August 24, 2017

A Great Hike at Mud Lake Wildlife Area

monarch on thistle

There are so many wonderful places to hike very close to my home. Nearly every time we hike I take a few photos, but I don't always get around to posting about them. One thing I've learned over the years is that wetlands are great places to see wildlife, and more specifically bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

mud lake

A few years ago, we hiked at the Mud Lake Wildlife Area, which includes approximately 1,450 acres of wetland, 590 acres of upland, and 220 acres of wooded habitat. It's near Rio in Columbia County, about 30 minutes north of the Madison area.

At the time of our hike, in early September, quite a few native plants were blooming in full force, including:

new england aster

New England Asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae),

green tiger on snakeroot

White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima),

bumble on goldenrod

Various Goldenrods--I think this one is Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), and

common yarrow

Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium).

This was also the first and only time I've seen Giant Swallowtail caterpillars in the wild, which was very exciting.

giant swallowtail cat

They camouflage themselves to look like bird droppings.

giant swallowtail cat 2

We saw the caterpillars on Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) shrubs, one of their host plants.

As I mentioned before, wetlands are great places to view butterflies, and on this day we saw quite a few:


pearl crescent
Pearl Crescent

monarch on joe pye

black swallowtail
Black Swallowtail

swallowtail and bumble
A worn Black Swallowtail sharing Thistle nectar with a Bumble Bee.

When I look back at hiking photos from the past several years, most of them are from late summer and early autumn. It's a beautiful, comfortable time to get out and enjoy nature in the Upper Midwest.

worn black swallowtail

August 15, 2017

Bright Colors Reign on This August Bloom Day


I'm running out of time, for various dime-a-dozen personal reasons (these topics may hit the blog screen when/if life settles down in the fall).

So, my August "Bloom Day" post will be quick and colorful.

The sunny side garden is full of bright shades of pink, orange, purple, and yellow:

The fishman built me a new fence. Yay!

Zinnia elegans 'Zowie! Yellow Flame' and 'State Fair Mix'

Echinacea purpurea, showing wear from time and Japanese beetles

citrus lantana
Lantana camara 'Landmark Citrus'

Rudbeckia hirta

Cosmos bipinnatis 'Sonata Mix'

Salvia nemerosa 'May Night'

Helianthus annuus 'Autumn Beauty'

Asclepias tuberosa

swamp mw
Asclepias incarnata, currently the most popular plant in my garden

fence & tall mw
Milkweeds and Black-Eyed Susans behind the fence

2nd instar
Had to throw in this 2nd instar Monarch caterpillar, part of the reason I have so much
Milkweed in my garden :)

Conoclinium coelestinum

In the shadier parts of the garden:

summer beauty
Allium tanguticum 'Summer Beauty'

Callicarpa 'Pearl Glam' - a new shrub to my garden

Impatiens capensis

resurrection lilies
Lycoris squamigera, strategically placed by the previous owners under giant Hosta foliage

And in pots and vases:

Anethum graveolens, for the swallowtails

Calamintha nepeta subsp. nepeta

figaro yellow shades dahlia
Dahlia 'Figaro Yellow Shades' - first time I've grown Dahlias, believe it or not

Borago officinalis - also a first time for me

tropical mw
Asclepias curassavica, only in pots - it's not native here, but it dies with the first frost

NG impatiens ruffles lavender
Impatiens hawkeri 'Ruffles Lavender'

Fuchsia 'Marinka' for the hummingbirds


How about you? What's blooming in your garden on this Garden Bloggers Bloom Day? Head on over to May Dreams Gardens to see blooms from around the world.


Happy Bloom Day!

August 01, 2017

Plant of the Month: Okra

bloom and foliage

Many people think of Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) as an edible plant to grow in a cultivated vegetable garden. That is all well and good, but the flowers are attractive, too. Since Okra is in the Malvaceae or Mallow family, its flowers resemble those of Hibiscus, Hollyhocks, and others.

okra pods
Public Domain Photo: Bill Tarpenning - USDA

I've never grown Okra, but I happened across a pretty crop of it recently and got to thinking it would be a nice plant to add to a sunny potager garden someday. I've eaten Okra several times, and the preparation made a difference to my palate. Since it can be a little slimy, I prefer it breaded and deep or pan fried. How about you?

Okra's beginnings are apparently disputed, but it's believed to be originally from West Africa, Ethiopia, and/or South Asia. It's commonly grown around the world as a crop--perennial in warm climates and annual in climates with harsher winters. The seedpods and leaves can be cooked, and the leaves can also be used in salads. New to me was the fact that the seeds can be roasted and ground as a caffeine-free substitute for coffee.


Anyway, back to the beautiful plant, itself. I find the fuzzy buds particularly beautiful.

side view

A side view shows the attractive petal veining, the deep magenta stems, and the pretty developing seedpods. (There are other varieties and colors, but I find this one particularly beautiful.)


Even the deeply lobed and serrated foliage has visual interest.


And, of course, the flowers themselves--like others in the Mallow family--are like dreamy colorful puffs of soft clouds.

buds and bloom

How about you? Do you grow Okra? What do you think about the ornamental value of this plant?


Note: I'm taking a short break to attend a conference, but I'll be back soon. Happy gardening!