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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Solar Energy for the Butterflies

It's been a hot and muggy August (who am I kidding this has been going on since June) here in Florida. Even so, I managed to spend lots of hours in the garden this week.

  • My empty vegetable beds got a good dose of bone meal and dried blood mixture worked into the soil. We'll let that rest for a few weeks before we plant some seed for a fall harvest.
  • I planted some tomato seeds in small containers too.
  • There was some attention needed at the back of the property.

One of the keys to keeping the garden from getting out of hand is to keep up with trimming and cutting back. This time of year it is especially important with everything growing at rapid speed.

Even in areas where I want the foliage to blend together creating a lush density, boundaries are required for a sense of order. In this particular area, my solution is to trim the plumbago (which would literally take over its neighbors if left to itself), the snowbush, and the philondendron from the bottom up. This way the tops of the shrubs still have a free-flowing appearance but the base of the shrubs are nice and tidy and not growing into each other. When looking straight on one's eye takes in all the layers of gently varied textures and forms rather than one massive planting.

Even though the skies have looked like this many times this week we haven't had any significant rain. That's the way the weather pattern goes in the summer. The afternoon thunderstorms roll in and rumblings of thunder and lightning can be heard all around but the showers can miss specific areas and neighborhoods all together.

It wasn't our turn this week, I guess. Hopefully, next week we'll get a good drenching or two.

Butterflies Were Abundant This Week in all the Sunshine
Our summer sunshine is giving the butterflies lots of flight energy and they are plentiful. Of course they have to fly to search for food and escape from predators so they are dependent on good weather.

Their wings are their muscles, so to speak, and their bodies have to be heated up to around 82 degrees in order to fly. You might have noticed you don't see too many butterflies flitting about on a cloudy cooler day. Even on cloudy warmer days we don't see them in great numbers.
Giant Swallowtail slurping penta flowers with its exacting proboscis.

Fat and full of milkweed are these fellows ...

... which turn into these dancing wonders of beauty.

During sunny daytime hours, you may see butterflies basking with their wings open to catch the warmth from the sun. When it gets too warm a butterfly may fold its wings and situate its body so the rays of the sun land on the edge of its wings rather than its fully extended wings.

It's a good idea to place some rocks (especially flatter ones) in your garden. When the sun isn't shining butterflies can use the stored up heat in them to raise the temperature in their bodies.

In Florida non-migratory populations of monarch butterflies can be seen all months of the year.

The prize of the week for me was capturing a Cassius Blue which happens to be among the teeniest of butterflies we have in our garden. They are especially attracted to the Leadwort; blue plumbago shrub on which they lay their eggs. Each kind of butterfly has its own unique way of flying. These little fellows are quick and rapidly flit about sometimes in two's and three's and if one didn't know better one would easily mistake them for a moth.

At one point just as I was about to redirect my camera this most amazing fly-in just 'happened'. First the female and then the male with wings spread widely (adult wingspan is 1.4 to 2.5 cm) open. Right there next to each other and my camera already pointing in that very spot. Okay... that was thrilling enough but then to actually capture a clear photo before they flew away in all of about 5 seconds... definitely makes for some wild excitement in the garden. Yeah... I know... I'm getting old.

My Camera Was Noticing all Kinds of Critters This Week, Too

Some of them we are familiar with like the happy red male cardinals that sing their cheery songs and daily visit the feeders.

Then there are strange beings like this grey insect I've never before seen. Stirring around in some bromeliads I startled it out of its roost I suppose. Anyone have a clue what it might be?
Blogger's note: Thanks to a Boyd Hill Nature Preserve commenter the mantis has been identified as a Grizzled mantis.

Never can resist an attempt at photgraphing a brilliant green dragonfly.

Don't let me interrupt your crunchy dinner, sir.
For mature audiences only...

Who knew? The voracious foliage/flower eating nemesis of my garden get started reproducing already! And I thought this only went on in the spring. Just after this photo these two love-hoppers met their demise. That's one less litter I'll have to track down later.

Have no idea the name or the intent of the green insect with the antennae practically as long as its body. Any one know what this guy is or what he's up to?

And ... the ever present Argiope aurantia (thanks again to Boyd Hill Nature Preserve commenter for ID) just hanging out between the salvia and the coleus. Don't mind me... I'm just trying to get some deadheading done.

This little flourescent green variety of spider is all over the garden this summer.

Hope you are enjoying your weekend and fitting in all your own gardening fun! Happy day.


  1. Never have to worry about you being alone, Meems. Your inviting garden beckons many beautiful visitors :)

  2. Meems, what a wonderful and informative post. I didn't know most of the facts about butterflies. Will watch them more closely now to see their reactions to heat and cold. Your photos are inspiring...if only I could take such beauties. Oh well, I am enjoying yours.

