Tending our garden

I am lucky enough to have a front yard and a back yard at my home. In an ideal world I would use these spaces to grow a long-grass prairie, a Carolinian forest, an oak savanna and a wetland, but with 4mX6m (back) and 4mX5m (front) to work with, this is a bit of long shot.

When I moved here 11 years ago the backyard was mostly covered by a corrugated metal garage, the remainder being concrete flagstones. The front was lawn. One of the most heartening experiences of my life was right after tearing down the garage and removing the concrete in the backyard, leaving a muddy mess: within minutes, there were robins picking for worms in the newly exposed soil–the first birds I’d seen in the yard. Within days, the mud was turning green with new plant growth.

Over the years I have been trying to build on that moment by planting as many pollinator-friendly native (and some non-native) plants to create habitat and food for insects (apart from one ruby-throated hummingbird years ago, it has been insects exclusively). The pictures below show just a few of the visitors from the summers of 2018, 2019 and 2020.

From top left: an Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica) visiting one of my two Eastern Redbuds (Cercis canadensis); what I think is a Red-Belted Bumble Bee (Bombus rufocinctus) visiting chives; two monarch caterpillars (Danaus plexippus) on common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca); a Bicoloured Agapostemon (Agapostemon viriscens) visiting one of an unidentified thistle; a Black Swallowtail caterpillar (Papilio polyxenes) on my fennel plant; what I think is probably a Spotted Apatelodes caterpillar (Apatelodes torrefacta) on fireweed (Epilobium augustifolium); three young raccoons (Procyon lotor, one of the best Latin names ever), partly concealed by staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina); two recently emerged monarch butterflies; the incredible caterpillar of the Abbott sphinx (Sphecodina abbottii), believed to be a grape mimic; a red-and-blue leafhopper (Graphocephala coccinea) on staghorn sumac; and a Black Swallowtail recently emerged from its chrysalis; a Banded Longhorn Beetle (Typocerus velutinus) on Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), one of the most pollinator-friendly plants I have; Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) and Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta); the gorgeous little beetle Chilocorus stigma on Common Milkweed; a monarch butterfly on Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata); an unidentified bee (Megachile inermis, perhaps?) on Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa). (All photos (c) D. A. Newman)

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