September 21, 2015

A Season of Goodbyes (and a Few Surprises)

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If you live in a place that changes with the seasons, you know the tug of realizing--at some point each autumn--you've probably seen the last [fill-in-the-blank] of the year until next spring. Migratory species leave; perennials dry up and go dormant; the picture-perfect, carefree, comfortable days are numbered.

But if you're like me, you occasionally experience a surprise, or two, or three ... or more.

Like the time last October, when I decided to drive around town to capture a few photos and memories of the autumn colors before they faded. I figured I'd seen the last Monarch butterfly of the season, since I hadn't seen one for at least a week.

And then I saw one, as I drove up to a city park along Madison's Lake Mendota.

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I clambered out of my car and carefully inched over to the beautiful stands of Asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), to snap a joyful photo of the little beauty.

And then I noticed another one.

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And a couple more.

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And then a few more.

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I looked across the parking lot and saw more.

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Gosh, they were loving those Asters.

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They weren't moving very fast, because it was rather chilly and the skies were cloudy, so it was easy to photograph them.

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Apparently this grouping of Asters and other fall-blooming plants was placed at just the right spot for Monarchs flying off the lake--a way-station of nectar for butterflies on their journey south.

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A few bumblebee friends joined them.

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I was captivated by this unexpected, late-season gift of grace. I took it all in, snapped a few photos, and observed.

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Until it was time for me to leave,

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And time to wish them safe travels,

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Until their great-grandchildren returned the next year.

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I'm linking this post to Donna's "Seasonal Celebrations" at Gardens Eye View, and Michelle's Nature Notes over at Rambling Woods. Please visit their beautiful blogs for more seasonal inspiration.

Happy autumn (and spring to those in the Southern Hemisphere)! And may you have many more butterflies and [fill-in-the-blanks] in your future!

78 comments:

  1. Those are very lovely and awesome sights, orange against violets. Goodbyes are always difficult, and i am not good at it, just mentioning that many things are saying goodbyes, and the thought that the monarchs are leaving got me teary eyed.

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    1. The colors of the Asters and the Monarchs are beautiful together, aren't they? Yes, goodbyes are tough, and I don't handle them well, either. Hellos are much easier. That's why spring and summer are my favorite seasons. At least autumn has pretty fall color. And memories. :)

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  2. That's really beautiful flower! I have never seen before. Is the plant grown as perennial?

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    1. Hi Endah: Yes, Asters are native perennials here. They're one of only a few native plants that bloom in the fall in this climate. I'm having trouble growing them in my garden because the rabbits are eating them. But they are very pretty.

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  3. How lovely, Beth! You captured the monarchs so beautifully. The monarchs have also been visiting my purple Aster for the past several days. They stop me in my tracks as I weed nearby. Truly a perfect late summer celebration in my Chicagoland perennial garden! ♡Dawn@Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes

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    1. Thanks, Dawn! What a gift to have them in your garden regularly now. I was so thrilled to have some Monarch caterpillars on my Milkweed this summer. I raised three of them in an aquarium, and I got to see them form their chrysalises and emerge to be butterflies. What a thrill to set them free and watch them fly away! Now I'm not seeing as many, but I still see an occasional Monarch here and there. It will be sad when they're gone for the season--like it is every year.

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  4. Beautiful Beth! A multitude of monarchs when you went in search of the last one! The asters are akin to A. Amellus or what we call Michaelmas daisies because they bloom at around the feast day of the 29th. Food and colour for thought

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    1. Thanks! I didn't expect to see any that day--so it was a huge thrill. Ah yes, regarding the bloom time. What a blessing to have beautiful blooming flowers this time of year. And some of the Asters bloom even after the first frost. Michaelmas Asters are really pretty, too.

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  5. What a fabulous sight. Loving your autumn colours too.

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    1. Yes, it was a blessing and a joy. We don't have much color yet this year, because it's been too warm and we've had lots of rain. Eventually, though. October is usually our prettiest month.

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  6. Isn't it exciting to stumble onto a group like this. Great shots.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. Yes, it's a gift--especially when it's unexpected at the end of the season. I think we'd even had some frosty nights before I saw these guys. I wonder how many of them made it out of the cold in time to make the big journey.

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  7. Awesome post! The Monarchs are beautiful and the asters are pretty. Lovely series of images. Have a happy day!

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    1. Thanks, Eileen. The colors of the Monarchs and the Asters together are striking. The light was really nice that day, too--kind of cloudy but just bright enough to capture the colors.

