Sunday, August 18, 2013

Gardening for Flying Fauna

Benary's Giant Zinnias, Bronze Fennel, 'Mulberry Jam' Salvia.

Benary's Giant Zinnias, Bronze Fennel, 'Mulberry Jam' Salvia.

Every once in awhile I, and this time my wife Jerene as well, are just dumbstruck by the beauty of something in our garden. The last few days it's been the scene above of various Benary's Giant Zinnia, Bronze Fennel and 'Mulberry Jam' Salvia. Often behind the scene is another blue salvia and a few other plants including the wonderful leaves of broom corn.

The scene is beautiful enough in and of itself but it's even more fascinating when the flowers are covered with bees, wasps, flies and butterflies.
Scolid Wasps on Mountain Mint.

In particular it's the Mountain Mint, shown above, with two Scolid Wasps, that is just full of bees, wasps, flies and sometimes butterflies. We've found that whenever we have grown this plant that is just full of the most fascinating and beautiful flying fauna. I suppose if you're allergic to or scared of bees and wasps this doesn't sound too appealing. But we've rarely been stung, in fact never by anything on these plants, and instead just love to watch them. As I've also sketched insects on and off for many years that makes the plants even more attractive.

We have a very small garden, though it might be relatively large for the average big city garden. But it is an amazing microcosm of the world. Yesterday I watched a Carolina Wren go after a garden spider, itself waiting to go after whatever it caught in its web. As I said a microcosm of the world and endlessly fascinating.
Preening Green Heron, Red-tailed Hawk, Belted Kingfisher. Field Sketches by Ken Januski.

I had hoped to finish the Rusty Blackbird lino this weekend but I haven't touched it. Once people start reporting seeing migrants I remember all that I've seen in August and have a hard time resisting spending some time birding and sketching at places that hosted these migrants. The most interesting bird from my visits to Morris Arboretum over the last two days was an Osprey. To me it's very early to be seeing ospreys but I do know that they've already been reported on some hawk watches. The birds I've been able to sketch through my spotting scope the last two days include a mature Red-tailed Hawk and a female Belted Kingfisher along with a preening Green Heron. Unfortunately the latter moved before I could finish the pose.

I think my best art work is always precipitated by something I've seen in the field. So I never consider these sketching trips to be a waste or as procrastination from work in the studio. They instead fill up the reservoir of my imagination. And it is fun.

P.S. I don't think we'd ever willingly buy something called 'Mulberry Jam.'  But when I asked for salvia recommendations for hummingbirds at The Henry Foundation during their annual spring plant sale this was their recommendation. It's been a beautiful plant and one that does attract hummingbirds, just in time in fact as the Monarda is fully done and the Honeysuckle seems to be on its last legs.


Ellen Snyder said...

Hi Ken,

Thanks for the pics and mention of some of your garden flowers. I got a couple tips for new plants that I want to try in my garden next year: mountain mint, mulberry jam salvia, and the bronze fennel.

It is only August -- although feeling a bit like fall -- and I am already planning for next year!

Also, love the linocuts as always.

Ken Januski said...

Hi Ellen,

Glad this gave you some ideas. I wanted to add that there's another benefit to fennel - you can harvest and eat the seeds. At one point fancy restaurants were also serving fennel pollen but that's beyond me!! In any case we harvest seed each year. One problem with a plant that has so much seed though is that you get more seedlings than you'll know what to do with. At least here the plants overwinter so most likely you'd want to pull most of the seedlings.

I once read that fennel can discourage growth in other plants but I've never seen any indication of that here.

I know what you mean about it feeling like fall, and we've enjoyed it very much. It's supposed to be about 90 today though so we're getting back to more normal weather.

I think all gardeners are inherently optimists: rather than complain about whatever failures might occur in the current year we start planning ahead for next year.

In spite of a slow start our garden is now doing very well. The only problem is that I have to pick all our tomatoes early before the squirrels start 'sampling.'