gardening, nature

The herbal way to attract pollinators

A year ago, I visited a Texas lavender farm for the first time. I was in awe at the number of bees buzzing around as I stooped to harvest some of the flowering stems. Until then, I had no idea what a bee magnet lavender was!

lavenderfarm7

I have long grown herbs in our North Texas garden. I have always planted at least one African blue basil plant each spring, as the bees are drawn to its blooms in droves. I have even planted fennel and parsley as host plants for butterflies. But beyond that, I never gave much consideration to planting herbs specifically for pollinators until the day I saw a lavender field alive with bees!

This week is National Pollinator Week.

There are many ways that gardeners can lend pollinators a hand. Some may prefer to use only plants native to their region, while others may be drawn to annuals such as zinnias and pentas. Still others may choose the herbal way – attracting pollinators to their garden with herbs and their fragrant blossoms. What a winning arrangement! Growing herbs for use in the home, while also benefiting the earth. (Just please be sure to plant enough to share and don’t use pesticides.)

Lavender (shown in photo above) does best in full sun, with well drained soil. There are over 400 varieties of lavender. Some are grown specifically for cooking or for crafting, for distilling into essential oils or for landscaping. The United States Lavender Growers Association is an excellent resource for researching which varieties may be best suited for your intended use. A few lavender varieties have white blossoms, while the majority are some shade of — lavender.

butterfly

Garlic chives (shown above and below) are somewhat invasive in my North Texas garden, but always a welcome sight. When other plants are slowing down in the late summer heat, garlic chives are only beginning to show their spectacular white blossoms. (Garlic chives can be contained by cutting off the spent blossoms before the seeds have had a chance to dry and spread about. I just never get around to deadheading it in time…)

I choose not to use garlic chives in my kitchen, as I find their flavor to be overpowering. I much prefer the milder onion chives, which have a small pinkish purple bloom in the spring. I do not personally find as many pollinators using  onion chives.

bee on chives

Fennel, as shown below, can be used as a host plant by the black swallowtail butterfly.

caterpiller june 1

The fennel blossom – large, flat and bright yellow – makes the perfect “landing pad” for pollinators large and small. Parsley and dill are also host plants to the black swallowtail butterfly. I have not had great success with dill in my garden, though fennel does extremely well. Parsley has lovely blooms but does not attract pollinators as well as fennel. (Fennel shown below.)

hairstreak on fennel

While Greek oregano does not have showy blossoms, bees and smaller butterflies can often be found on it. (Shown below. I personally think this oregano’s blooms look a mess!) Greek Oregano is evergreen in North Texas and can be harvested year-round for Italian cooking. Like lavender, oregano prefers well drained soil and a sunny location.

bee on oregano

Kent Beauty, an ornamental oregano with lovely cascading blooms, will also attract pollinators. What you give up in culinary use, you gain in beauty with this one… Kent Beauty is reported to be winter hardy to zone 9, though I have yet to have one make it through a winter. (I blame our wet winters…)

There are more than 50 varieties of basil, most grown for their wonderfully edible leaves. To keep a basil plant producing leaves, the blossoms need to be pinched off or it will put its energy into producing seeds. Simply snip off any forming blooms every time you harvest basil.

African blue basil, however, is not commonly used in the kitchen as it has a strong camphor smell that many dislike. It will continue producing blossoms – and attracting pollinators – all summer long. In fact, African blue basil (shown below, with okra) is often planted near vegetables to aid in pollination.

african blue basil with okra

This is in no part a complete list of herbs that attract pollinators, rather just a taste of the possibilities As you are celebrating National Pollinator Week, consider adding a few herbs to your garden. A treat for you and a treat for our pollinators.

 

 

gardening, nature

Native Host Plants for Texas Butterflies: A Book Reviewed

There are numerous books on the market for butterfly gardening, but Native Host Plants for Texas Butterflies (by Weber, Weber and Wauer) is the first one I have found dedicated exclusively to the butterflies that call Texas home and the native plants they require for their survival.

