Monthly Archives: July 2011

Cape Ann TV video tour of our garden

Quickly posting as I am under several deadlines and determined to get all fully underway. I believe I mentioned that this past week, Lisa Smith and her Cape Ann TV After-the Beach Teen Video Club stopped by for a tour of my garden. Here’s a short clip, with a wonderful surprise visit by the friendly Question Mark butterfly, who very conveniently, stole the show.

The teens and Lisa did a great job and all very much enjoyed the beautiful creatures that flew in and out of our story. It is not easy to focus on tiny subjects using a heavy camera attached to a tripod. The full video of the garden tour and interview will air in the near future and we will keep you posted.

Butterflies of Massachusetts

July Butterfly Update

Great Spangled Fritillary Nectaring on Coneflower at Willowdale EstateGreat Spangled Fritillary nectaring at native Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Dear Friends,

Have you noticed the sheer numbers of our winged friends? Returning this evening from a swim at 6:45, I bumped into three Monarchs nectaring and a Red-spotted Purple (all in pristine, newly emerged condition). Early evening is an unusually late time of day for butterflies on the wing, especially when skies are slightly overcast. This, after a day of observing and shooting numerous numbers of butterflies, caterpillars and hummingbirds–and never leaving our garden. I work for a bit, but then the garden calls and I’m out the door with both video and still cameras. If this fabulously warm weather keeps up, I think we are in for another banner year with the butterflies, and skippers too.

Currently, we have 28 Monarchs, in various stages of development, residing in our kitchen, and seven Black Swallowtail caterpillars and chrysalids.

Black Swallowtail CaterpillarBlack Swallowtail Caterpillar–note the fine “girdle” spun by the pupating caterpillar. Attached to the stem by both the girdle and a silky mat in which his last proleg is hooked, the caterpillar is securely latched. The proleg becomes the cremaster during pupation.

Black Swallowtail Chrysalis newly formedNewly formed chyrsalis

Black Swallowtail Chrysalis The darkening chyrsalis–perhaps it will emerge tomorrow! After ten days, the silky girdle and cremaster continue to perfectly support the pupa.

I am often asked why I collect butterfly eggs and don’t simply leave them in the garden. Butterfly larvae have a roughly one in ten chance of survival in the wild. In our kitchen, the odds increase exponentially, with a ten in ten rate of survival. For instance, I have learned, that after observing a butterfly deposit her eggs on a host plant, to gather them up quickly. If I become distracted and wait even only an hour, they often disappear, usually having been eaten or parasitized.

Common Buckeye and bee nectaring at native Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)Common Buckeye and bee nectaring at native Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)

More detailed information on each species will be forthcoming. Much footage to edit…

Question Mark Butterfly and Patrice

Question Mark Butterfly and Patrice ~ My favorite photo of the season (click on the photo to see full size). Yesterday afternoon, Lisa Smith, one of the producers over at Cape Ann TV, with her After the Beach Video Club for Teens, were filming in the garden. While Patrice was interviewing me, this Question Mark alighted briefly on her shoulder several times. I was prepared the second time, with camera ready and adjusted to the appropriate settings. The Question Mark’s cooperation throughout the day’s shoot–nectaring, sunning itself, and taking long sips of sap through the chinks of bark in the weathered old pear tree–was very much appreciated by all; he was the true star of the day!

Oh Joyous July!


Dear Gardening Friends,

This past week I gave my Monarch butterfly program to the very interested and very interesting women of the Cape Ann Garden Club; next week I am presenting a simplified version to a group of pre-school children. It comes as no surprise to me that the beautiful life story of the Monarch is as equally enthralling to the young as it is to the young at heart!
Yellow–the color of summer–of sunlight, warmth, and joy. Did you know that yellow daylilies can be fragrant? If you are interested in creating a border of sequentially blooming species daylilies, read Chapter 16 in my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! where you will find the most comprehensive list of different species of highly fragrant yellow daylilies. I leave you with this photo of the fabulously scented–of honeysuckle and citrus–yellow daylily ‘Hyperion.’
Happy Summer!
Fragrant Yellow Daylily HyperionHemerocallis ‘Hyperion’

A Summer of Fragrant Yellow Daylilies

Hemerocallis ‘Hyperion’ at sunrise

Fragrant Yellow Daylily Hyperion

Emily Dickinson writes-

Nature rarer uses yellow

Than any other hue;

Saves she all that for sunsets, -

Prodigal of blue,

Spending scarlet like a woman,

Yellow she affords

Only scantly and selectly,

Like a lover’s words.

