I've waited all year for the first week of August to see the Summer phlox bloom. The seed I spread each year has developed into several large beds of phlox, which stands three feet tall with sweet lavender flower tops. This evening I saw the first Hawk moths—or Hummingbird moths—feeding on the sweet nectar of the Summer phlox.
The Painted ladies are always a surprise to see each August. They are very beautiful pink, cream yellow lilies that always seem to sneak up me—one day they just appear. In May, when the tulips and daffodils are in bloom, the Painted ladies send up long thin leaves that are very similar to those of the Day lilies. There are no flowers—just leaves that eventually dry and shrivel away. Then, three months later, the pretty ladies appear on 2 1/2- foot stems from out of nowhere—no leaves, just stems and lilies. I love surprises.
The butterfly plants in the garden are living up to their name and there are several kinds of butterflies on them at any one time. I'm so pleased to see several large monarchs in the flower gardens. They are a treat to have around again. There were a few years when I saw hardly any. The real bonus was spotting four different monarch caterpillars eating the leaves of the butterfly plants. I'll be watching for the chrysalises to appear on the undersides of the leaves. Who knows? Maybe I'll get to see a new monarch butterfly born unto the earth.
A few large Bumble bees—and even several Honey bees—are busy collecting pollen from the butterfly flowers. There are many varieties of this beneficial plant and all are visited by a vast variety of insects. No garden should be without them.
Three years ago I planted seeds from some wild Blue vervain. This morning there were several three-foot tall Blue vervains in bloom long after I had forgotten I had planted them. I love surprises like that, too.
The yellow coneflowers are spreading nicely through the meadow and are putting on a beautiful show of yellow. On long narrow stems, they bob and sway with the breeze. In the fall, when they go to seed, they will be able to reach about four or five feet to drop their seeds.
Besides the Summer phlox and Blue vervain, there are a few other blue flowers in the tall grass. They are the one to two-foot tall Great blue lobelia. They are doing their job of attracting bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds to their fragrant flowers.
A lovely Red-spotted purple butterfly was one of the many kinds of butterflies to visit the phlox. A beautiful orange comma also visited the phlox, while nearby an Orange sulphur fluttered from zinnia to zinnia, not caring what color the mixed flowers were. I swear, I pause and look at every butterfly I have ever seen. If there is any one creature that has given me a reason to pause for a moment, it's the butterfly with its true and innocent beauty.
The weather has been hot and humid with no sign of letting up, and the hot topic is still the mosquitoes. Most people can tolerate insects as long as they don't bite, but that's just what the female mosquitoes are born to do. The dragonfly hatch that came Friday was timely. These fast flying, large flies make a living out of eating mosquitoes. As far as I'm concerned, there can never be enough dragonflies.
I spotted a male Wolf spider near the back porch this morning. I think he was sunning himself on the lower step. I let him crawl up my hand and dropped him a pail so I could get a picture of him. There are 69 species of Wolf spiders in North America, and they are some of the largest spiders. The male I found this morning is larger than a quarter but is only half as large as the female. By now she is guarding her hundreds of tiny young who are grouped together in her webbed nest. Since I was a boy, I have learned how important spiders are to Nature's plan, and my respect for them has grown over the years.
The Sandhill crane chicks are growling like weeds and are now about half the size of their parents. They're getting kind of leggy and still covered in yellow-brown down, but their wing and tail feathers are starting to appear. Each of the chicks follows one of their parents as they slowly stalk through the grass in search of something to eat—pretty much anything that moves. The summer has been very good to the young cranes and they should be trying their wings about a month from now.
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