June 17th to 23rd is National Pollinator Week and what better time to research and plan your own butterfly habitat.

“The very nature of a healthy ecosystem is defined by the interrelationships and dependencies between species, and nowhere is this more evident than in the world of butterflies and their larval host plants,” the authors write in the book’s opening pages.

native host plants book

Indeed, the balance between the adult butterfly, the tiny eggs she will lay on a specific host plant and the growing caterpillars’ feeding requirements captivates us all, young and old alike. Texas has nearly 500 butterfly species that call it home and this book features more than 140 of them, along with the host plant that the butterfly needs for reproduction.

native host plants turks cap

Written as a field guide (and aptly subtitled “A Field Guide”), the material is presented in a clear and concise manner. The book is divided into sections: Wildflowers, Trees, Shrubs and Vines.

Each plant (such as Turk’s Cap, shown above) has two pages dedicated to it. The left page shows the plant – leaves, flower and seed – along with a map where this plant naturally occurs. The right side page includes both the common and Latin name, along with plant and flower descriptions and sizes. The book then shows at least one Texas butterfly – in both adult and larval (caterpillar) stage – that uses that specific plant as its larval host.

turks cap backyard

To  have that healthy ecosystem, one with interrelationships between species, it is important to remember to offer both foliage and nectar rich flowers. The adults need that foliage to lay their eggs on and for the caterpillars to feed upon, while flowers will attract the adults.

Turk’s Cap (shown above, in my backyard garden) is host to the Turk’s Cap White Skipper. If one is new to butterfly gardening, it is important to remember to plant enough that you can look the other way as the hungry caterpillars munch on the leaves, as those leaves are food for the future generations. Please remember – never use pesticides in a butterfly garden!

turks cap flower

Adult butterflies, moths, bees and hummingbirds will all appreciate the nectar from the blossoms on the Turk’s Cap (shown above).

Bluebonnets, the official state flower of Texas, are the host plant for the Gray Hairstreak and the Eastern Tailed-Blue. Bluebonnets can be started either by seed or by plants, which are available at garden centers that specialize in native plants.

burr oak canopy

Many of the plants featured in this book are attractive – plants the average homeowner would want to have in their landscape. Bur oak trees (two of which are shown above) offer a lovely shade canopy to our front garden. This oak, available at most garden centers, is the host plant to the Banded Hairstreak and the Juvenal’s Duskywing.

Some of the native plants featured in this book are becoming more and more common across the state, such as the Redbud (host plant to Henry’s Elfin), Black-eyed Susan (host plant to the Silvery Checkerspot) and Cenizo (host plant to the Theona Checkerspot.) Others may need to be purchased either through Native Plant Society’s plant sales or at wildflower centers. (Both The Heard Natural Science Museum and The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center have plant sales every spring and offer harder to find native plants.)

This book will appeal to anyone interested in either butterfly gardening or in native plants of Texas. It is easy enough for a beginner gardener to use, but extensive enough to satisfy even a more advanced naturalist. The reader may chose to stick with those native plants that are easier to find or may take the book as a challenge, as they seek out hard to find natives.

Please consider planting a native plant (or two or five) next week in honor of National Pollinator Week.

gardening, nature

National Pollinator Week (Bee Kind…)

Next week – June 17th through the 23rd – is National Pollinator Week.

Seven days to honor the pollinators that our food supply depends on 365 days a year…

Pollinators – bees, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles and small mammals – are responsible for pollinating more than 180,000 plant species and 1,200 crops. Yet they are under threat world-wide due to loss of feeding and nesting habitat, pollution, pesticide use and many other factors.

Thankfully, gardeners and farmers worldwide are realizing that more can be done – needs to be done – every single day to assist the humble workers that pollinate as much as three-quarters of our food crops.

In Texas, gardeners often talk about planting for year-round interest, so their gardens have something in bloom every month of the year. This is actually the single best way to help out our pollinators, too! If you live in colder regions, the principle is still the same. Extend your season. Plan and plant to have something in bloom as much of the growing season as possible.

