so we used Persian shield instead and it turned out boring.  I had planned to use 'Sangria Charm' supertunias, but we couldn't get those either, and these trailing petunias didn't grow nearly as large as supertunias would have.  There are challenges each year with finding the right plants and that requires last minute adjustments, but that's just part of the adventure of gardening.  A plant combo that worked well one year could be a disaster the next year if weather conditions are very different.  You just hope for the best and wait to be surprised!

September 10, 2014

Gardening for Butterflies

My children and I have really enjoyed watching the butterflies in our backyard this summer.  Above is a fritillary, which was the most common visitor after the cabbage whites.  After buying a book on butterflies (Kaufman's Field Guide to Butteflies of North America), I learned that fritillary caterpillars eat violets.  I checked the clumps of 'Queen Charlotte' violets growing at one corner of the house and sure enough, they were chewed to pieces, which was perfectly alright.  I'm planning to spread the violets around even more so we can attract more of these beauties next summer.
Please forgive my poor photos - it's really hard to get good photos of moving creatures without scaring them away, so I ended up cropping a lot.  And of course butterflies prefer to fly in midday when the light is awful.  Maybe someday I'll get a better macro lens.  We have also seen plenty of skippers, a large black and white unknown butterfly, a swallowtail, and a quick glimpse of what looked like a Monarch. 

I have been researching how to attract more butterflies to our garden.  The adults really do love the butterfly bushes, like 'Buzz Purple' above.  'Miss Molly,' below, is another favorite.  They seem less excited about the 'Blue Chip' butterfly bushes, which have a differently shaped flower, though some flutters land there.  'Walker's Low' catmint, 'May Night' and 'Caradonna' salvia, Russian sage (Peroskvia) and 'Rozanne' geraniums also attract a lot of butterflies.  I plan to add a few Liatris and try seeding Verbena bonariensis again (though I've tried and failed with that plant before).  In spring I have seen whites on my Chionodoxa bulb flowers.  But what I've been especially researching is the larval plant foods of the various butterflies that live in our area.

I was pleased to find that I already have many types of larval foods in my garden.  I knew that Swallowtails liked parsley, so I've been using that as an edging plant along the path.  I will also plant fennel for them next year.  Some swallowtail larvae eat willow and buckthorn, so they can have at my dwarf Arctic willow and 'Fine Line' buckthorns.  Some comma, mourning cloak, admiral, hairstreak and duskywing larvae also eat willows.  Swallowtails also eat aspens, which are planted in my neighbor's yard right along the fence.  Neighboring yards also have birch for commas and mourning cloaks.  Crescents like asters, of which I have a few, and checkerspots eat snowberry like my 'Vivid Pearl' snowberry bush.  Skipper larvae eat grasses, and though I don't plant ornamental grasses because they give me a rash and we probably keep our lawn too short for caterpillars, we have seen the adults regularly on the butterfly bushes.

The photo above shows popular butterfly foods like 'Walker's Low' catmint and 'May Night' salvia (for adults), plus a 'Fine Line' buckthorn for swallowtail larvae.  Other larval foods already in my garden include wisteria, Baptisia and other legumes for skippers, duskywings, sulphurs, hairstreaks and blues.  Copper larvae eat blueberry bushes, of which I have three.

My daughter grew a cabbage for a school project this summer, which provided food for many cabbage white butterfly larvae.  We're not big fans of eating cabbage, but I'll find space for one each summer so we can attract the cute little whites.  Also on my 'To Plant' list is Malva fastigiata, which is in the mallow family so hopefully will provide food for hairstreak, painted lady and west coast lady larvae.  I've had milkweed seeds (Asclepias incarnata 'Milkmaid') for Monarch larvae for over a year but have hesitated to plant them because they can be invasive.  I'm going to go for it next year and get them in the ground.  I've found a few places to squeeze in some 'Morello Cherry' and 'Noble Maiden' lupines for duskywing and blue larvae, as well as a 'Ritro' Echinops (ornamental thistle) for crescent, painted lady and west coast lady larvae.  I'm hesitating over planting nettles for satyrs, though.  Ouch! 
I'm also thinking of how I can make a permanent muddy puddle (not too large, dear hubby, in case you read this), since many flutters love mud.  Of course we won't attract all of these types to our garden, but with all of these foods available I hope that we will see more over the years.  Watching butterflies on a summer afternoon is one of life's sweet and simple pleasures.