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  8. Ins't is glorious to see nature thriving? It's comforting and positive thinking, I bet time spent observing was joyful!

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    1. Yes, it is! It gives us hope when we see healthy plants and butterflies. These seem like simple things, but they're signs of bigger trends. There's still hope that the Monarchs will make a comeback. :)

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  9. THANK YOU for sharing these photos. I feel I was right there with you :)

    Beautiful pics. This is indeed a time for saying goodbyes -- but also hellos!

    As the days and nights turn cooler, I see swallows returning to the evening skies. Different sorts of birds are stopping by. I saw both a titmouse and a blue jay the other day, and I had not seen either in months.

    As Ecclesiastes wrote, To everything there is a season...

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    1. You're welcome, Aaron. Thanks for the encouragement. I usually think of the hellos this time of year as sad--first Juncos, first frost, first fall color--all signs of the coming winter. Usually around the middle of October I try to pause a moment and take in all the incredible beauty of the colors before they fade. You're right, of course--to everything there is a season. :) (By the way, we've had many migrating birds coming through the area lately, too. Still no Juncos. They can stay away for a few more days.)

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  10. Pure bliss to see these beauties Beth. Once my late helianthus and asters appear, I know our garden days are numbered...but the monarchs stopping by is such a treat as the days in the garden dwindle. Your pictures are fabulous. And I'd say yes those asters were perfectly placed for the monarchs. Thanks as always for joining in and supporting Seasonal Celebrations.

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    1. Thanks for the collaboration and for hosting a great meme, Donna. :) I don't get as many Monarchs in my garden in the fall, since most of my garden is shady. So, I have to go elsewhere to see them. During the summer many wander in for the Milkweed and the dappled sun during the hot days. I did see one today, however, as well as some other butterflies. That day last October was a surprise because it was so late in the season.

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  11. Dear Beth, your photos of the Monarchs are spectacular! The orange color of the butterflies together with the lavender/yellow of the asters is just a feast for the eyes. Thanks for sharing this!
    Christina

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    1. Thanks, Christina. I do like the bright color combination, too. And the colors of the leaves were really pretty that day, too. It was a beautiful, magical day. :)

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  12. What a fantastic surprise. Thanks so much for sharing these photos. The colour is so vibrant.

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    1. You're welcome. It was a gorgeous day and a wonderful surprise so late in the season--at just about the peak of fall foliage color, too.

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  13. I was just at Olbrich and the place is swarming with bees and butterflies.

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    1. Yes, Olbrich is one of my favorite places to see Monarchs at the end of the season, too. I'm still seeing a few here, though, yet this year. Once we get into October--like last year, I'll probably have to venture out into the sun to see more butterflies. Happy autumn! It's a warm one so far. :)

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  14. What magical photos and a great post. Oddly, I have some big clumps of NE Aster but I never see monarchs nectaring on them.

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    1. Thanks, Jason. It was a nifty experience. That is interesting about your Asters. I wonder why. I know I don't see as many Monarch visitors in my garden as the temperatures drop each fall because it's so shady--could that be why? Unfortunately, the rabbits ate my Asters this year, so I'll have to put chicken wire around them next year.

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  15. We don't have Monarchs where I live, so your post is a wonderful window into the beauties of Monarchs up close, and they look terrific on the lavender asters, too, like stained glass ornaments.

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    1. They are charismatic butterflies, that's for sure! I agree--they really look like stained glass when the light shines through their wings in certain light conditions. Sometimes the autumn sun seems to bring out the brightest hues.

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  16. Beautiful. What a special find for you.
    We had two monarchs on our Asters this past week as well. They stayed for about a day and a half of the next day.
    Happy travels to them.
    Great job on your photos!!
    Carla

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    1. Thanks, Carla. Yes, happy travels for the Monarchs again this year! Last year, the numbers were up a little bit, and this year they seem even more plentiful. I hope that's good news for the species and the migration. A monarch visited my garden briefly today, too. How interesting that they stayed with your Asters for such a long time!

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  17. Like any diva worthy of the name, they know where to pose to look their best.

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    1. Good point, Ricki! They are dramatic butterflies, that's for sure. I suppose that's part of why we find them so attractive. :)

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  18. How utterly entrancing Beth, beautiful captures. What a treat! I wonder if you will find them there again this year? Monarch butterflies have to be some of the most attractive butterflies around, though that might be due to the fact that I never see them here. Plus, I have to confess, watching the TV series 'Under the Dome', in which Monarchs play a somewhat sinister role, has slightly altered my perception of them... Happy Autumn Equinox, and thank you for the reminder that, whatever the season, there are always delightful surprises if you are open to the possibility and aware of your surroundings.