Coneflowers, shown below with a bumble bee, are one of my favorite native plants. They have a long bloom season, blooming roughly seven months of the year in my zone 8a garden. (From May to the first freeze in middle to late November.)  When researching new plants for your garden, make sure to look at the blooming season and include plants that bloom both early and late.

coneflower with bee

Native plants are very beneficial for pollinators, but one does not need to rely solely on native plants. In fact, I prefer to fill in my seasonal garden with non-native annual flowers, such as zinnias and pentas in the summer. Do include mostly plants that have not been hybridized heavily and avoid plants with “double” blooms as they often produce less pollen. Simple flat flower heads, such as the garlic chive bloom shown below, are best for larger pollinators, while small pollinators will crawl inside a flower bloom. Do plant a variety of bloom colors and sizes, as well as flower types.

butterfly

To specifically help butterflies and moths, plant “host plants,” the plants they will eat while in the larval (caterpillar) stage. Below is a swallowtail butterfly in the larval stage, eating fennel in my garden. Which brings us to the next important thing to do – or rather, not do – to protect pollinators…

caterpiller june 1

Do not use pesticides!

More and more studies have come out in the past few years showing how harmful pesticides are for all of our ecosystem, not just the pest they are intended for.

If you want to attract pollinators to your garden, you do need to adopt two very important rules. 1.) Overlook cosmetic damage done by insects in your garden. 2.) Plant extra for the insects to munch on. These two rules actually go hand in hand. The more you plant, the less you will notice a munch here and there…

There are organic methods to control many common garden pests, but I have found in  25 years of organic gardening that nature tends to balance itself out quite well when left to its own.

Pollinators prefer a sunny area, sheltered away from the north wind. (Below, butterflies on fall blooming Gregg’s mist flower.)

butterflies

Pollinators need habitat to roost and to nest, not just to feed. Leaf litter (unraked leaves) is a great place for pollinators to seek cover in the fall and winter. Dead trees, if they can be safely left to rot in place, are a great habitat for pollinators. If a dead tree does need to be removed, consider leaving a portion of it down on the ground. Even a small collection of tree branches and twigs can be beneficial to pollinators on a smaller property. Bee boxes or condos for our native bees can also be constructed from tree branches.

moth on coneflower 1

But… Most importantly… Bee Kind.

bee kind cup and tea towel

Be sure to check out your own local resources, whether an arboretum, a native plant nursery or a regional nature guidebook. The more one knows about gardening and nature, the more one can appreciate it.

winecup and mallow

Resources for Texas:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (Austin, Texas)

Redenta’s Garden (Dallas, Texas)

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

bibliophile, gardening, nature

On this June day…

On this June day the buds in my garden are almost as enchanting as the open flowers. Things in bud bring, in the heat of a June noontide, the recollection of the loveliest days of the year – those days of May when all is suggested, nothing yet fulfilled.
– Francis King

coneflower

Purple coneflower. Echinacea purpurea. “…suggested, not yet fulfilled.”

The unopened bloom is almost. almost. as pretty as the opened bloom.

So symmetrical. So green. So full of promise, with not even a hint of the “cone” of which its name comes from.

coneflowerjune1

And then this happens. The bloom is fulfilled and oh, so enchanting.

The many stages of blooms in just one brief snapshot. From bud to cone. From suggestion to fulfilled.

~ ~ ~

I garden to have year-round color, so “all” is not suggested in May as Francis King writes, yet his thought is so beautiful I cannot pass over it.

In June, as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day. No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them.
– Aldo Leopold

Indeed, a dozen species – or so it seems- are bursting forth each day. Spring rains have left the garden lush and thriving. Especially the weeds. But such is life in the garden.

The daylilies are stealing the scene on this June day. The winecups continue to offer a colorful backdrop from every vantage point.

daylily and winecup

This one (I believe it is Ruby Spider) is especially big and bold today. Oakes Daylilies has long been my go-to source for quality daylilies. Their website allows you to shop by bloom size, bloom height, color or many other features you may be searching for.

