Tag Archives: pollinators

A palace in the cosmos.

These narrowleaf milkweed flowers were the inspiration for the first draft of this blog post, which I thought to title “Wonders of the Universe.” Their intricacy and delicacy wowed me!

I had been thinking for some time about the gentle bombardment of the senses I experience in my garden, including how on warm days the space hums with the sound of busy insects. Just to sit out there is to listen to Life, and is a privilege. It’s also a sweet gift that God gave me, that I could have a tiny part in creating this environment, doing a little bit of planting and watering and seeing God give disproportionately generous increase.

I knew I wanted a Pollinator Garden, because I like the idea of helping the bees. But it was theoretical, and I didn’t begin to imagine what the physical reality would feel like when these fellow creatures buzzed their flight patterns in a rich tapestry of sight and sound throughout the garden. It fills my senses which in turn communicate with my soul.

“God is the Creator of the world. The world as cosmos, i.e. a created order with its own integrity, is a positive reality. It is the good work of the good God (Gen. 1), made by God for the blessed existence of humanity. The Cappadocian Fathers teach that God first creates the world and beautifies it like a palace, and then leads humanity into it. The genesis of the cosmos, being in becoming, is a mystery (mysterion) for the human mind, a genesis produced by the Word of God. As such, the world is a revelation of God (Rom. 1:19-20). Thus, when its intelligent inhabitants see it as cosmos, they come to learn about the Divine wisdom and the Divine energies. The cosmos is a coherent whole, a created synthesis, because all its elements are united and interrelated in time and space.” (From this site)

Now I often think of the book, My Family and Other Animals, which Gerald Durrell wrote about the Greek island of Corfu where he lived for a time as a boy. The one concrete image I’ve retained from my reading many years ago is of Durrell on a baking dirt road stooping to examine and collect whatever fascinating insects and other animals he could find. This quote I found I think is representative:

“…the incessant shimmering cries of the cicadas. If the curious, blurring heat haze produced a sound, it would be exactly the strange, chiming cries of these insects.”

I do not have cicadas at present. I have quieter bees and flies, and nearly silent butterflies, and cries and songs from the bird kingdom as well, adorning my garden. A day or two after I took the picture at the top, I saw a Monarch butterfly near the narrowleaf milkweed. I watched out the window for a few minutes and then… yes! She had landed on the plant. So out I went with my camera, and crouched nearby.

She fluttered away, and circled the garden to come back and light again, but only for a few seconds, mostly hidden by leaves, and then off she flew, nearly grazing my head as she made the same circuit, repeating this behavior many times! My knees got a little tired, so I lay on the ground waiting with my camera at the ready. But that didn’t give me enough flexibility, and I moved to the plum tree nearby and leaned my back against it.

Was she laying eggs each time she landed on those narrow leaves? I gave up trying to get close enough, or to catch her at rest, and began to take shots as she was flying. And this is the best one I have to show, proof to myself that she was there. 🙂

A couple of weeks later, back from the mountains, I found the minutest caterpillar on one of those narrowleaf milkweeds. Quickly I went indoors to attach my new clip-on macro lens to my phone, such as son-in-law Tom showed me how to use months ago but which I hadn’t taken out of its box. I hope my one-and-lonesome caterpillar does not get eaten by a bird, and survives to grow large enough to use my camera alone on, because this is the best I could do:

It seems this little lens is best for completely still shots, not flowers or creatures on long stems waving in the breeze. Here is a sharper image I captured using it:

Can you guess what it is?
Clue: It is a closeup of a flower I showed you in a recent post…
You’re right! It’s the center of a hydrangea bloom!

It’s another decoration of this palace into which we have been led by God….

But bees have preferences, and I’ve never seen them interested in hydrangeas.
What they love is the echium! Remember when it looked like this?

Its flowers just kept opening on the ends of what I don’t think would be called a stem… so that those parts got longer and longer, with always new flowers that the bees never tired of.

Until the Autumn Joy opened. Now the echium is deserted.

It has been two days since I wrote all of the above, and I’m sorry to say that my infant caterpillar has disappeared. If I’m around next August maybe I will bring some Monarch eggs into the house to safeguard the latter stages of this project of assisting the butterfly population. This year I will have to be content with having seen progress beyond the planting of the milkweed, my only direct contribution. I saw the milkweed thrive in its second season, I saw the Monarch laying eggs, I saw a caterpillar… and then, I fed a bird!

Insect friends on the soft breeze.

