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The Joy of Visiting Our Native Gardens!

By Dona Weifenbach

We are in the midst of the dog days of August and it is too hot to work in the garden unless you get outside at the crack of dawn and come in before the heat index reaches 100 °F!  We cancelled work days at our demonstration gardens in the summer for this reason, but Gail Evans I and met at the ANPP demonstration garden in Arnaudville Tuesday to check on the grounds.  We were awed by the beauty of the plants and by the insect activity in the garden.  The swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) was topped with dozens of light pink clusters of flowers, stems 4 ft tall.  The plants had been cut back when they were young to encourage branching, resulting in a mass of color.  As we spied movement in the flowers, we interrupted a Swallowtail banquet!  Pairs of Eastern tiger, Black, Giant, and Spicebush swallowtail were feeding and flitting above the blooms.  Millkweeds are nectar plants for Swallowtail butterflies as well as caterpillar host plants for Monarchs.  A Pearl crescent butterfly and several Gulf fritillary butterlflies are also feeding on the nectar of this milkweed.  Gail and I were whispering, tiptoeing around, taking pictures and trying not to cause the butterflies to fly away.  In the prairie bed, passion flower vine (Passiflora incarnata), the Gulf fritillary host plant is being devoured by their caterpillars.  It's a good thing we planted LOTS!  Nearby, several 4x4 ft bushes of Saltmarsh Mallow (Kosteletzkya pentacarpos) are covered in bright pink open flowers with long yellow stamens attracting Skippers to come in and feed.  Yellow sulphur butterflies pass through the garden looking for Maryland senna (Senna marylandica).  The white mountain mint (Pycnanthemum albescens) seems to attract the smaller moths and many species of native bees and other pollinators.  It was such a treat to walk in our native plant gardens, enjoy the benefits of our labor, and revel in the wildlife around us.

Katy is modeling our Sensitive Habitat sign, a perfect addition to all native habitats!

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