For me, last year was the year I shopped for daylilies with huge blooms. That decision is paying off already with this stunner!

daylilyjune1

Daylily blooms, as their name suggest, last for one day. Daylily plants are generally loaded with both blooms and buds this time of year. The suggested and the fulfilled.

(Speaking of weeds. Sometimes our “weeds” were once well intended plants that thrived all too well in the garden. Such is the case with that lovely Oriental Limelight Artemisia, to the left of the daylily in the photograph above… It is beautiful, but way, way too happy in my garden!)

It’s beautiful the Summer month of June
When all of God’s own wildflowers are in bloom
And sun shines brightly most part of the day
And butterflies o’er lush green meadows play.

– Francis Duggan, June

Zexmenia, a Texas native wildflower, is coming in to bloom.

zexmenia

I have yet to see many butterflies fluttering over its sun gold blooms… I am trying not to worry, but the bees and butterflies have been noticeably absent from my garden this spring. I am hoping the rain has just delayed their presence. National Pollinator Week is coming up and, like every year, I will add more pollinator plants to my garden. Won’t you do the same? So much of our food supply is dependent on pollinators and our pollinators are struggling as more and more of the world is moving from rural, untouched earth to developed suburbia.

In Dallas, North Haven Gardens is hosting a workshop for National Pollinator Week. Planting a pollinator garden with your children or grandchildren is a great way to expose young ones to the joy of gardening. I hope to write more on that in the upcoming weeks.

No flowers, no bees;
No bees, no flowers.
Blooming and buzzing,
Buzzing and blooming;
Married and still in Love.
–  Mike Garofalo, Cuttings

daylily winecup coneflower

One of the benefits – and joys — of planning and planting a garden for year-round color is that you can attract – and assist – wildlife year-round. In the photo above are winecups,  coneflowers and daylilies. The winecups and coneflowers are both native, while the daylililes are well adapted to much of the United States. They have similar water, soil and sun requirements, though their bloom season overlaps. The winecups have been blooming for well over a month now…while the daylililes and coneflowers are just now starting to bloom. The coneflowers will now bloom off and on to our first freeze. All are beneficial to pollinators. I will allow the late coneflowers to dry on the plant, where the seeds will attract and feed winter birds.

I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.
– L. M. Montgomery

I love L.M. Montegomery’s thought. June is perhaps my favorite time of year. So much happening in the garden! And yet… I would miss the other seasons in the garden.

button bush

Our native Button Bush is just now forming buds, these tiny green balls – so much suggested and not yet fulfilled.

beauty berrry

Same with our native Beauty Berry. As the name applies, it has beautiful berries, still a few months from fully developing and ripening into its rich purple berries that the birds love.

turks cap

Our native Turk’s Cap has loved the abundant rains this spring, but its red blooms – a true hummingbird magnet – have not yet appeared. Once it starts blooming, it will continue to bloom – and attract wildlife – through to our first freeze next fall/winter.

What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.
–  Gertrude Jekyll, On Gardening

I hope you have enjoyed walking through my garden and my thoughts with me today.

gardening, nature

The creation of a thousand forests…

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yes. I know I often quote Emerson, but I was reminded of those thousand forests this afternoon when my puppy drug in the largest acorn I think I have ever seen.

burr oak cap

Sorry. No adorable puppy photo. But I was able to save the acorn cap to measure and photograph. It got me thinking about the bur oak tree… And how a long-time friend, Tamara, says that the bur oak tree is the “oakiest” of all the oak trees.

Indeed. It has the largest acorns.

Quercus macrocarpa – The bur oak’s latin name. Macrocarpa means “large fruit” in Ancient Greek. (Photo below is a slight exaggeration.)

oak ornament

It has the largest leaves.

burr oak leaf

The roughest corky bark.

burr oak bark

And. Truly. If the creation of a thousand forests is contained in a single acorn, then a million forests must be contained within a bur oak acorn.

burr oak with house

Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. ~ Warren Buffett

I have read mixed reports of the bur oak’s rate of growth, but from personal experience, I would rate it as a fast grower.

