Garden Abuzz

Nature’s message was always there and for us to see. It was written on the wings of butterflies. ~Kjell B. Sandved

swallowtailThe garden in August is as much a garden of creatures and sound as it is of flowers. As the flowering season comes to a crescendo, the garden becomes a “last chance buffet” for every creature gathering food stores for winter or for migration. The cicadas buzz in the woods throughout the day; in the evening, the frog chorus breaks out into pulsing serenades of courting. Bees of every size and shape buzz around the richest sources of pollen, butterflies flitter and float through the air and compete with the bees for flower landing space, hummingbirds visit every tubular flower for nectar. This is the time of the year that the gardener needs to step aside and enjoy a ringside seat to the panorama of life in the garden. Here’s a sample of the frog chorus at night. (Audio recorded and edited by Bill Purse) 

A few years ago, a serious health crisis made me an observer rather than a participant in my garden for a season or two. Even as the weeds grew unhindered, the flowering plants also bloomed without my help and were covered in bees and butterflies for months. It became apparent to me that tidiness was not a priority of Mother Nature; her priority apparently was growth abundant, unruly and rich with life. While I still enjoy playing with color and texture and form, my garden priorities are now more aligned with those of Mother Nature to support the life of creatures around me. Happily, creating a refuge for pollinators can also result in a beautiful refuge for the gardener.

We have entered an age of environmental gardening. Given the afflictions of our planet, this is overwhelmingly positive as long as we remember that the one creature most in need of refuge in the garden is the gardener. ~Adrian Higgins, The Washington Post

Each morning, Angel and I explore the garden. It is lush and overflowing, full of wings and buzzing and singing.

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The hillside that in July was covered with daylilies is now overflowing with the cheerful gold of native brown-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta and R. triloba) that are favorites of both butterflies and bees.

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Golden flowers abound this time of year and are a favorite of pollinators. For the first time, the Silvery Checkerspot butterfly has made an appearance. (Click on any image in the mosaic to see the full size photo).


The deck garden is anchored on one end by a large stand of purple coneflowers and on the other end by single roses and Persicaria ‘Firetail’ – all attract a bevy of native bees and butterflies throughout the day.


Lush Hydrangea blossoms form a backdrop to a tall swath of native Phlox paniculata in shades of lavender and purple, a favorite of the yellow swallowtail butterflies. Planting in groups helps pollinators gather food with the least energy expended, so I’ve begun to allow their favorite plants to increase and spread. Birdbaths tucked into flower beds provide essential water.

PollinatorSignEvery garden is a work in progress and changes over time. I have been gently steering my garden toward one that supports winged life – this year it was certified as a Pollinator Friendly Garden through the Penn State Master Gardeners program. Just one more step in creating a place where all the parts fit and work together as a whole. Want to know more?  Visit for information on National Pollinator Week and easy steps you can take to support life on our planet.

The first law of ecology is that everything is related to everything else. ~Barry Commoner, American scientist 

Except where noted, all images, sound and text ©2016 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved.

37 thoughts on “Garden Abuzz

  1. Gorgeous flowers, and what an oasis for bees and butterflies, and I’m sure all kinds of other insects. You must not know where to look next!

    • I think that is my favorite part of going into the garden – seeing all of the moving life there. The limitation of a photo is that it freezes a beautiful moment – I’m hoping to do more videos of the garden this year, since it is a moving breathing place.

  2. Pingback: At the Heart of Nature | composerinthegarden

  3. Gardens at the end of summer are indeed gorgeous—at least those well kept. You images show how wonderful they can be. I bet you still have quite a beautiful garden with the autumn we have had this year (of course depending on where it is).

    • Thanks for stopping by Otto. The garden is still full of rich color, especially now that the goldenrod and ornamental grasses are starting to bloom. I just had some garden walls constructed, hoping to post soon on the garden’s progress!

  4. Excellent! This is all very happy-making. May frogs flourish (or at least hold on!).
    Playing with a macro lens lately, I’ve often found insects and spiders only later in the photos, as I enlarge them. I love that. (Love the Checkerspot!)

    • Thanks, Lynn; the frogs are loving our very wet weather this summer. We found a little one in the garage but were able to shoo it outside – darling!

      I have been absolutely loving your macro shots. I was able to capture the Checkerspot photo with a telephoto lens and then enlarge it – a very tiny but intricate butterfly, about 1.5″. I’m still trying to get our hummingbirds 🙂

  5. Your posts are very informative.And I loved listening to the garden noises. I am thoroughly enjoying browsing. I love purple and what I term “bruised” colours, but in my new garden I am only just getting to grips with what is growing – mainly ‘native’ plants or weeds! But these weeds seem to survive the slugs and snails which are prolific here, and bees, hoverflies, butterflies and other pollinators love them too, so I won’t remove all of them, but maybe make some space for a few of my favourite cultivars amongst them.

    • Jude, thank you so much for posting a comment, as I very much enjoy visiting your beautiful site. You are so right about the native “weeds” – they seem to be biologically armed to fend off the predators while nourishing the beneficent creatures. A combination of native plants and their cultivars has worked very well for me – I will follow your adventures in this area 🙂

  6. Your purples are so lush, and deeply colored. Beautiful. Each year, I start out with high hopes for gardening, then lose interest as the realities of heat, humidity and an outrageously rabid crop of mosquitoes take over the backyard. I love to admire the work and talents of others, though.
    Thank you so much for sharing yours.

