Gravitating Back To The Garden

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower) in Western Border

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower) in Western Border

Autumn arrived this past week bringing a succession of cooler days and rain, lots of steady rain. Fortunately Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower), a native which reached over 10 feet tall before finally blooming about five days ago, managed to withstand the rain without falling over.

Yesterday the sun returned and I felt the pull to get busy in the garden again.

For many months I have often felt disengaged from my garden and as a result the flower beds have wandered through spring and summer with only minimal maintenance. But recently I took some time to enjoy the garden and my outlook changed.

Yesterday and today the weather was so pleasant, we ate every meal outdoors overlooking the borders. This morning while talking to our daughter in California, I sat in the garden on the bench next to a group of tall, colorful zinnias . As we chatted the birds chattered also and the chimes sounded gently in the breeze.

Looking around the last couple of days I noticed how things are still very green and how, despite my inattention, the garden continues to work well as a peaceful respite, at least when I take time for it.  Before long I really wanted to get to work, so this afternoon I spent a few hours cleaning up, trimming away some overgrown spots and pulling lots of weeds.  The time passed quickly and quietly—it was very satisfying. It is not that I have not kept up with some of the essential chores all along, it is rather that today I felt connected again.

Last spring I planted a dahlia at the back of the western border, thinking it was going to grow very tall. It grew slowly and soon got lost behind more aggressive players: Tradescantia, Salvia uliginosa ‘Blue Sky’, Physostegia virginians (Obedient plant), and a recently blooming, tiny white daisy-like flower I believe to be native Boltonia asteroides (false aster) or perhaps it could be native Symphyotrichum pilosum (frost aster).

Dahlia peeking out above Symphyotrichum pilosum (frost aster)

Dahlia peeking out above Symphyotrichum pilosum (frost aster)

I gave the dahlia some breathing room and placed a peony ring around it for support—better late than never perhaps.

Dahlia After the Cleanup

Dahlia After the Cleanup

Here is another embarrassing, entangled planting to the left of the dahlia. My goal was to pull up all of these plants today, but first I wanted some before images. As soon as I entered the border to take pictures I noticed a colorful orange and black butterfly that seemed not to mind the weedy, unruliness of this area.
American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

As I moved in with my camera it alighted on an echinacea and I realized it was not a monarch as I had hoped it might be. I did not recognize this butterfly.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) Nectaring On Echinacea

I managed one more photo as it prepared to take off. Tentatively I identified it as American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis), but would appreciate help in confirming it.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) Preparing For Take-off

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) Preparing For Take-off

In the end I pulled up most of these plants, but the false aster (if that is indeed what it is) was teeming with wasps and bees, so I felt I should leave them some food.

Wasp on Symphyotrichum pilosum (frost aster)

Boltonia asteroides (false aster)

Symphyotrichum pilosum (frost aster)

I hope my gardening enthusiasm lasts for a while. Blue skies and lower humidity really help.

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22 thoughts on “Gravitating Back To The Garden

  1. Pauline

    I feel the same about the asters here that have seeded about. I go to pull them out, but there are hundreds of bees enjoying them, I let them stay for the time being.
    Your butterfly is beautiful, similar to our Painted Lady.

    Reply
  2. johnvic8

    What is it that fuels the rise and fall of our enthusiasm for work in the garden? Sunlight? Cloudy skies? Heat? Cool? Cold? A visitor coming? An ache in the back? A weed that is making too much of a presence? Keep on keeping on.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      John, thanks for the encouragement. Whatever is making the difference i hope it continues for a while–lots of work to do in the garden after leaving it on its own so much.

      Reply
  3. Julie

    Susie, the flowers you have shown us today all look really lovely. I know that feeling of disengagement and for the last few weeks have felt just that for my own garden, I can’t put my finger on why, but taking and making time is good and especially the connection with pollinators and wildlife. I love your Butterfly photos. We are off for a few days walking tomorrow, hoping to feel rejuvenated and re inspired.

    Reply
  4. Cathy

    I hope it continues for you too Susie! We have a similar weed that I call wild asters… I left them standing all summer for the insects too. Beautiful pictures of your butterfly!

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Thanks so much Cathy! I found another possibility for the little white flower and it is called wild aster or frost aster, apparently a native. Seeing the butterfly was a treat.

      Reply
  5. bittster

    I’m glad your spirits have turned, glad the garden was right there waiting for you. If you ask me it’s the weather which determines most of my spirit, if it’s dry and humid and hot I have no interest whatsoever!
    The butterfly is beautiful and looks as if it was posing!

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      The garden waited patiently so I think I’ll try to give it some attention for the next few weeks. The weather is definitely a huge factor in my desire for gardening. Mosquitoes were terrible all summer here, even when we were terribly dry.

      Reply
  6. Christina

    I know that feeling very well, after a long hot summer when sometimes inside is better than out; I hope your connection continues, certainly I can see that the garden hadn’t been totally abandoned, far to many lovely plants performing well for that to be true.

    Reply
  7. Chloris

    I love your dahlia and what a gorgeous butterfly. It is great to reconnect with the garden. I sometimes forget to just sit and enjoy it, watching the insects and the butterflies. I am usually far too busy working in it. Then it can become a chore instead of a pleasure.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      I had started to think of the garden as a chore in fact and I think it helped to just back off for a while. Now I feel more interested in guiding it along.

      Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      I appreciated your help identifying the Painted Lady, Donna. Not many butterflies around this year but it’s picked up as autumn came in. Glad you’re regaining your connection to your garden too. It looks like it did quite well, even if you weren’t feeling it.

      Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Thanks for the frost aster and butterfly IDs and links. My husband locked in on that white spot and thought it had to be Am. Lady. I’m terrible at figuring them out. The dahlia has been a real treat–don’t know if it will overwinter but it’s sold me on planting more.

      Reply

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