We have two bur oak trees on our suburban lot. One planted by the developer 25 years ago and the other planted by a squirrel 15 years ago. Both trees now tower over our house. (Photo above and below.)

oak tree2

Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.  ~ Kahlil Gebran

The bur oak, which in the white oak family, is native to much of the United States, including North Texas. It is sometimes appropriately called “mossycup oak.” (See photo below.)

burr oak acorn

Bur oak trees can reach 100 feet tall and live to around 200-300 years old.

The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all, our most pleasing responsibility.  ~ Wendell Berry

November 1st is Arbor Day in Texas, so plan now to plant a shade tree so future generations can sit in its shade and wax poetically about forests and acorns.

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree oak tree. ~ Martin Luther

gardening, nature

Buttonbush for pollinators

When I broke ground on my first garden area 23 years ago, I knew I wanted to create a habitat for butterflies and birds, lizards and toads and such. But specifically bees? Pollinators? It wasn’t until the European honey bee’s population started to decline from Colony Collapse Disorder around 2006 that our pollinators gained some much deserved attention.

buttonbushbee

Eleven years ago, the U.S. senate voted to mark a week each year to address pollinators’ declining populations. What started as an American initiative is now a worldwide movement to “promote the health of our pollinators, critical to our food and ecosystems, through conservation, education and research.” (Mission statement from Pollinator Partnership.)

This week is National Pollinator Week. Somehow a week hardly seems enough time to celebrate our pollinators, so vitally important to our world’s food supply. Currently, about one third of the food we consume is reliant upon pollinators for production.

Pollinator Partnership reports there are 200,000 species of pollinators, with only about 1,000 of those being hummingbirds, bats and small mammals. Bees, ants, beetles, butterflies and moths make up the remaining pollinators.

buttonbushbutterfly2

After all these years of gardening in North Texas, I have several plants that I now recommend for attracting wildlife, specifically butterflies and bees. But one plant, in particular, is my favorite – and it is also one of the unsung natives that, like pollinators, deserves more attention.

Buttonbush – Cephalanthus occidentalis

This plant – large shrub or small tree, depending on how pruned – produces white perfectly spherical globes of nectar.

buttonbush3

Butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects dine on the nectar, with birds eating the fruits in the winter. Buttonbush is also a host plant for several species of butterflies and moths.

buttonbush2

Buttonbush is native to many areas of the United States and can be found naturally growing in wet areas. Thankfully it is highly adaptable and will grow in any soil type and in a traditional garden setting. It likes full to partial sun.

buttonbushladybug

To attract pollinators, it is important to select a variety of plants so your garden features blooms throughout the growing season. Native plants are preferred, whenever possible. Be sure to include larval host plants, such as milkweed for monarchs and fennel or dill for swallowtail butterflies. And. Avoid pesticides!

Please visit Pollinator Partnership for additional information and ideas on what you can do in your own backyard or corner of the world to support pollinators.

pwgraphic-for-SM-post

bibliophile, gardening, nature

The Praying Mantis

In the insect world, there are good bugs and there are bad bugs. And then there is the praying mantis. The indiscriminate hunter. The dinosaur of the insect world. The hunter and the hunted. Both intriguing and deadly.

Watching a praying mantis stalk its prey feels a bit like Jurassic Park. They will sit still, waiting the perfect moment to ambush the unexpecting. Insect. Lizard. Small bird. They don’t care. They will take down a nasty grasshopper just as easily as a beautiful butterfly or a beneficial honeybee. They are carnivores, eating meat instead of vegetation like many garden insects. The mantis: both good bug and bad bug. All in one fascinating package.

Mary Ann, a child’s picture book by Betsy James, was a favorite at our home when my son was young.

elf on mantis 2

Amy, sad that her best friend Mary Ann moved away, told her daddy that she wished there were hundreds and hundreds of Mary Anns. “Then if one ever moves away, it wouldn’t matter,” she says. When Amy finds a praying mantis in her clubhouse, she names the mantis Mary Ann and puts the mantis in a terrarium inside their home. Every day the mantis gets larger and larger, until one day, “when summer was over, she pushed a ball of foam out of her tail, onto a fern stem.” This foam hardens, thus protecting the eggs inside. Mary Ann, the mantis, passes away after laying her eggs, as often happens in the insect world. Time passes, and the lid falls off the terrarium. Then.. one day… the family returns home to find…the egg has hatched!

