Even in the heat of summer there are wonderful and odd happenings in the garden. One recent afternoon I was astounded by the number of dragonflies in the neighborhood of the large swimming pond, and no wonder there are fewer mosquitoes in the rear garden. There are plenty of mosquitoes in the side yard, in particular in the area where a large clump of bamboo was recently removed. These are mostly the tiger mosquitoes that are more aggressive and have a more painful bite. Since my wife and I spend most of our time in the rear garden, the dragonflies are a welcome presence.
Dragonflies are territorial, and though the pond is well over a thousand square feet, they appear in constant conflict, frantically zipping across the length of the pond, chasing newcomers into submission. No one is hurt in this bloodless quarrel, and I don’t pretend to understand how the victor is determined, but it’s fascinating to watch on a lazy summer afternoon.
The quantity and variety of stinging insects on the mountain mints is astonishing, and only in late evening is it safe enough to get close without the threat of being stung. This community of insects works in seeming harmony, each going about its business. Only butterflies are reluctant visitors to the small, nectar laden blooms. They appear highly distracted by bees and wasps buzzing about them, and soon they take flight away from this rambunctious crowd to more sedate blooms.
Yesterday I was walking along the swampy rear property line, and was amazed to see a line of small caterpillars edging the leaves of one of the tall river birches (Betula nigra, above). Only a few leaves were effected , and river birches are not generally troubled by insects to an extent worth worrying about. I don’t expect the caterpillars will be any problem, though I’ll check back in a few days to be certain they haven’t traveled further into the tree. I left them alone to munch on their few leaves. The birch has plenty, so losing a few won’t be much of a bother.
There are some flowers that are amazing in their architecture, and even leaves and seeds that are quite wonderful. Several of the garden’s passionflowers (Passiflora incarnata and lutea) are now flowering, and these are splendid enough in their construction to warrant their own story in a few days. I’ve recently noticed the seeds of the weeping European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Pendula’, above). The tree is unremarkable, but the seeds are extraordinary. I can only wonder at the marvels I’ll discover this evening.