Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Good Week in the Native Plant Garden

Flowers are busting out all over this week. The mouse-eared coreopsis (Coreopsis auriculata) is at peak bloom this week and the hairy-stem spiderwort (that sounds scary, doesn’t it? Tradescantia hirsuticaulis) is finishing up an outrageous display.  But it takes more than flowers to have a good week in the native plant garden!

Spiderwort (Tradescantia hirsuticaulis) in a pot

It’s important that my plants are the gateway to something more. My plants need to feed their local ecosystem in as many ways possible. This week, my garden hit a home run. Let me explain.

Early in the week three baby wrens fledged from the nest near the garage. Their parents had built a nest in a basket that I had placed in a sheltered rack of shelves just for that purpose (thrift stores are great places to get baskets for $1).  Successful nests of baby birds are proof that my garden has the kind of insect activity that sustains life!

Baby birds were remarkably camera tolerant

One of the parents waits nearby

At some point during the week I noticed a good-sized caterpillar munching on one of the dwarf hawthorns (Crataegus) by the driveway. It was an unusual looking fellow with horns and a camouflage reminiscent of bird poop. With some help from a Facebook group, I was able to confirm that it was a red-spotted purple butterfly (one of the only ‘horned, bird-poop mimics,’ you see). Insects eating my plants – wow!

Caterpillar of red spotted purple butterfly on hawthorn

The next day I noticed that my plum (sold as Prunus americana but probably Prunus angustifolia actually) is sporting tiny fruits. This is a plant that feeds wildlife in 3 ways – flowers for bees, foliage for caterpillars, and fruit for birds (and me too). I am so happy to hit the trifecta on this plant finally (it had flowers last year but no fruit).

Developing fruit on Prunus angustifolia

Now for bonus points, on Thursday I was out taking pictures when I saw a splash of orange on the ground. It turned out to be a red admiral butterfly. What a great visitor and the first time I have seen one in my yard. Later I saw it in the backyard too but it is a quick moving butterfly and was gone after that. The host plants (nettles) for it are not in my yard as far as I know, but they must be nearby.

Double bonus points: I’m always happy to see new flowers. The pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) that I planted at the front of the house is blooming for the first time. I already have another plant about 20 feet away so I’m hoping to get a little cross pollination going on so that I can get some fruit on these beauties.

Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)

So there you have it – a spectacular week in the native plant garden. Hope yours was great too!

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