Where have the butterflies been this summer? I have been hearing that from everyone and witnessing their absence myself. No one seems to know. It could be a different migration pattern or those crazy thunderstorms in June. Was it the late hard freeze in March that fouled up their trip to our gardens? If the experts don’t know, I doubt if we will.
Take heart though. I just went to our Island’s Butterfly Garden to weed (Chamber Bitter of course) and found what was left of a giant Bronze Fennel plant (Foeniculum vulgare) covered by caterpillars. I found that they are Swallowtail caterpillars by pokng one gently. Little orange horns popped out (Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid) and he/she emitted a musty smell. Yes, it was a swallowtail caterpillar – no doubt. They love Fennel as well as Parsley. Fennel is a very cool plant to put in your garden. It has feathery asparagus like leaves, sturdy stalks, and yellow umbrel flowers. The seeds are used quite a bit in Italian and Indian cooking.
Parsley is another under rated garden plant. No flowers to speak of, but I love the dark green foliage of curly parsley. The City of Greenville, SC has curly Parsley along its sidewalks all Winter as an edging. Grow it from seed or look for it in the herb section of nurseries when weather cools down.
I have mentioned Tithonia or Mexican Sunflower before. It is a great annual that can be grown from seed. You could still start some and have it bloom for pollinators before our cool down. Mine got a very slow start this year due to the amount of rain we had in the late Spring.
Hummingbirds are also pollinators and they love some sugar water in a feeder as well as your garden flowers. Remember- it is simple to make sugar water. One-half cup of sugar to two cups of water. Why buy it? My Hummingbirds will sip and sip and then fly in front of the window as if to thank me.
Things may look at little beat up in the heat of our late summer gardens, but there is still lots of see and enjoy.