It’s mid-July and despite the heat, the garden is looking lush.
There are so many kinds of plants and animals in the garden, many of which have wandered in on their own rather than being deliberately cultivated, that I sometimes turn to outside experts for help identifying newcomers.
Sometimes I ask for help from Facebook friends, but often I turn to the iNaturalist website, where subject-matter experts will help to identify species they’re most familiar with.
You can see some of the observations I’ve submitted here:
If you’re an iNaturalist user, follow me @mcavalletto to keep up with new finds!
Much of the garden’s catnip is now in full flower.
All of this catnip stems from a single small flowerpot I brought home and placed on my windowsill a decade ago — it’s a prolific self-seeder, and has spread itself to multiple nearby containers and treebeds.
The sidewalk planters we added this spring have provided some lovely additional space for these new strawflowers (Bracteantha) to catch the sun.
The burdock flowers also draw a crowd of bees; these ones are European honey bees.
Another reason I like burdock is that it supports a lot of insects. A week ago, I noticed that seemingly overnight, the undersides of the flower clusters had been swarmed by hundreds of aphids. I pulled out the hose and blasted a bunch of them off with a few quick squirts, but that only thins them out, it never gets ’em all, so I was very pleased to find a couple of ladybugs crawling around on it the next day. Although they’re cute, I know they’re fiends for aphids.
And even better, by the end of the week I was seeing ladybug larvae crawling around, clearing out the lingering aphids. A few days later, I can no longer find any aphids at all.
I’ve heard people dismiss burdock as a nuisance weed, and I’m sure there are situations in which it is unwanted, but I love its odd little flowers, and since I’m growing it in a container, the burrs really aren’t a problem.
These wild-strain sunflowers top out at three feet tall, so they aren’t as impressive as the giant forms, but they’re lovely nonetheless, and later in the season the seeds should provide some good eating for the birbs.
The hyacinth flowers from this spring have all died back, leaving stalks of seedpods that are turning translucent and releasing their little black seeds.
You can see why one of the common names for dianthus flowers is “pinks” — some of them are such a hot pink my phone camera doesn’t know what to do with it.