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I am sitting in the garden, in the corner where the unbelievable salvias and the olive trees have grown up to make a sort of alcove. The three salvias are each six to nine feet in diameter and four feet high; they amazed me by taking a big leap in July and August of their first year. The umbrella is shielding me from the sun, and I am enjoying the insects that make the air alive with their darting and swooping from one flower to another above and all around me.

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The only reason I thought to move out here with my bowl of plums is that my house is so cold. I brought the laptop so I could continue reading Fr. Stephen’s article while I ate, but the fruit drew all of my attention to my mouth, and to the juicy plumminess too intense to consume mindlessly while reading. Now I remember why I planted two Elephant Heart Plum trees last fall — which, by the way, didn’t produce any fruit from their pretty green and white blossoms this season. Pearl brought me some of her plums yesterday; a year ago the mature trees at her new house had been the inspiration for my decision to grow some of my own.

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portulaca
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Wasps are pollinators, too.

 

If I could just sit out here in the soft air, I would most certainly eat less; shivering in the house makes me distracted and uneasy without knowing why, and I unconsciously start stoking the furnace of my body with whatever fuel I can find in the cupboards.

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And being in the garden makes me want to share the experience in words, so I looked to see if I have a good summer poem from a previous year. I’m sure it must be here somewhere, if I only had the patience. While looking I found a verse that is new to me, from Walter de la Mare, about one of the winged creatures flitting about.

After pasting it in (and thereby shaping this article into another Pollinator post) I thought perhaps I shouldn’t be so hasty, and I began to look online for a different poem, maybe about a dragonfly or a butterfly ? which, after all are more to my liking. I also hunted around for a clue to the meaning of “specks of sale” in the poem. Does anyone know? I wonder if sale is a word for salt? [Duh. It was a typo, as commenter shoreacres pointed out below. But from now on I think I will always think of it as a synonym 🙂 ]

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But before any more pages had time to load – I must be too far from the house for the wifi – a common housefly dropped in on me, on my arm, on my keyboard, my shoulder, and he would not be shooed away for anything. I think he sensed what was going on, and wanted me to tell his story, and not another’s. Maybe as soon as I hit “Publish” he will go back to playing.

 

THE FLY

How large unto the tiny fly
Must little things appear!-
A rosebud like a feather bed,
Its prickle like a spear;

A dewdrop like a looking-glass,
A hair like golden wire;
The smallest grain of mustard-seed
As fierce as coals of fire;

A loaf of bread, a lofty hill;
A wasp, a cruel leopard;
And specks of salt as bright to see
As lambkins to a shepherd.

-Walter de la Mare

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some kind of fly on the yarrow

Leeks and Pollinators

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I love to have a day like today, when I stayed home and worked, mostly in the garden. I planted seeds in the greenhouse on Wednesday, and today I wanted to sow others directly into the planting boxes. But I hadn’t realized how little space is currently unused by other plants. So I decided to take out a few leeks to make room for carrots. gl IMG_3034

 

I haven’t been sure about those leeks, if they are growing properly, or are a complete loss. Maybe they didn’t get enough water and are spongy as well as spindly? So I pulled up a few of the largest, and discovered that they are perfectly fine. This was comforting; my fennel had indeed been almost a complete loss, because I let it go too long. And one doesn’t want to have that experience often, of using a chunk of precious space for several months with not much to show for it.

(So I made some Leek Confit this evening.)

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At one point in my back-and-forth around the garden, I stopped raking pine needles or preparing seed beds and just watched all of the insects that are incredibly busy feeding off the flowers. It’s  become the pollinator garden that I planned for, and there are many kinds of bees, wasps, flies, moths and butterflies to be seen working.

These two seemed to be taking a break from their job, to play tag on a zinnia.
After I took several pictures of them they escaped from my spying and continued their game on the underside of the flower.
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I also noticed a hummingbird at the Bachelor’s Buttons, when he made the branches shake, but he didn’t hang around very long after that. gl IMG_3042

The arugula seeds came up in only three days, in the warm and humid greenhouse, and in four days the hollyhocks began to emerge! This is a newborn hollyhock for you.

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While I was doing my work in the back, the landscapers were doing theirs out front.

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I was quite pleased to see how they made use of the clods of adobe clay to make a sort of wall by the drain that slopes down the grade and will carry off any extra water from heavy rains.

A lovely and restful day. Only my feet hurt. So I wrote this blog post instead of taking an evening walk.

Good night!

 

 

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