Osmocote Advertisement

What a Difference a Year Makes


This time last year we were heading into an awful, hot, drought-ridden summer — one that trounced the tomato plants, sent container plantings wilting if they didn’t get watered twice a day, and left gardeners exhausted and crabby. As we approach the summer solstice on Friday (yes, it’s still spring for a few more days) we’re celebrating a lush spring that’s been filled with cool days and plentiful rain. Many songbirds had a late start nesting and their melodies fill the woods across the road from our garden.

Earlier this spring, a pair of bluebirds began nesting in a box set in our mixed perennial and shrub border, but, sadly, they were chased off by sparrows. I pulled the empty nest, made of dried grasses, from the box in the hopes that they would return. And they did. They’ve rebuilt their nest, and I’ve seen them chase off curious, bullying sparrows.

The hummingbirds have been extremely slow to inhabit the garden this spring, and I was concerned that some might have fallen victim to the lingering spring cold and evening freezes, but I’ve seen a male and a few females flitting about the driveway and several feeders in the past few days.

My greatest surprise was showing my neighbor, photographer Ellen Hodges, a common rue (Ruta graveolens) that was blooming this week when we both spotted two swallowtail butterfly caterpillars that were busy chomping away on the plant. She snapped this photo (below). And today I spotted a black swallowtail sipping nectar from the blossoms as she deposited a few eggs. Black swallowtails and giant swallowtails use common rue as a host plant for their offspring.

I planted the rue for its ability to attract swallowtails, but it also offers healthy silver foliage and butter-yellow flowers. (Watch the sap as it can cause skin irritation.) There are many plants, including trees, shrubs, and perennials, that serve as butterfly host plants — edibles for the larvae and nectar plants for the adults.

What butterflies have you seen in your garden this year? Do you garden for butterflies? Drop us a line.

New to butterfly gardening? Visit The Morton Arboretum’s web site for a list of plants that will bring butterflies to your garden.

categories

popular

Article Thumbnail
Departments
From the Editor - JanFeb 2018

Gardening may be good for the soul, but this summer it was good for larceny. That’s right. Plants were stolen from my garden ...


Article Thumbnail
Departments
From the Editor - MarApr 2016

In the Merry Hall trilogy, a series that ranks high among the world’s great garden classics, the English journalist Beverley …


Article Thumbnail
Features
Suburban Subdivision Triumph

Who says that gardening on a former cornfield is doomed to fail? Certainly not Laverne and Pete Bohlin, whose garden is a …


Article Thumbnail
Departments
From the Editor - JulAug 2018

A lovely handwritten letter recently slid through our mail slot. The letter had been sent to thank us for our most recent issue.


Article Thumbnail
Columns
Waiting for Gardot

“Hey, Gerry.” “ Morning, Al.” “ Where’s Carey?” “ They moved him to the front this morning.” “ No kidding. Think we’re next?


questions

Is there a best time to plant tulips? I see them at the garden centers in late summer but I am afraid that it is too early to plant them. If I wait too long, I might forget all about them.

What is the best time to plant a tree in northern Illinois?

We moved into a house with a lovely azalea that didn’t bloom. We thought it might have been over-pruned. Last fall we did not prune it and now it still hasn’t bloomed. I was hoping to transplant it this year, but it looks rather sickly. Shall we prune it again and give it another year? Can I still transplant it?

ChicagolandGardening Advertisement