Archive for June, 2014


Eight-spotted Forester (Alypia octomaculata) on Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’)

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Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

When choosing plants for the garden, I try to keep in mind the needs of garden visitors. Not people who may drop by, but a host of birds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators who enliven the garden every day. And when I’m outside, working in the garden or just strolling, I like to keep my camera close at hand for opportune photo moments. Some of the butterflies that I was lucky enough to ‘capture’ with my camera this season are featured here today.

Opening the post is a Viceroy butterfly, a look-alike of the well-known but disappearing Monarch. Viceroys are a bit smaller, and have a distinctive black line across their hind wings. It was thought that Viceroys benefitted from their mimicry of Monarchs as predators avoid the bad-tasting Monarch, but research suggests that the Viceroy has its own disagreeable taste that wards off birds.

In addition to nectar sources, butterflies also need host plants to serve as nurseries for their caterpillars. Pollinators of all types, including butterflies are under severe pressure from the overuse of pesticides and habitat destruction. Any contribution you can make with your garden is a help.

Some butterflies have very specific requirements for host plants, while others are generalists. Monarchs are well-know to use milkweed. Viceroy caterpillars use willows. There are many willow species, and some, such as corkscrew willow or blue arctic willow, can be pleasing additions to a garden.

White Admiral

White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis)

The White Admiral is closely related to the Viceroy, and also uses willows, cottonwoods, poplars and related trees as its larval food source.

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis)

Here’s a Canadian Tiger Swallowtail visiting catmint. The Canadian is very similar to the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, but ranges farther north. It is a bit smaller than its southern cousin. Its larval foodplants include birch, aspen, black cherry and other trees.

Pearl Crescent

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

Here’s a Pearl Crescent on the last of the spring forget-me-nots. Pearl Crescents are small butterflies, but their brilliant orange and black pattern is eye-catching. Their larval foodplants are asters.

Northern Pearly-eye

Northern Pearly-eye (Enodia anthedon)

Northern Pearly-eyes are rapid flyers. They’re usually found in woods or in meadows near a water souce. Unlike many other butterflies, they don’t visit flowers, but land on tree trunks or trails or low vegetation. Adults feed on dung, fungi, carrion, and sap from willows, poplars, and birch. Grasses are their larval foodplant.

Great Spangled Fritillary

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

Finally, here’s a Great Spangled Fritillary. The adults nectar on many varieties of flowers, but the larval foodplant is specifically violets. A good source of information about butterflies is the Butterflies and Moths of North America website. The page highlighting the Great Spangled Fritillary is linked here.

A very nice book that features beautiful pictures of the life cycle of 23 common butterfly species, from egg to adult, is The Life Cycles of Butterflies by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards. It offers a terrific introduction to these amazing creatures, and is quite highly recommended.


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In contrast to yesterday’s sturdy phlomis, gillenia is a graceful and airy perennial whose star-like white flowers brighten the shady border. Known as Bowman’s Root, Gillenia trifoliata is native to Eastern North America, where it grows in open woodlands. It’s said that the common name is derived from the long, underground rhizomes, which are straight as a bowstring. (I didn’t dig mine up to check this out.) Gillenia is also sometimes called Indian Physic as it was used by Native peoples for medicinal purposes.


When the flowers are finished, they leave behind persistent red calyxes that are quite attractive too. With their rosy colouring, they remind me of tiny rose hips, and indeed, gillenia is a member of rose family, Rosaceae. The scientific species name, trifoliata, refers to the three-part leaves.


Gillenia trifoliata is listed as a native of Ontario in some literature, but I couldn’t recall ever having encountered it as a wildflower. I was referred to an excellent webpage titled The Diversity of Plants in Ontario by William Van Hemessen, linked here. There, I found the answer to this little mystery. He writes: Finally, a plant called Bowman’s-root (Gillenia trifoliata) is a plant of oak savannahs in far Southern Ontario that is believed to be extirpated from the province.


When I was reading up on gillenia, I came across a third common name for this plant: Fawn’s Breath! That’s my favorite. I can just imagine a fawn, hidden away in a patch of gillenia in the forest, breathing out flowers.