Good Harbor Beach Snowy Egret
 Feeding at Dawn

The Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) is easily distinguished from the Great Egret (Casmerodius albus) by its smaller size, plume of feathers atop its head, and bright, sunny yellow feet. The Snowy Egret is about 24 inches long and weighs approximately 13 ounces. The Great Egret is roughly 37-40 inches long and weighs about 35 ounces. Plume hunters for the millinery trade hunted both species of egrets to near extinction by the turn of the previous century. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Snowy is protected by US law and the population has rebounded.

The Snowy Egret’s diet is diverse, consisting primarily of shrimps, snails, small fish, frogs, and aquatic insects. Snowys stalk prey in shallow water, and in the video, you can see it flushing prey into view by shaking and shuffling its feet. While filming (see last half minute of video), the Snowy stepped out of the water, turned gracefully towards the camera, and stood for a moment–providing more than a quick glimpse of it’s substantial, bright cadmium lemon feet.


Luminous silvery light

No, that is not a Monarch caterpillar on your parsley plant.

I am often asked “why is that green, yellow, and black Monarch caterpillar eating my parsley”?

Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillarBlack Swallowtail Caterpillar

Chances are, you will never see a Monarch caterpillar on your parsley. By far and away it is more likely that you have the caterpillar of the gorgeous Black Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio polyxenes).

Caterpillars that are actively feeding are usually only found on their larval host plant(s), the plant they have developed a distinctive coevolutionary relationship with over millennia. Monarch caterpillars do not eat parsley and Black Swallowtail caterpillars do not eat milkweed, and if either attempted, they would not survive. Black Swallowtails were in the past commonly referred to as the Parsnip Swallowtail as their caterpillar food plants belong to members of the Umbelliferae, or Carrot Family. The diet  of the Black Swallowtail caterpillar includes the foliage and flowers of carrot plants, fennel, dill, parsley, Queen Anne’s lace, and parsnips.

Monarch CaterpillarMonarch Caterpillars

The Monarch caterpillar is yellow, black, and white. The Black Swallowtail caterpillar is green, black, and yellow.

Please see my Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly film’s website for videos and more photos documenting the butterfly’s life cycle.

Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillarMetamorphosing from this

to this…

Eastern Black Swallowtail ButterflyBlack Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio polyxenes)

See Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly film website for videos and more photos documenting the butterfly’s life cycle.

Monarch Butterfly Program Presented to the Cape Ann Garden Club

This morning I had the pleasure of presenting my Monarch butterfly program to the Cape Ann Garden Club. The meeting was held at the charming and beautifully maintained Annisquam Village Hall, located in the very heart of Annisquam. Thank you Cape Ann Garden Club members for your enthusiasm and for your interest–it was my joy!

Cape Ann Garden Club Annisquam Village Hall Fujifilm x100

These lovely arrangements are created by the members and then gathered up at the end of the meeting to be distributed to nearby nursing homes.

Cape Ann Garden Club Annisquam Village Hall Fujifilm x100

Cape Ann Garden Club Annisquam Village Hall Fujifilm x100Notice the bare spots on the walls of the Hall. The Margaret Fitzhugh Browne portraits of local villagers are temporarily on loan to the Cape Ann Museum.

Cape Ann Garden Club Annisquam Village Hall fujifilm x100.jpgCarolyn Stewart’s peonies from her garden in Vermont–imagine, fresh peonies in July!

More about Margaret Fitzhugh Browne

From wiki: … “From early 1944 through May 1945, Browne served the USO as a Portrait Sketcher, volunteering three times a week, as her diaries now at the Boston Public Library indicate . Photographs of over 120 of these charcoal portraits of servicemen and women were made and presented to her and are archived in the Boston Public Library. Many of the photographs carry the names of the servicemen and women and a few wrote a heartfelt note to her on the back. Similar wartime efforts have been documented and help understand the support that she and others gave to the war.”

Margaret Fitzhugh Browne Modern PriscillaCover illustration by Browne for The Modern Priscilla: A Magazine Exclusively for Women, September 1909.