“Look at all the Mary Anns!”

Hundreds and hundreds of Mary Anns.

mantis2

Mary Anns in the teacups. Mary Anns on the toaster and the telephone, under the soap, behind the vegetables! Mary Anns all over the house! “I had hundreds and hundreds of Mary Anns,” the excited girl in the story exclaims!

And such it is when a praying mantis egg hatches. A small hard foamy egg about the diameter of a quarter, home to hundreds of babies!

mantis5

The babies, about the size of half a grain of rice, emerge in bunches, by the hundreds.

mantis1

It is an amazing sight to behold.

The female mantis lays one egg case in the fall – a foamy capsule, generally attached to a small stem or branch. She then dies. Come spring, the egg case hatches.

Praying mantis egg cases may be purchased from science supply companies, online garden sources or at some local nurseries. Place the egg case in a (well!) covered terrarium (so you don’t have Mary Anns in your teacups!)  Make sure the terrarium is out of direct sunlight! And then…wait patiently…ever so patiently…until one day you will notice – movement! The egg case is…covered…with itty bitty baby praying mantis.

There are around 2,000 species of mantis around the world. Depending on the species, one praying mantis may lay up to 400 eggs.

mantis4

The praying mantis has an incomplete metamorphosis, meaning that the nymph (young insect) that emerges looks like a mini replica of the adult praying mantis. Triangular head. Bulging compound eyes. Elongated body. Large forelegs, perfectly adapted for catching prey.

elf on mantis 3

Fierce hunter, right from the beginning. Once hatched, the terrarium lid needs to be removed so the mantis can scatter. They are hungry and ready to eat immediately and, if not able to find other food, they will turn cannibal.

praying mantis

Insects that go through incomplete metamorphosis have three stages of life – egg, nymph and adult. They will shed their hard exoskeleton as they grow, molting, discarding one exoskeleton for another, several times throughout their short lives. Most of the praying mantis species in our country grow to about three inches in length.

Never pick up a praying mantis, as they are easily injured. However, you can place your hand near them and they will walk onto you. No need to worry about being bit.

Whether they are beneficial to an organic garden or not is debatable, but hatching a mantis egg is a fun spring-time science experiment for children – of all ages!

elf on praying mantis

bibliophile, nature

Mr. Crinkleroot

I would like to introduce another long-time friend of mine.

Mr. Crinkleroot.

I could tell you all about him, but I think I will let him speak for himself. “Crinkleroot was born in a tree and raised by bees.” How cool is that? “He can whistle in a hundred languages and speak caterpillar, salamander, and turtle, too.” I want that Super Power! But most importantly, “he knows all about wild animals, even the ones that live around your house.”

Mr. Crinkleroot, you see, is a rugged naturalist, a creation of Jim Arnosky, self taught writer, artist and natural scientist.

arnosky books1

My son and I first met Mr. Crinkleroot when my son was just a wee thing, maybe preschool or kindergarten age. We had read this wonderful book called Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and my son wanted to learn more about owls. A library catalog search led us to All About Owls by Jim Arnosky, which led us to dissecting our first of many owl pellets and thus began a long relationship with Mr. Arnosky and Mr. Crinkleroot.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire,” wrote William Butler Yeats. Lighting that fire, raising the curiosity, that is what Mr. Crinkleroot did in our household and what he has done for a great many other children.

