While Tiger swallowtails (above) have reappeared in the garden after a notable absence earlier in summer, their numbers are not nearly as abundant as a year ago when I was astounded to see a dozen or more on one Joe Pye weed ((Eutrochium purpureum). More typical is to see a few at a time, and still I think that numbers today are smaller than usual. But, not to worry, these things fluctuate, and whether the diminished numbers are a result of the harsh winter or some other phenomenon, there is no reason to be concerned.
The hummingbird (above) has returned, though it seems reasonable to believe that while I’m seeing one at a time but there could be more. Regardless, there are few in this garden, and as I consider their scarcity it seems clear that I have planted few flowers that particularly attract them. Today, it seems that it is the late flowering Red Hot pokers (Kniphofia) that they are drawn to, and these will flower for another month, or longer if there is not an early frost. Being skittish sorts, the hummingbird checks out Blue Mist shrubs (Caryopteris x cladonensis ‘Hint of Gold’, below) and St. Johns wort (Hypericum) while in the vicinity, but these don’t hold its interest for long, and off it goes, probably to a neighbors’ sugar water feeder.
I don’t suppose that a garden can attract every sort of beast, just as one of everything cannot possibly be planted, and of course these things are very much interrelated. I feel certain that if I hung a sugar water feeder, or planted flowers specifically suited to hummingbirds, there would be more. Or, at least this one would visit more frequently. But, there’s only so much space, and my attention can go only in so many directions, so I’ll be content with robins and cardinals, bees, and swallowtails, now that they’ve returned.
There is no shortage of flowers in the garden at the start of September, with many blooms from early in August persisting for weeks, and some that will continue flowering into early October. The Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus ‘Shoal Creek’, above) is finally fading, having made a nice recovery from the winter when it died to the ground. Even with no growth evident into early May I suspected that the woody shrub would survive, and now it has grown nearly as large as it was a year ago. As with the nearby Joe Pye, many fewer butterfies have visited to sample its nectar, though bumblebees seem as plentiful as ever.
I was surprised that various abelias (Abelia x grandiflora ‘Canyon Creek’, above) suffered through the winter, and in late summer a few have not completely revived. This is typically a sturdy shrub with moderately attractive foliage and modest, summer long blooms, but it will take another year for these to fully recover, I think. ‘Canyon Creek’ had fewer issues with the cold, and now there is barely any evidence of earlier troubles, but its yellow foliage annually fades in the heat and its open habit requires some regular pruning to keep a compact form.
With cooler temperatures through much of August, the reblooming varieties of mophead hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla, above) set flower buds, and now there are a few scattered blooms. Most of the mopheads did not flower at all in late spring, instead devoting considerable energy to recovering from winter injury. All are back to their full size, though a few are not as densely branched, which is hardly a surprise. With cooler temperatures in coming weeks, I expect more flower buds will develop, but often the season runs short and frost prevents these from turning to full sized blooms. Next spring there’s no reason to expect that the hydrangeas will not return to their typical flowering cycle.
The reblooming azaleas (Azalea Autumn Encore Twist, above) struggled to display any more than a few scattered flowers in early April, but now all have recovered fully and several are beginning their typical late summer flowering cycle. Some varieties begin flowering late in August, while other hold off until the coolness of early autumn. After a disappointing spring, the garden appears to be back on track.