Sunday, August 14, 2016

Summer Greens

Can you spot this Monarda punctata in the jungle below?
I’m pretty sure that people that walk up to my door think I am the laziest gardener around. The triangle next to the driveway/sidewalk junction is at full-bore-crazy-growth phase.

While there are a few black-eyed Susan flowers (Rudbeckia hirta and R. fulgida var. fulgida) here and there, it is mostly a jungle of green. Pale spotted beebalm (Monarda punctata) is noticed by the bees if not the humans.

Rudbeckia engulfed by Eupatorium hyssopifolium

The jungle

It’s a phase. The spring-flowering plants have been overtaken by the summer ones. I can see what is to come, with many plants just days or weeks away from bursting into bloom. The thoroughworts (Eupatorium spp.) are loaded with buds, and the cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) are like coiled snakes, slowly unwinding a thick raceme of red flowers. Others, like the goldenrod (Solidago spp.), won’t be blooming for another month or more.

Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Caterpillar on Eupatorium not yet blooming

I can also see value in that jungle of green – it is a living mass of life even without the flowers. You see, some critters don’t need flowers to benefit from my plants. Caterpillars, the larval forms of butterflies and moths, are quietly knocking back a leaf or two as they transform from tiny egg to adult. Already this year, I’ve watched caterpillars of Spicebush swallowtail, American lady and Gulf fritillary butterflies grow up on my plants.

Those who are not eating my plants still benefit from the jungle. The space beneath it is a cool oasis for toads, turtles and others. Carolina anole lizards patrol the plant stalks looking for a meal while katydids, spiders and ambush bugs are also looking. Dragonflies alight on tall stems.

So when you pass by my garden (or even a wild roadside) and think “Nothing going on there” - there’s a whole bunch of bugs that would disagree with you. Flowers are on the way, but life goes on regardless.


  1. My husband and I had a good time trying to identify the very tall flowers at Panola Mountain that the butteflies loved so much. (I am thinking of last year.) We discovered they were thoroughworts. Wish we had them in our garden!
    People might think our garden is messy also, but we know it is best for the wildlife.

  2. A true habitat for wildlife. Awesome! My goldenrod is already starting to bloom as is the ironweed, joe pye weed and hairy sunflower. I'm wondering if I will have much blooming come fall.

  3. I love your "jungle". I had created one of my own at our home in Kansas, but we moved last summer, so I'm working on creating a new one here in the panhandle of Florida. The wildlife our jungles attract are the most exciting part, to me. Cynthia

  4. Great article, as usual, Ellen. I love the fall-blooming native, too.

  5. I love vines. I have ivy crawling all over my porch along with Virginia Creeper and another one with heart shaped leaves that bear the prettiest red berries. I also have something called a porcelain vine that has berries, some that are pink, blue, green, it looks like a grapevine but the berries are small. It grows to the top of trees and can make a very thick trunk after a few years. I have wild violet growing everwhere. My brother in law asked me should he use weed killer on them. I said NO. I also have pokeberries growing all over but birds love the berries so I don't pull them up either. Around my front porch looks awful but the birds like it .