February 27, 2024

Celebrating the Butterflies of 2023

Friends in the south are beginning to share butterfly photos on social media, so I'm dreaming about what's to come and remembering sightings from last year.

Here's a review of 2023 butterfly sightings--in my garden, and during hikes and butterfly surveys. I generally report counts and species I see to wisconsinbutterflies.org. There were many more of some of these species...and others not included here. I didn't include them all because the post would get too expansive and some of the photos weren't very good.

It was a pretty good year, although with fewer monarchs than in the past; probably because of the drought.

tiger swallowtail
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail


common buckeye
Common Buckeye

summer spring azure
'Summer' Spring Azure

tiger swallowtail 2
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
black form female

great spangled
Great Spangled Fritillary

clouded sulphur
Clouded Sulphur

silver-spotted skipper
Silver-Spotted Skipper

red admiral
Red Admiral

cabbage white
Cabbage White

pearl crescent
Pearl Crescent

black swallowtail
Black Swallowtail

monarch 2

aphrodite fritillary
Aphrodite Fritillary


Here's to happy, healthy butterfly viewing in the months ahead!

February 15, 2024

I Miss These Plants

Sanguinaria canadensis

I've been thinking lately about plants of the past: in particular, blooming plants no longer in my garden. Some were species I planted, others were presumably planted by the previous owners decades ago, and still others were natives growing in the woodland.

I glanced through old photos, and while there weren't as many "disappearances" as I expected, some are particularly missed like the Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) in the photo above. For most of the years we've lived here, I found patches of Bloodroot each spring. A beautiful native ephemeral, it only blooms for one to two days. The foliage remains throughout the spring, and the plant reappears the next year. Why is it missing?

While I don't truly know why any of these plants disappeared from the property, I'll try to guess. In the case of the Bloodroot, perhaps it's the changing conditions of several years of floods followed by several years of drought...or other factors relating to climate change. Or, perhaps the fox (and family?) that now lives in the back woodland dug around in the limited spots where the plant was located.

Tricyrtis hirta

Another plant that's gone is the Toad Lily (Tricyrtis hirta). Unfortunately, this plant is long gone from my garden. It's a fun little bloomer, but it only lasted a couple of years. Either it didn't like the growing conditions (although they matched its described preferences), or the rabbits ate it, which seems more likely since rabbit foraging is a noted issue.

Oenothera pilosella

Meadow Evening Primrose (Oenothera pilosella) bloomed here off and on for two decades. I'm assuming the previous owners planted it, although it is native so it might have occurred naturally. I haven't found it in its "spot" for several years now. Such beautiful bright yellow flowers: I miss them. I really have no idea why this plant is gone.

Lupinus polyphyllus

I planted Russell Lupines (Lupinus polyphyllus) in the side garden many years ago. They're stately, tall bloomers, regularly visited by pollinators, and they're great cut flowers. I don't remember when they disappeared, but they are listed as short-lived perennials, so perhaps I should plant more.

Euphorbia polychroma

Cushion Spurge (Euphorbia polychroma), planted by the previous owners, was a reliable bloomer in my garden from the first growing season here (2000) until a couple of years ago. It's not native, but it's not invasive, and it certainly was a reliable stalwart for most of my time here. As with the Oenothera, I have no idea why this one disappeared. Rabbits leave it alone, and the fox doesn't hang out much in its open area of the garden. It's also drought-tolerant.

Delphinium elatum

Finally, I truly miss this beautiful bloomer that graced the side fenced garden. I don't remember which Delphinium (D. elatum) hybrid it was, but what a stunner! Delphiniums are noted as short-lived perennials, too. I don't know if I'll plant them again in this garden, because the growing conditions have changed and other plants are in this spot. But, maybe...?

February 04, 2024

Time for Orchids!

Paph. Magic Mood 'Great Northern' x Magic Mood 'Alan Napper'

I recently visited Olbrich Botanical Gardens for Orchid Escape and Orchid Quest. What a wonderful way to briefly put winter aside and enjoy the beauty of these amazing plants and blooms! The theme this year: “Rise of the Angiosperm,” with a nod to the Cretaceous Period, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth and proto-orchids developed.

Cretacous theme 3

Cretaceous theme 1

Cretaceous theme 2

It was fun to see the dino “fossils” flanked by orchids of all types, sizes, and colors. 

orchid anatomy

Colorful signage described orchid anatomy.

orchid pollination

And the specialized methods of orchid pollination.

orchid display

Beautiful displays were around every corner in the conservatory, including this collection in the pond.

I captured a few photos of the more than 1,000 blooming orchids displayed, some of which are permanent residents. I tried to include the names on each photo (hold your cursor over the image to see them). If plants weren’t marked, or I wasn’t sure I had the correct label, I simply included the genus. If you see any errors please let me know:

Paphiopedilum 1

Vanda 2

Renanthera Mem. Marie Killian x R. monachica

Cymbidium 4

Phragmipedium 1

Dendrobium 1

Vanda Pachara Delight

Macodes sanderiana x limii

Vanda 1

Cymbidium 2

Cypripedium 1

Cymbidium 1

Cymbidium 3

Vuylstekeara Melissa Brianne 'Dark'

Coelogyne flaccida

Paphiopedilum victoria-regina var. sumatra

It was a great way to warm up, enjoy the beauty, and learn more about the world’s thousands of magical orchid species!

At the time of this post, Orchid Escape is still on through March 3, 2024. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area. Or visit olbrich.org to learn about future events.