A pair of hummingbirds have been particularly active in the garden in recent weeks. Unfortunately, I don’t have the patience to wait to catch a photograph of them, but the likely spot to capture a picture would be when they visit the flowers of ‘Black and Blue’ salvia that borders the garden’s largest pond.
This salvia is noted as only marginally cold hardy for northwestern Virginia, but it has managed to survive for several years in a spot carved out beneath a wide spreading edgeworthia. In fact, I have pruned several branches so that the woody stems of the salvia can find their way through the edgeworthia’s thick foliage. ‘Black and Blue’ flowers through the summer, and the long throated blooms seem perfectly suited to hummingbirds.
The salvia is frequently visited by bumblebees who are sometimes too large to access the flower, so they bite through the bloom’s base to capture its nectar. The hummingbird has no trouble accessing the nectar with its long, narrow bill.
This morning I was feeding the pond’s koi and goldfish when I glanced to see one hummingbird, then another on the large Tardiva hydrangea (above) that borders the pond. The hydrangea’s blooms must be past their peak by now, but I’ve seen hummingbirds darting between flowers on it for several weeks. In a few moments one hummingbird was at the salvia, only a few feet from the pondside chair I was sitting on. It took only a minute for the hummingbird to visit every flower, and then it sped off. A few minutes later a smaller hummingbird visited the salvia before the pair flew out of sight.
I have planted butterfly weeds (Asclepias tuberosa, above) and bushes (Buddleia davidii and hybrids), and various other native and non-native flowers to attract hummingbirds and butterflies, and of course along with these there is an amazing diversity of moths, bees, wasps, and hoverflies. I am fairly competent in identifying plants, but my knowledge of the pollinators that visit the blooms is abysmal, though I’m slowly working on it.
The most common butterflies in the garden are Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, both male (above) and female, but there are numerous moths that are not so distinctive and I’ve not been able to identify. Today I spotted a spotted a Painted Lady butterfly (below) on the ‘Miss Ruby’ butterfly bush, though I could not identify it until I consulted references on the internet.
I’ve lived for quite a few years as a gardener not knowing one butterfly from another, but I’ve begun to see some value (at least to myself) in knowing at least the most basic identification of common butterflies. Not all butterflies are Monarchs, though I assume that at some point in the year there will be Monarchs in the garden, and I hope to have my camera available when they visit. Hummingbirds are a bit too quick for me, but butterflies I can keep up with.