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Here’s Phlomis tuberosa ‘Bronze Flamingo’, in full bloom. I first encountered phlomis via a photograph in a gardening book and sought it out last August. It has a statuesque appearance, with strong stems holding interesting whorls of flowers spaced like pompoms. It stands a bit over 3 feet tall.

‘Bronze Flamingo’ settled in well and wintered over with no trouble. It has a hardiness rating of zone 5 in Canada (zone 4 USDA). It’s quite a tidy, upright, undemanding plant, and I’m surprised it is not more popular in North American gardens. If you google ‘phlomis’, many of the responses will be British sites, as phlomis species are better known there.


Phlomis is commonly called Jerusalem Sage. It does look a bit like a salvia (the salvias also being commonly referred to as sage), and in fact, both phlomis and salvia are members of the mint family, Lamiaceae. Besides P. tuberosa, there are several other phlomis species you may encounter in gardens. I have one of these, P. russeliana, which features yellow flowers, but it was miserable in the dry, full sun location I had chosen for it and is now recovering in a location with dappled shade.

Phlomis tuberosa is native to central to southeastern Europe and central Asia, where it inhabits steppes and dry meadows. I couldn’t find any background information as to the origin of this ‘Bronze Flamingo’ cultivar, although the name is said to refer to a bronze tinge of the leaves.


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Plantsman Graham Stuart Thomas observed (Perennial Garden Plants 1976,1990) that Polemonium caeruleum, the old garden standard Jacob’s Ladder, has been cultivated since Roman days. After all those centuries, something new can now be seen in Jacob’s Ladder cultivars as new hybrids have been introduced to the market over the past few years.

Pictured above is Polemonium reptans ‘Stairway to Heaven’, which was introduced by the New England Wildflower Society. P. reptans is known as Creeping Jacob’s Ladder, and forms a loose mound. It is arguably at its most attractive early in the spring, when the new leaves bear a beautiful rosy flush.

The paired leaflets, climbing up the stem, are the source of the rather fanciful common name of Jacob’s Ladder. ‘Stairway to Heaven’ produces small blue flowers that appear around the end of May here. By then, the leaves have taken on their summer colours of grey-green outlined with cream margins.


P. reptans ‘Touch of Class’, below, is a sport of ‘Stairway to Heaven’. It features a tighter mounding habit and larger leaves, with a narrow white border. It was introduced by Sunny Border Nurseries of Connecticut. Polemonium reptans is native to Eastern North America.

Touch of Class

Unlike these two variegated cultivars, Polemonium boreale ‘Heavenly Habit’ has ferny green leaves, but its flowers are more striking than those of its variegated cousins. Below, ‘Heavenly Habit’ blooms beside Corydalis ‘Wildside Blue’.


Here’s a closer look at the showy flowers of ‘Heavenly Habit’. P. boreale, or arctic polemonium, has been variously described as a hybrid with P. reptans or as a variety of P. caeruleum. All of my polemoniums grow in partly shaded locations where they are protected from the full blast of the hot afternoon sun.


My favorite is probably Polemonium caeruleum ‘Brise d’Anjou’, a cultivar of the old European and Asian standard P. caeruleum. ‘Brise d’Anjou’ or Breeze of Anjou, was a chance discovery at a nursery in France and was introduced by Blooms of Bressingham. I love the goldy shade of the variegated leaves.

Maybe the best thing about Jacob’s Ladders is the way, after checking on them in the garden, they leave me humming that old spiritual “We are…climb-ing…Jacob’s…La-a-dder…” as I continue my stroll through the garden.

Brise d'anjou

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I have several bird baths placed around the garden to ensure the garden wildlife has access to water. The most elegant is this flower-shaped bowl. However, it’s not the most popular. That would be the foot-tall saucer intended to serve raccoons. If your bird bath is regularly knocked over by raccoons at night, the solution is simple. They’re just looking for water. Put out a bowl that they can reach. Robins are especially fond of this bath. Here’s a sequence of photos featuring a robin having a morning splash.







Ahhh, that feels better.