Our family has kept a nature collection for many years. Throughout this post, there will be photographs of Mr. Arnosky’s books, along with items from our nature collection. For us, the two went hand in hand. The more we read about and studied nature, the more we discovered, even when we weren’t looking for it. Suddenly that dead moth on our driveway wasn’t just a dead moth on our driveway. It was something to observe, something to admire, something to collect. No animals or insects were harmed in the making of our nature collection. (The tree was harmed, but it needed to go and a dozen better adapted trees were planted in its place. The turtle shell was found on our property as is. I fear it was our neighbor’s turtle that escaped their yard several years before I found its remains.) Please be sure to look at Mr. Arnosky’s art work in the photographs. The attention to detail is what drew us into his work.

nature collection

We now own more than a dozen of Mr. Arnosky’s books. Don’t be impressed by our collection. He has written and published more than 130-some books! I obviously have more book collecting to do before I even make a dent in his publications.

Besides Mr. Arnosky’s amazingly detailed illustrations, the drawings are often life size.  Thunder Birds, in particular, has fold out pages that show the real size of a pelican’s beak and an osprey’s wing span. Did I mention he is a self-taught artist?! That fact is even more impressive when you see his illustrations on that larger scale.

arnosky book turtle

Big Jim and The White-Legged Moose, thankfully, is not drawn life size. The tall-tale was inspired by Mr. Arnosky’s real life encounter with a bull moose in the fall of 1987.  “Big Jim dropped his art supplies and climbed a nearby birch. With the bull below, Jim prayed, as if he were in church.” I won’t give away the ending, but it is a fun book worth seeking out.

arnosky snake

Crinkleroot’s guide books inspired a great many nature hunts and explorations of us. Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing…  The Trees… Butterflies and Moths… Walking in Wild Places… Animal Habitats… These books are very informative, with practical information like how to identify poison ivy and poison sumac. Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing Animal Habitats details the three most common types of wetlands – marsh, bog and swamp – along with drawings of what animals might be found in each place. As with many of his drawings, every butterfly and moth featured in Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing Butterflies and Moths is shown real size. His information – as detailed as it is – is always presented in such a way that even the youngest child can appreciate.

arnosky tree ring

Mr. Arnosky’s books reflect his admiration of other naturalists before him, such as John Muir and John Burroughs. Field Trips, a book that continues to inspire me to grab my binoculars and field guides and head out on a hike, was dedicated to the great ornithologist, Roger Tory Peterson. Field Trips, like all of his books, is a treasure trove of his art work – more than 300 drawings and 175 identification silhouettes.

arnosky shells

If you are looking for a book for an older child, or even for yourself, Nearer Nature is Mr. Arnosky’s reflections and observations of life on his Vermont farm. Secrets of a Wildlife Watcher is another great book for older readers, as it explains how to find and observe wild animals in their various habitats.

arnosky books dragonfly

“When you witness an intimate tidbit of a wild animal’s private life, glean all you can from the experience. Pay attention to the details, and wonder about what you see… Don’t just look. Observe…You can always be sharpening your powers of observation.” (page 44 of Secrets of a Wildlife Watcher) Whenever I read that quote, I am reminded that some medical schools today require their students to study art, as that power of observation, being able to look and find the smallest detail, is fading away, yet it is an important skill to have and to hone.

I would like to end this post with a direct quote, as I couldn’t say it better myself. “(Crinkleroot) can find puzzles hidden among the leaves and stories written in the snow. There’s nothing he’d like better than to share them with you.” ~ Jim Arnosky

bibliophile, gardening, herbal fare, nature, vintage

the melodious garden, explained

An orchestra pulls in many elements to make a wondrous song. The conductor. The musicians. The instruments. The acoustics of the performance hall.

And so it goes with gardening. A gardener pulls together plants, the elements, the sights and sounds of nature, to make a harmonious garden… a melody.

And such, the melodious garden is born. I seek to pull together the sights, sounds and textures of life, to pass along my love of books and gardening, beautiful creations and flowers and nature.

the melodious garden is coming together in pieces and parts. This blog. My garden boutique at The Grapevine Antique Market. (Booth U16, in “The Loft.”) Selling used books on Amazon. There are a few more garden related adventures on the horizon that will come together in time. My lovely sister-in-law, Kerri, is joining me on part of this journey, as she will be selling her floral creations in my garden boutique.

I have no idea where this path will lead, but life is always an adventure.