As Raymond Agler, Fine Arts Dealer, writes on his web page:

“Browne’s love of the staged scene found perfect expression in her annual “Wax Works”, the tableau vivants that she produced every summer for 25 years at the Annisquam Sea Fair (which continues to the present, and was the subject of an article in the “New Yorker”). She had an uncanny talent for identifying facial similarities of the famous or infamous in the looks and manners of her neighbors–who were then recruited to pose as wax figures, the subjects ranging from Marat (with a gob of ketchup on his chest) in his bathtub, to Little Miss Muffet.”

Margaret Fitzhugh Browne: Sixty Years of Portrait Painting

Now through October 9th at the Cape Ann Museum

Margaret Fitzhugh-BrowneMargaret Fitzhugh Browne (1884-1972) Emily “Bonnie” Browne, the Artist’s Sister, c. 1920s.
Oil on canvas. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum.

Margaret Fitzhugh Browne (1884-1972) was an important member of both the Boston and the Cape Ann communities. Locally, she maintained a studio in Annisquam and was an active member of the North Shore Arts Association and the Gloucester Society of Artists.

The walls of the second floor of the Annisquam Village Hall seemed naked without Margaret Browne’s strikingly beautiful portraits. In addition to paintings borrowed from the Hall, on exhibit at the Cape Ann Museum are Browne’s paintings in the museum’s collections, and paintings borrowed from private collections. A special Margaret Browne walking tour of Annisquam is scheduled for this coming Saturday, July 16th.

Saturday, July 16, from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Margaret Fitzhugh Browne’s Annisquam Walking Tour

Take an historical stroll through the artist’s Annisquam neighborhood. Offered in conjunction with the special exhibition, Margaret Fitzhugh Browne: Sixty Years of Portrait Painting. $20 members, $30 nonmembers. Cape Ann Museum Exhibits and Programs

7th Wave Rockport

Sunday night my husband and I tried a new restaurant (new for us, that is), the 7th Wave in Rockport on Tuna Wharf. Our son Alex is cooking there this summer. The hostess was lovely and Talia, one of the owners, greeted us at the front desk. We had made a reservation for 7:00 and were seated immediately on the upper deck, with the stunning view of Rockport Harbor and beyond.

7th Wave Restaurant Fujifilm x100-View from the deck

The atmosphere is lively, relaxed, and entirely kid-and family-friendly. The waitstaff was hardworking and alot of fun and our food came along very quickly, no waiting for anything, despite the fact that it was a full house.

7th Wave Restaurant Fujifilm x100-

Our son was working the grill, so we restricted ourselves to grilled items only. I had the surf (super delicious grilled shrimp) and turf (petite filet, cooked to perfection) and Tom, the fantastic grilled tuna. I am usually more of a chowder and lobster person and can’t wait to go again and try more items on the menu. The lobster rolls and lobster salads passing by our table were heaped high with lobster meat and the chowder looked creamy and hearty. Elaine, mother of Talia, and owner, stopped by our table to say hello and to chat. It’s a family-owned business and the restaurant is named the 7th Wave because of their seven family members. The Kahn family opened their doors in June 2009 and they had their busiest night ever, the Saturday night before we ate dinner there. It was great to hear about their thriving business and we are looking forward to many return visits! The menu and hours of operation are posted on their website. 7th Wave Restaurant, 7 Tuna Wharf, Rockport.

7th Wave Restaurant Fujifilm x100-The pirate ship Formidable (a traditional square-rigged tall ship) was headed in for the evening and is docked at the end of Tuna Wharf.

7th Wave Restaurant Fujifilm x100-The captain invited us aboard and then very kindly asked us if we would like to be his guests on a a future sunset sail–of course, we would be delighted we told him!

7th Wave Restaurant Fujifilm x100-Looking back toward Bearskin Neck from Tuna Wharf.

Northward Migrating Monarch Butterflies Arrive to Good Harbor Beach and to Our Garden!

While snapping a photo of the divinely scented honeysuckle embowering the outside shower…
Honeysuckle embowered shower enclosure Lonicera japonica 'Purpurea'

I spotted our first female Monarch butterfly of the season.

Monarch Butterfly Marsh MilkweedShe’s arrived a bit earlier than usual this year, or more accurately, the milkweeds in our garden are slightly behind in blossoming time-Marsh Milkweed won’t bloom for another half-week and Common Milkweed won’t flower for another two weeks (both milkweed patches are growing nearby the shower enclosure). However, she did not have nectaring in mind.

