Kaleidoscopes

Posted by & filed under Annuals, Natural Areas, Perennials.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks in the Butterfly Garden and the Wildflower Meadow.  Like a kaleidoscope, wherever you turn you will see a variety of beautiful colors in an ever changing pattern.  Zinnias in shades of pink, red, yellow and orange; Pentas in white, lavender and red; purple gomphrena; deep orange firecracker plant; blue and pink porterweed; yellow senna.  These and other colorful flowers are spread throughout the Butterfly Garden.  The wildflower meadow has a more limited palette but just as colorful – shades of green highlighted by bursts of yellow from goldenrod and Maximillian sunflower.  Of course the true color connoisseur will enjoy the small punctuations of pure yellow that my cousins and I provide.

Accenting this incredible foundation of color are vibrant flashes of moving jewels – butterflies and other insects.  Most visitors will probably first notice the bright creamy yellow of the cloudless sulfurs.  They fly frantically from flower to flower, sipping nectar as if it is about to disappear.  Every now and then a small whirling tornado of two or three will dance together towards the sky.  Stand in the garden for a few moments and your eyes will start to adjust just like walking into a bright room.  More and more butterflies seem to appear from nowhere.  The small clouded sulfur, with its dark-edged yellow wings, moves even more quickly.  Black swallowtails bounce lazily from blossom to blossom. Red-spotted purples rest gently on a vinca, enjoying the nectar like a fine wine.  An intensely orange Gulf fritillary darts by.  Silvery flashes of white spots appear when it briefly rests for a drink. Other butterflies enjoy these plantings as well.  Monarchs and swallowtails are regularly spotted, but hairstreaks, skippers and other small butterflies require a keener eye.  If you are lucky, you may get to see a pipevine swallowtail. Their black and iridescent blue wings are a sight.  They are new arrivals in the garden this year.  The gardeners planted a Dutchman’s pipe vine several years ago in hopes of attracting this insect and their patience was finally rewarded this summer.
Of course, other animals enjoy the garden.   A chorus of bees, beetles and other insects buzz and chirp as they go about their own business of pollinating.  Predatory insects come calling with all this food available, so spiders have set traps throughout the plantings.  A variety of birds perch nearby, looking for a tasty snack – vegetarian or not.  Of course the most amusing are the human animals.  Many sedately wander through the garden, enjoying the butterflies and plants, while others (especially photographers) dart about, trying to track a single creature.  It becomes almost comical as their heads whip around, trying to take in all the colorful sights and then try to capture them with a camera.  So come on out to the Butterfly Garden, I need a good laugh.

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