Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Benefits and Beneficials ~ A Garden Teeming with Life
Zebra Longwing (Heliconiuscharitonia) butterflies were missing from my garden last year. It was sad not to see them. They had been so abundant in years past.
You can imagine my excitement when a Zebra Longwing butterfly appeared again this spring. As a matter of fact, I remember the exact day I saw the first one.
It was Easter Sunday. The family was all here and I made a little squeal as it gently fluttered past me during our annual outdoor egg hunt. This very landing was its destination that day, too.
Since that first sighting this Chaya Spinach Tree (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius) seems to be a regular hang out for them. (There are several now.)They are strongly attracted to the rather insignificant blooms that sprout up from the tippy-top of the tree.
The alternate landing zone, where they are seen most often, is on the firebush (Hamelia patens) shrubs. There are several planted throughout the garden (not pictured here). Zebra longwings living in my garden again is like receiving a hug from them.
Sharing the nectar on the Chaya is the ever-present monarch. They can be seen regularly, most any month out of the year. That does't mean I take them for granted. I delight at the lilt of every colorful flight across my garden.
I like knowing my garden is safe for every creature. I make certain of it by eliminating the use of pesticides and insecticides.
Nature has a way of balancing and taking care of unwanted critters when gardeners respect the eco-system God put in place. Even the spiders no longer feel like a threat to me. They are allowed to spin their homes and wait for prey to help with the balancing process.
Milkweed assasin is a mighty powerful worker around here. A favorite bright and eager predator of stink bugs, flies and aphids among other pesky insects. If all they ate was stink bugs that would be enough for me! What colorful attire and handsome profile they adorn to boot!
The rewards and benefits of purposeful gardening are numerous. One welcomed benefit is the discovery of caterpillars feeding off of host plants (Rue herb) installed just for them. I watch them chomp away progressing toward maturity. Butterfly caterpillars never fail to amuse. Seeing them satisfies my desire to provide a safe garden for them to reproduce.
Once in a while we actually get the privilege of noticing where they crawl to make ready for transformation. They often instinctively travel away from the host plant. This fat cat (Black Swallowtail) somehow made it to a neighboring container plant. It found the underside of a stiff bromeliad (Aechmea Blanchetiana).
Within a matter of hours its skin split down the center (I missed it) and formed its cozy home to hang. After a couple of weeks it will make its final metamorphosis into a Black Swallowtail butterfly. I hope it decides to live its short life in my garden and perhaps keep the cycle going.
I place a number of bird feeders throughout my garden. They lure the birds from the limbs of the trees down to human levels for a closer look at them.
Cardinals are plentiful here. We've counted over a dozen at once time as they swoop from limb to limb and feeder to feeder.
Small Carolina Chickadees are also numerous and play well with the wrens, Cardinals, Titmouse, and Mourning doves. They frequently gather at the feeders together.
One of my favorite bird families is the Red-bellied Woodpeckers. They have the most distinct soft,rolling call. It is easily recognized as it forages for insects among the tall oak trees.
I've observed butterflies and other pollinators in my garden over the years. I make efforts to identify which flowering plants they are most attracted to for nectaring.
If I notice they pay more attention to a particular variety such as the Florida-Friendly crimson Pentas (Pentas lanceolata) plants, I endeavor to spread that plant around the garden in numerous places.
I realize crimson-colored Pentas is a pollinator's smorgasbord when I see the sun catching the wings of all the tiny critters flying around them.
Can you see the pollen on the edges of this Tiger Swallowtail's wings? It is helping to spread goodness throughout my garden naturally.
A garden teeming with life is full with not only vegetation and but critters, too. My Florida garden has a wide variety of plant materials that attract indigenous wildlife. The benefits of organic gardening allow the beneficial insects and pollinators to live out their life-cycles fully, in freedom. If I happen to encounter some aphids on a plant, I exercise patience. I have confidence predator bugs will find them and rid the plant of pests for me. When I plant edibles I know the pollinators will transport necessary pollen for reproduction.
It's the most sensible and rewarding way to garden. What benefits have you discovered from the beneficial critters in your garden?
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You might want to click here to read my Lowe's Creative Ideas article, Attracting Pollinators, to learn more about how to attract pollinators to your garden.