Monarch Butterfly Marsh MilkweedPausing at the emerging buds and foliage of the Marsh Milkweed, then to the Common Milkweed, then back to Marsh, and curling her abdomen to the underside, one by one she oviposited golden egg after golden egg.

Monarch Butterfly depositing egg on Marsh Milkweed

Monarch Butterfly depositing egg on Marsh Milkweed

Typically, she searches for the uppermost, freshly emerging foliage in which to deposit her eggs. Click the above photo to make it larger. The newly deposited egg, no larger than the size of a pinhead, is a visible pale yellow dot adjacent to her abdomen.

Monarch Butterfly Marsh MilkweedAfter ovipositing an egg on the Marsh Milkweed, she next deposited several on the Common.

Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca Monarch Butterfly Eggs

Click the above photo. Five eggs are visible, two on the upper leaf of the plant to the left and three on the upper leaf of the plant to the right.

I never tire of watching butterflies, especially Monarchs, whether in our garden or further afield, and eagerly anticipate their arrival each year. Monarchs are particularly gratifying to observe and record because they are one of the larger butterflies that grace our region. Oftentimes when I am photographing a smaller butterfly such as a Summer Azure, with a mere one-inch wingspan, I don’t know what I have captured through the camera’s lens until returning to the computer to download and edit. Monarchs, with their big and bold wing patterning and approachableness (is that a word?) are a joy to photograph. Because of their extraordinary migration, I believe the Monarch butterflies are one of the natural wonders of the world. We are so blessed to live in a community that plays host to such great numbers. PLANT MILKWEED and you, too, will have Monarchs! I guarentee it!

ommon Milkweed Asclepias syriaca Good Harbor Beach GloucesterCommon Milkweed in full bloom at Good Harbor Beach this week.

ommon Milkweed Asclepias syriaca Good Harbor Beach Gloucester

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) found along the shoreline grows in sandy soil and is exposed daily to windy seaside conditions. In these rough and tumble conditions it typically grows two- to two and a half -feet tall. Conversely, where in our garden it grows in fertile, friable soil and lives in a sheltered corner protected from wind, Common Milkweed often grows six to seven feet tall.

Walking along the boardwalk I often catch the sweet honey-hay fragrance of the Common Milkweed when in full bloom. Marsh Milkweed has little to no fragrance. Several Monarchs were seen while photographing this patch of milkweed.

ommon Milkweed Asclepias syriaca Good Harbor Beach Gloucester

Torch Lily (Kniphofia uvaria)Blooming along the pathway leading to the outdoor shower is the magnificent hummingbird attractant Torch Lily (Kniphofia uvaria) and bee magnet Helenium, commonly called Sneezeweed or Dog Tooth Daisy.

Helenium Sneezeweed Dog Tooth Daisy Mexican marigolds Tagetes tenuifolia

The foliage of the diminutive Mexican marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia), commonly referred to by the Mexican people as “flowers of the dead,” bears a fabulous spicy citrus fragrance. Flowers and foliage are edible and add both a tangy color and taste. I grow it in a pot, keeping it sometimes near the shower and sometimes moving it to the dining area.

The female Monarch stayed the morning and I have not seen her since. Lucky us, though. I found fifteen eggs, without really trying too hard, and will now have lots of caterpillars and chyrsalids for upcoming butterfly programs!

End Note regarding Japanese honeysuckle: The variety discussed here is a purple-stemmed variant and I have seen it written as Lonicera japonica var. repens and Lonicera japonica ‘Purpurea.’ In our zone 6 garden, I have found it to be well-behaved, neither bearing fruit nor sending runners. I do not recommend planting in zones 7 and above.  Lonicera ‘Purpurea is highly attractive to all manner of bees. As richly scented as the species, the blossoming time of L. ‘Purpurea’ lasts well over six weeks, equating weeks of showering while enwrapped in the spellbinding sweet scent of honeysuckle.

Lonicera japonica var. repens or Lonicera japonica 'Purpurea'Lonicera japonica var. repens or Lonicera japonica ‘Purpurea’

Happy Independence Day!

Here’s to the Red (sort of), White, and Blue!

Rosa 'Aloha' Fujifilm x100Sweetly Scented Rosa ‘Aloha’

Variegated Mock Orange Philadelphus Fujifilm x100Deliciously Fragrant Variegated Mock Orange (Philadelphus)

Feverfew and Native Iris versicolor Fujifilm x100Native Blue Flag (Iris versicolor) with Aromatic Feverfew