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    1. Thank you, Janet. Yes, it was an unexpected joy. I would suppose that little patch of Asters is generally a popular spot for Monarchs for several weeks during the autumn. I'll have to check it out! I sort of forget how special the larger butterflies are (Monarchs, Swallowtails, others) until I see the first ones of the season. The way they float on the breeze so effortlessly... Happy Autumn Equinox to you, too!

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  19. Oh, so beautiful, Beth! What a thrill this must have been! It's almost a mystical experience to see more than one, let alone this many--I'm sure you had a hard time leaving this spot. Yesterday one of my hummingbirds flew up just a few feet away to look me in the eye. It was as if she was telling me goodbye...sigh.

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    1. Thanks, Rose. Yes, whenever I see a butterfly it seems like a mystical experience. But when I don't expect to see them--especially late in the season--it seems really special. Yes, I could have stayed there for days--except that it was kind of chilly and I had other commitments. I had some similar experiences with the hummers recently. One of them seemed to be talking to me one day--she was quite vocal. Not sure if that was a juvenile saying "hi" or one of the "regulars" saying goodbye. They do seem to get a bit attached to us like we do to them. I didn't see any hummingbirds today--first time May. :(

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  20. Oh wow...what a treat and thank goodness for the fall asters. I am planting some more New England tomorrow...hoping they don't get eaten...Michelle

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    1. Yes, the Asters and the Goldenrods are lifesavers for migrating butterflies. And they're so vibrant and colorful! Now if I can keep them out of the rabbits teeth.... Good luck to you, too!

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  21. Wow, how awesomely unexpected to see so many in October. You sound as giddy as I was Tuesday when I happened upon a cooperative Monarch on asters at the Arboretum. Still sorting through the 200 pics taken that day and hope to post some next week. :)

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    1. Oh, I'll look forward to your post about Olbrich! One of my favorite places in all the world to visit. I've seen masses of Monarchs there in October, as well. I'm thinking maybe it's along a major migration route--being on the edge of the lake like it is. Must get over there sometime in October. :)

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  22. So that's where all the monarchs are!! I've been wondering why I hadn't seen any in my gardens yet and now I know--they're still hanging out in Wisconsin! That makes me feel a little better. Great captures, Beth.

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    1. Well, actually, these photos were taken last October. But we did have quite a few Monarchs in the area this summer. Hopefully, many will be in Texas (and then on to Mexico) soon! Thanks for your kind words, Tina.

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  23. I love your photographs! It's interesting that most of the butterflies seem to be females. The 7th from the last one shows a male with his scent glands. It takes a really great photo to tell the difference!

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    1. Thanks, Becky! I noticed that most of these were females--at least the ones I photographed. I was reading some things about migrating monarchs recently that said more males are counted in the populations in Mexico than females (or at least in recent years). The science of these amazing butterflies is as amazing as their beauty!

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  24. Wonderful photos, those butterflies don't do camouflage, do they? They are wonderful critters, and I know much loved in North America. I recently heard they are introduced pests here, competing with native butterflies. Plan some time to write a post on this.

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    1. Thanks, Sue. They are bright, aren't they? Sometimes during the peak of autumn they seem to blend in with the bright oranges and reds of the falling leaves around here. With a photograph, we can capture them in time, but when they're moving they blend in a little more. It's hard to think about Monarchs being a pest, but I guess every species has its correct and incorrect places.

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  25. Brilliant and Beautiful . . .
    Your photos are exceptional!
    I happen to be waiting for an appointment and looking at your post on my iPhone. What a treat for me too!
    Final bit of nectar before the trip south!

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    1. Thank you, Lynne. These were taken last October. It was a crisp, clear day toward the middle of the month, and I was thankful to see a large grouping of Monarchs so late in the season. :)

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  26. Right time, right place ... lucky you! Great images and a perfect reminder of our beautiful summer. Happy Autumn, dear Beth.

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    1. Happy Autumn, Joey! Yes, it was a wonderful, bright day last October. I always like to make the most of the last gorgeous days of the season--but never expected to see so many Monarchs in one small place in mid-October!

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  27. What a serendipitous moment. They are so colorful and bright looking...it makes me wish that we had them around here. Sadly our butterflies are gone for the season...there were some Sulphur colored moths but that's all.

