My Favorite Time of the Year

Mass of blooming black eyed susans

I love this part of the year. Even though I enjoy the adrenaline rush of spring, summer is my favorite because I get to simply enjoy nature. Late spring and summer is when I get to see the results of all the planning and planting I put in earlier in the year. Now that the season has slowed down, I can watch the butterflies flit around the yard without feeling guilty that I’m not out there ‘working’. Now I’m not saying that I have every weed pulled. I don’t. But, that’s ok. After all, they say that a weed is just a flower growing in the wrong place. And some weeds have beautiful flowers.

Truly though, I think my flowers beds are doing well. I’ve been enjoying lots of blooms this year including this beautiful Mexican sunflower. I had been getting worried because the plants were small for so long.

Orange Mexican sunflower bloom

But even though they still aren’t as big as last year, they are covered in vibrant orange flowers that the bees and butterflies love.

When I chose my annuals this year, I kept pollinators in mind. I plan to certify my yard as a Gardening for Wildlife habitat in the future. One of the things I planted was some bronze fennel. Fennel is in the carrot family and is a great food source for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to know it’s there because I haven’t seen a single caterpillar on any of them. I wonder if it is because the Queen Anne’s Lace has been so readily available. Although the fennel hasn’t served its intended purpose, I really enjoy having it planted throughout my flower beds. I love how the bronze leaves contrast against the green foliage of the surrounding plants. I think the leaves would make a great filler for a bouquet of cut flowers.

Bronze Fennel Flower

Even the flowers have a bronze tinge!

Our perennials at the nursery look amazing right now.

Mass of blooming black eyed susans

The Black-eyed Susans look like a sea of gold. This is the classic ‘Goldstrum’ variety that has been around forever. Other plants that have stood out this season are the echinacea. They come in so many fancy colors now, but my favorites are ‘Purple Emperor’, ‘Hot Papaya’, and ‘Ruby Star’.

Purple Emperor Coneflower

‘Purple Emperor’ was the clear choice of the butterflies and bees this summer. They have been loaded with them ever since they started blooming. The anise hyssop has also been one of the top choices. The other day I happened to walk by them and I was amazed by the number of different pollinators on the plants.

Soldier Beetle on Agastache Honeybee on Agastache Painted Ladies on Agastache

This color of blue seems to be very popular with insects. Many of the plants that have flowers with similar shades, such as cat mint and Russian Sage, seem to attract a very wide range of visitors. Along with the soldier beetles, honeybees and painted lady’s (shown above) there were also bunches of bumblebees. They were just buzzing around so fast I couldn’t get a good picture of them.

We can’t forget about butterfly weed.

Monarch caterpillar on asclepias

Every year our asclepias becomes covered in monarch caterpillars. Gordy made us a butterfly house last winter and the garden center has been putting any caterpillars they find inside to raise and then they release them after they emerge from their chrysalis.

Monarch Caterpiller ready to turn into a chrysalis

Of course the butterfly house isn’t only for monarch butterflies. We even raised a cecropia moth.

Cecropia Moth

Right now, even if it is only a for minute, there is time observe the interactions between the plants, insects, birds and other wildlife.  And this is why I love this time of the season.

Written by

Cathy Maxson is Sargent's Gardens Perennial Growing manager. In addition to making sure Sargent's grown plants thrive, she enjoys growing in her own garden, canning fruits and vegetables, traveling, and walking her dogs.