    • Thank you so much for your comments. Yes, purples become very important in my garden. We do have mosquitos here as well but supporting the population of local bats helps very much; they squeak through the garden at dusk and scoop up the mosquitos. I also am careful to empty any small pools of water under pots and in tarps, etc. to discourage breeding sites, and change the water in the birdbaths daily. Every place is different; it is a choice of choosing what defensive maneuvers work! Best of luck, and I hope you don’t give up on your late summer garden – the rewards can be very sweet 🙂

  7. This really inspired me, Lynn. I have a lot of potential in my space … and with your help I’ll make progress and I like as a goal to make it welcoming to winged friends! Having the pleasure of experiencing your garden I can only say that even your great photos and lyrical text cannot do it full justice! It’s such a welcoming, mysterious place, full of twists and turns and surprises.

  8. Nature doesn’t have much sense of “personal space,” other than some plants that tend to form monocultures and suppress other species. Even then the individual plants in the monoculture often touch and intertwine and crowd one another. The way adjacent plants interact intrigues me and has been the basis for many photographs.

    • “Nature doesn’t have much sense of “personal space,” – that’s a great way to put it, Steve! The way plants interact is also a basis for planting/garden design, and the more the way they interact in nature is imitated in a garden setting, the more successful the design will be. This has been a trend in “natural” gardening for the past 15-20 years and definitely part of developing ecological gardening trends. Interesting to me is its concurrence with similar trends in education, where the teacher becomes the “guide on the side” instead of the “sage on the stage” – the gardener’s role is shifting from imposing control to cooperative efforts at beauty.

      Your observations of plant interactions would be especially invaluable to any gardener/garden designer in your area – maybe you should consider contributing to a local gardening symposium 🙂

  9. So very true, concerts of flowers directed by wildlife and pollinators; small and large, visible and invisible 🙂 Wonderful!

  10. As always, beautiful images of the place that that gives you so much peace …. and your words are always fitting. The part that stuck with me was the paragraph about nature not liking tidy. … We science people will think of the word entropy … the continual process to a state of disorder, so energy is required to bring order. … Then again, what appears to be disorder to us may actually be order through change.

    • Frank, such a thoughtful comment, and one that has set me thinking! I’ve been pondering that balance between order and chaos in the garden for a while now as I consider the increasing inclusion of “wild” into cultivation and how everything might “fit” together in a balanced ecology. Perhaps seeing wildness (chaos?) in the garden supporting more life as well as the transformation of matter from one living thing to another via the composting process, I tend to lean towards the concept of syntropy espoused by Buckminster Fuller. “You and I are essentially functions of Universe. We are exquisite syntropy. I’ll be seeing you forever.” Recycling at its finest 🙂

      • So do I, Frank 🙂 I once wrote a musical piece entitled “3 States of Being” – Flying, Falling, Dancing in the Center. I thought of it as a double vortex of entropy and syntropy – the classic rhythm of the universe, but with the ability to dance somewhere in the balance.

  11. I am still very much in love with your garden. 🙂

    This spoke to me: ” It became apparent to me that tidiness was not a priority of Mother Nature; her priority apparently was growth abundant, unruly and rich with life.” After three weeks away, and a week in which I didn’t have time to get to the garden much less work on it, my flower garden (“scrounger’s garden”) is alive and well in spite of all the weeds. In fact, I have been wondering if the abundance of winged things this year is related to the wildness of the garden.

    • Robin, I think you may be right – our “tidy interference” may be removing elements that are beneficial to wildlife. The plants that are species rather than cultivars attract far more pollinators, something that Doug Tallamy has written about in his book Bringing Nature Home. Each year, I try to garden with a lighter hand, still trying to find that “sweet spot” where the garden looks good to my eye while providing maximum sustenance to the creatures who flourish in it.

  12. Your August is our June – and, with a little luck, our September again. The scorching July leaves me longing for the lushness of your beautiful garden! Thanks for the images and for the helpful link.

    • Audrey, may you enjoy September rains to refresh and renew your gardens. Angel loves being in a garden filled with other creatures and I never worry about her being exposed to harmful chemicals. The trend towards ecologically sound gardening practices is of enormous benefit both to the world and to our dear furry friends.

  13. So lovely, so very lovely, Lynn; thank you. Your posts always inspire me and teach me so much. I do love the Franz Schubert and the (new to me) Persicaria. My favorite garden colors.

    This is my season for sitting it out, sidelined by foot surgery. I can hear the bees and watch the butterflies dance, but I can’t get out to them. Frustrating, but also extremely instructive, as you say, and I have more time (all day) to study the light and movement, the attractors and attractants, the rising and falling of color and bloom…at least in the big garden outside my bedroom. Being the observer isn’t without gifts. 🙂

    I send you love and thanks, again, for this beautiful post.

    • Kitty, you have my complete sympathy and understanding. I injured my leg years ago and was forbidden the garden for 2 months because of the risk of bacterial infection – oh, that was a long 2 months. Enjoy the view of your garden – as you already know, it is an opportunity to observe and reflect, and that is no small blessing. Namaste, my friend.

  14. Good to see that your garden is so accommodating of butterflies, moths and other flying creatures, Lynn.

    BTW, as much as I enjoyed all of the images and text, the highlight of the post–for me–is definitely the audio clip. The frog cacophony is a symphony to my ears.

    • Kerry, my husband was delighted to see your comment! He recorded and edited the frog audio for me and I neglected to give him credit! (now rectified) The garden in August is an experience in 3-D sensurround 🙂

      • The sounds of the frogs reminded me of one of the boggy parts of the Morton Arboretum (west of Chicago) during the late spring/early summer.

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