    Jen

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    1. Yes, they are magical butterflies. We still have some around here, but they're quickly migrating and hibernating. Generally, there seem to be some Monarchs migrating through the area for the first couple of weeks of October. We see occasional other butterflies in November, but that's it ... until like April. :(

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  28. Beautiful photos & how lucky that you found such a wonderful Monarch resting spot. I'm sure you are planning to go back this year. Hopefully the asters are just as populated as they were last time. We saw a monarch sailing by yesterday at the farm that I volunteer at - quite the wonderful sight, especially as they seem to be quite scarce in the last couple of years.

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    1. Thanks, Margaret. I just might check out that spot again. Or maybe I'll try to find a new one. I've been noticing many Monarch entries from Ontario in the Journey North citizen science reporting database. I've been thinking about all you great Toronto folks. :)

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  29. Amazing!! We have so few here. But I have seen them in my garden so I'm happy for that. :o)

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    1. Thanks! I'm not surprised they're visiting your lovely garden, Tammy. Plus, you provide larval host plants, quality nectar sources, and excellent habitat for them. :)

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  30. Gorgeous! I love your photos with the colorful monarchs and the purple asters, with a lovely golden autumnal backdrop…truly a gift!

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    1. Thanks, Deb. It was a beautiful day last October! I hope we have many of those bright, colorful days ahead of us. I don't know if I'll be fortunate to see so many Monarchs together like I did last year, but the October foliage around here is always pretty dramatic. :)

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  31. How exciting to get to see that many monarchs! I love your photos! Yes, we have been seeing a number of "lasts" for the season. I am thankful for the asters, goldenrods, and pitcher sage plants. Thanks for your comment on my WW post. We have plenty of rabbits around here. I'll have to watch and see if they decide to munch on my blue mist plants.

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    1. Thanks, Sue. The "lasts" of the season are tough for me. I keep hoping I'll see another hummingbird, but they seem to have left me earlier than last year for some reason. This has been a challenging year for me with the rabbits and the other little critters. Ah, nature ... ;-)

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  32. What a magical encounter. I usually see a handful of monarchs here in late October but already have seen three.

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    1. Yes, it was wonderful. I generally don't see any Monarchs in my own garden past late September, but there are several locations in town where I seek them out in October. I didn't expect to see so many so late in October last year. It was a really pretty day and that encounter made it magical. :) I hope you'll see many more before the season is out!

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  33. Wow!! What a wonderful find here! How beautiful these natural colors look together...the purple of the asters and the orange of the butterflies.

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    1. Thanks for your visit! I stopped by your blog--it's beautiful! Yes, I agree about the colors of the Asters as complementary to the bright orange and black of the Monarchs. :)

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  34. I' d love to see these beautiful butterflies for myself. What a wonderful sight. Thank you for these fantastic photos Beth.

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    1. Yes, they are charismatic, and it's fun to see a grouping of several or many together. You're welcome. It was a nifty experience! I didn't get around to posting about it last fall, so this seemed like a good time to do it. :)

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  35. How beautiful! So great to see a group of Monarchs! I saw a couple monarchs a few days ago for the first time since moving to Massachusetts. I hope it's a sign of improving population!

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    1. I hope so, too! I noticed that quite a few people in Ontario had recent sightings on the learner.org Journey North website. I hope it will be a good overwintering year in Mexico, too. :)

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  36. This post did my heart good. Thank you so much.

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    1. You're welcome, Dee. I hope it's a better year for them than the past two. They were so plentiful around here in July and August (and apparently throughout the Midwest) so there's hope. :)

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  37. What glory! You sure were lucky - and are a great photographer.

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    1. Thank you! Yes, I was lucky and blessed that day. Any encounter with a butterfly is a joy, but to see so many monarchs together in mid-October on a beautiful fall day ... very special. :)

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  38. Thank you for your wishes for the bride and groom. :)))

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    1. Yes, weddings are always a joy. Blessings, Giga!

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  39. Wow, what an exuberance of monarchs on those asters! Our late season for butterflies here in Maryland is still a few weeks away, but I do remember last year the asters were very popular around here. I need to plant more of them in my own garden, thanks for the reminder.

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    1. Hi Jodi: You are fortunate to still have butterflies in late fall. I did see a Mourning Cloak in the garden the other day, but that's usually the first and last butterfly species I see each season. I can't believe they hibernate in our brutal winters. My Asters didn't fare so well this year. The ones in the photo were from a city park last year. The Monarchs do appreciate them, though!

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