  3. Great pictures, those thunderstorms that are bypassing you are hitting us. It never fails everyday when I get home from work and ready for some down time in my garden is raining.

  4. I didn't know that butterflies need certain temperatures in order to be able to fly... This post was most informative - with plenty of great shots!

  5. Meems, your grey creature looks like some kind of mantid, from what I could see. I'd never heard of grey ones, though. It looks like it has powdery mildew!

  6. LOVE the Cassius Blues!

  7. Hi Meems...I cannot believe you have those beautiful butterflies all year....I am so envious.....we only have butterflies for around five months at the most, with the odd one here and there in a good autumn.....

    The garden looks lovely and the wildlife seem to be appreciating it to.....

  8. I had a long walk around your beautiful garden. Enjoyed everything. The butterflies are gorgeous "additions" together with all the other critters that roam the garden.

  9. WoW!
    I do not think I have really realized before what an incredible blog you have. I so much enjoyed you photography. and your text. well done! lots of fun to read!
    Best Regards,

  10. quite funny meems to think of us both wandering around independently in our own garden worlds capturing our own unique creatures on the same day hundreds of miles apart. i loved seeing all yours. i do believe that is a praying mantis with something on him like dust or powder. the hands up front give it away. the walking stick in mine has a distinctive tail end split. i love the green dragonfly and the two blue butterflies together, great images.

  11. You have such a variety of wildlife in your garden Meems. Great pictures! Great info on the butterflies, I don't the names of most of them but I love having them visit my garden. :) I got some great shots yesterday too.

  12. I have been enjoying your blog for the past few months. I love the pictures and stories. I especially enjoyed your adventures with vegetable gardening and have decided to try it myself.

    I work at a nature preserve in St.Pete and blog from there as well. Your black and yellow spider is an Argiope aurantia sometimes called a writing spider for the patterns in the web. Here's a link:
    Here is another link about the banana spider:
    I think the mantis is a Grizzled mantis:

    Your picturs are so clear, I would love to be able to take pictures that well.

  13. joey: Between all the jungly growth this summer and the heat the bugs are having a field day I think.

    beckie: Glad you liked the photos and facts. I just did a little research lately out of curiosity because gardening has made me quite enamored with butterflies and their habits.

    rusty: I think you got our rain today too... we are starting to need some badly again. :-(

    Katarina: It kind of makes sense once you know doesn't it? On a cloudy day when the sun decides to show up you can be sure the butterflies will come out from roosting.

    Dani: Hi! and thanks for stopping over!!!

    Kim: It DID look like mildew... it has been ID'd as a Grizzled Mantis and they hang out on oak trees. That's where I saw it but still find it strange all these years and I've never seen one before.

    SusiesQs: Me, too. Thanks. That was such a lucky catch.

    Cheryl: I think it has to be the weather here is ideal for butterflies. They don't have to leave for warmer places. It is one of the nice features of living in a non-freeze climate I guess.

    Titania: the camera lens definitely helps me notice more closely all the many critters ... even down to some of the tiniest crawlers & flyers. It is an amazing learning experience.

    Philip Bewley: Gee, thanks... what nice words! I'm glad you visited and so glad you like my blog.

    Marmee: I was taken by the fact we were doing the same thing at the same time, too. Of course the butterflies and insects are just so common right now everywhere with the warm weather all over the country... lots of photos 'floating' around the blog world.

    perennial gardener: yes, you are another one who was out taking photos of the same kinds of butterflies simultaneously with me I think. I've only recently (since blogging really) become intrigued with knowing the names and habits of the wildlife I'm able to photograph. It is just so interesting to do the research and figure it out... OR, as is the case often, have a blog friend offer a little help on the ID.

    Boyd Hill Nature Preserve: What a treat that you decided to leave a comment after visiting for a while. A great big thank you for the ID's on the insects!!! I don't think I've heard of the preserve before... I will definitely take a drive over to St. Pete to check it out when the weather turns cooler in October or November.

    Great for you for starting a vegetable garden. I've just prepped my raised beds for seed sowing. I'll do that in a few more weeks.

    Stop back by anytime... always looking for help with bug ID's!

  14. Wow, beautiful photography!! I share your excitement for capturing the little Cassius Blues with their wings spread wide, I was trying for some a week or two and, while I got some cool mating shots, I didn't get any with their wings spread. Love your blog!! :-)

  15. A wonderful post meems and your photos are lovely...even the big ugly bugs look good! I remember times we have visited butterfly houses when it was shady! The butterflies were no where to be seen, a few hours later when it was steaming hot they were fluttering everywhere!


  16. green jeans: thanks for stopping over... always like to find more Florida gardens and bloggers. Cool mating shots are great too! Love the Zebra Longwing on the red penta in your header!

    Gail: thank you- I'm getting used to being up close and personal with some of the most unique bugs! Somehow the butterflies figure it out even when in captivity.


Have a blessed day,

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