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House Wren

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Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) is native to Ontario, and indeed, can be found throughout much of eastern North America. These ground-hugging plants favour the rich soils of moist forests. Wild Ginger produces interesting flowers, but unless you are prepared to kneel down and look closely, you won’t see them. The flowers are hidden under the leaves, at ground level, nestled at the base of the hairy leaf stems.

They’re odd little flowers. It isn’t known what insects might pollinate these blooms. However, the flowers have a back-up system and can self-pollinate. The flowers produce a seed pod, which splits open and discharges its seeds into the leaf litter of the forest. The seeds bear elaiosomes [Elaiosomes (Greek élaion “oil” and sóma “body”) are fleshy structures that are attached to the seeds of many plant species. The elaiosome is rich in lipids and proteins, and may be variously shaped. Many plants have elaiosomes that attract ants. Wikipedia] and ants have been recorded as carrying wild ginger seeds up to 35 meters across the forest.


But reproduction by seed is slow. Wild Ginger is a clonal species and reproduces primarily by spreading rhizomes. A sizeable patch of wild gingers are likely clones and all connected underground. Wild Ginger is not even distantly related to the ginger family (Zingiber), but takes its name from the ginger-like scent released from the rhizomes when they are scratched.

Wild Ginger makes a pleasing groundcover for shady gardens. Its round leaves are attractive, and the plants require little care. And if you care to look, the flowers are pretty cool too.


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Daylilies have a lot to recommend them. They are tough, reliable plants with beautiful flowers. And they don’t lollygag about. When spring arrives, so do the daylily sprouts. As soon as the snow melts back, I can begin checking them off my daylily list as every day brings a new showing. Check, check, check…all present and accounted for!

The same can not be said for some other garden varieties. Take this Pinellia tripartica ‘Atropurpurea’, pictured above. Last summer, I planted two of these pinellias. Also known as Purple Dragons, these little Jack-in-the-Pulpit relatives are very cute, featuring a long, slender spadix extending from the flower’s hood (spathe). This spring, I waited and waited, and just about the time I began to ponder what plant I would replace the missing pinellias with, a little sprout broke the soil. Just one plant. No sign of number two. Oh well, still good. About 10 days later, to my surprise, Number 2 finally showed himself.


Also new to the garden last year was a Roscoea purpurea. Roscoeas are members of the Zingiberales, the order to which the gingers belong. Species of Roscoea are divided into two groups, a Himalayan clade and a Chinese clade. Roscoea purpurea is native to the Himalayas, and in particular Nepal. Roscoea purpurea was named by the English botanist James Edward Smith in 1806, in honour of his friend William Roscoe, the founder of the Liverpool Botanic Garden. Here’s how roscoea purpurea looked when first planted in the garden last year.


This spring, there was no sign of roscoea purpurea. I waited and waited, and finally decided to plant something else in this spot. I dug up the ground and when I popped out the root, it was obviously still alive, with a tiny white sprout just starting. So I replanted it, and waited and waited, and finally, in the middle of June, it has sprouted. Lost…and found.


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Tiarella, commonly known as foamflower owing to the frothy appearance of its clusters of star-like white blooms, is native to Ontario. The photographs above and below were taken by Seabrooke this spring in a moist woodland near Perth, Ontario. Its full name is Tiarella cordifolia. Cordifolia means heart-leaved, although maple-leaf-shaped might be more accurate. The genus name comes from the Greek tiara, which once meant turban, referring to the shape of the fruit. However, I prefer to think of the dazzling crown of flowers that the plants produce as their shining tiara.


Tiarellas make lovely additions to the shade garden, and there are a number of hybrids available to the home gardener. I currently have three varieties. They all are tidy, compact plants that are very showy through the month of May. Here is Tiarella ‘Sugar and Spice’, catching the morning sun.


Photographed below is Tiarella wherryi.


And finally, here is Tiarella ‘Mystic Mist’.


Mystic Mist has very distinctive leaves speckled with white. They remind me of the splatter painting kids do with a toothbrush. Even after this tiarella is finished blooming, the leaves still brighten a shady corner nicely.


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