Swallowing the Tail

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Yesterday, the first Swallowtail fluttered past my gardens. She didn’t linger this time, just surveyed sources of nectar for sustenance. Perhaps she’ll come back sometime today and dip into the fleeceflowers for a taste, although the heat index will each well into the 90s — hard to fathom in cool of morning.

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Yellow Swallowtail, Palo Alto, California

These harbingers of summer are the largest members in the Papilionidae family. Their typical patterns of yellow and black markings bring back memories of my childhood summers in the Deep South. Those were the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) . . .

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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

. . . whereas the Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) ae familiar everywhere west of the Rocky Mountains. Notice the blue spots near the bottom.

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Western Tiger Swallowtail

And the Two-Railed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata) inhabit mountain streamside areas and open woods, lazily soaring high above. These are distinguished by a matching double row of blue markings along the bottom as well as the pointed double tails.

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Two-Tailed Swallowtail

Confused yet? There are many more variations, but never mind. We’ll simply be surprised by joy as they swoop and sail across our summer days. Call them variations on a theme.

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Black Swallowtail
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Eastern Black Tiger Swallowtail
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Courtship
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Swallowtail Caterpillar
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HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU!

Valerian for Summer

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Red valerian (Centranthus ruber)

Recently, one of our fellow garden bloggers showcased her white valerians, thus pricking my curiosity about this plant since mine is red. Centranthus ruber owes its name to the botanist De Candolle, who likened its flowers to a red spearhead. He described it as a “cheerful and blowzy plant” when it first turned up in England in the sixteenth century. Also called kiss-me-quick, fox’s brush, devil’s beard, and Jupiter’s Beard, it is a late spring perennial growing on three-foot stems bearing dense clusters of blooms, as show in the photo above.

According to http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org,”Centranthus ruber is a well-branched, bushy, clump-forming, woody-based perennial which is valued for its ability to produce, often in poor soils, a showy bloom of star-shaped crimson, pink or white flowers from spring to frost.” But to keep it blooming that long, it’s necessary to prune it back by a third when blooms fade.

Native to the Mediterranean area, red valerian has the incredible capacity to grow in all types of soil, even the driest ones. Hence, its popularity in my region. I grow it alongside the peonies in the front border as an extension of color after the peonies finish blooming, along with blue Veronica.

Veronica 'Purplicious'

Veronica, also called Speedwell

The white valerian, on the other hand, is a cultivar that often grows as a biennial, from spring to early summer — then is no more, just a green plant. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis, Caprifoliaceae) is native to Europe and Asia. “In the summer when the mature plant may have a height of 1.5 metres (5 ft), it bears sweetly scented pink or white flowers that attract many fly species, especially hoverflies of the genus Eristalis. It is consumed as food by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species, including the grey pug,” according to my research.

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Valeriana officinalis, Caprifoliaceae

I may try a couple of these in my English borders next summer, just for fun, to fill in a gap left by another perennial that didn’t survive the winters.

Six on Saturday

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Sun Shower Stock Photo – Image of water, spray: 78804172

My grandmother used to chuckle that the Devil was beating his wife when the sun comes out during a rain shower. That’s not what was happening here this morning, however. It was the interplay of light and shadow through showers from my oscillating sprinkler. This new oscillator covers quite a wide area from the back garden fence where the fleece flower is just coming into bloom . . .

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Persicaria Polymorpha Giant White Fleece Flower

. . . all the way to the courtyard, too. It is 7:30, plenty of time for the cushions and pillows to dry out; the fabric is “Sunbrella.” I am drinking Starbucks “Caramel” coffee. Not sure I like it, but it was the only one left on the shelf. Later I’ll do a bit of shopping to replenish the kitchen pantry and, of course, buy more plants . . .

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Boston Fern – Curly Willow will be set into the blue urn planter 
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Pink Geraniums for Clay Pots
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 Tahitian Bridal Veil (Gibasis geniculata)
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Hidcote English Lavender

When all is said and done, I’ll “plant” little American flags on wooden sticks into a pot of flowers for Memorial Day / Flag Day / Independence Day.

Six on Saturday

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Betty Prior Shrub Rose (1937)

Benign neglect in the spring pruning routine has left my rose bushes loaded with pinks and rose reds, a good month earlier than last year. For example, “Betty Prior” cascades of full bloom appeared late yesterday afternoon, following the previous day’s series of downpours.

I pulled on my garden wellies and took Charlie for a stroll through wet gardens fresh as the first spring of Creation. Among my discoveries were “Hermosa” blooming her little heart out.

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Hermosa (1840)

Behind her, the David Austin cultivar “Gertrude Jekyll” had just burst open several buds. This English rose, scented with an old-rose fragrance, produces clusters of large, fully double flowers; but I chose it because of the name of my favorite garden designer and landscape architect, Miss Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932). Her design concepts continue to influence my own gardening style.

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Gertrude Jekyll (introduced 1986)

Luscious dark blue catmint is almost rampant in that area of my English border, but I’ve not the heart to perform a Chelsea Chop operation. I’ll wait until the blooms fade in a month or so, then whack if down at its knees. Then it’ll regrow in its natural upright form.

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Walker’s Low Cat Mint

A dainty pink peony whose name I don’t recall just opened early this morning. I’ll have to look it up in one of my garden journals from several years ago, then let you know what it is. It looks like this:

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Unidentified Pink Peony

Coming along, also a good month early, is “Sarah Bernhardt” whose buds are just showing a bit of color. In full, she’ll look like this:

Sarah Bernhardt (1906) ~ from stock photo

And that concludes this week’s “Six on Saturday” as I’ve run out of time. We have to save the east lane for next time. See you then.