One of the teeniest butterflies you’ll see at this time of year is the Spring Azure, with a wing to wing span of less than one inch. Found in meadows, fields, gardens, and along the forest edge, the celestial blue flakes pause to drink nectar from clover, Quaker Ladies, crabapples, dandelions, and whatever tiny floret strikes her fancy.
You can find the Azures flitting about Crabapple blossoms.
Native wildflowers Quaker Ladies, also called Bluets, are an early season source of nectar for Azures.
If you’d like to attract these spring beauties to your garden, plant native flowering dogwood * (Cornus florida), blueberries, and viburnums; all three are caterpillar food plants of the beautiful Spring Azure Butterfly.
The female butterfly curls her abdomen around in a C-shape and deposits eggs amongst the yellow florets of the flowering dogwood. Pink or white, both are equally attractive to the Spring Azure.
Cornus florida ‘rubra’
*Only our native flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, is a caterpillar food plant for Azure butterflies. Don’t bother substituting the non-native Korean Dogwood, it won’t help the pollinators.
Native Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) at Willowdale Estate Butterfly Garden
Please join me Wednesday, March 23rd, for my Pollinator Garden program at the Abbot Library, 235 Pleasant Street, Marblehead. The program begins at 7:00pm and is sponsored by Marblehead’s three garden clubs, The Driftwood, Cottage, and Marblehead Garden Clubs. I hope to see you there!
Cornus florida rubra ~ The pink flowering dogwood is truly one of our most beautiful native trees, not only for the beauty of its blossoms but because the female Spring Azure butterfly deposits her eggs on the yellow florets.
Bluets, also known by the charming name Quaker Ladies
The first day of spring! It’s official although, with temperatures hovering in the twenties, its hard to believe. Close your eyes and imagine along with me pink and orange tulips, spring dresses, (stick with me here–just don’t look out your window at the still high drifts of snow) fields of bluets, sailboats in the harbor, windows open, the music of buzzing bees, shoots of new green grass, blue skies, robin bird songs, the smell of freshly tilled earth, fog horns in the distance, baby birds, misty warm April showers, the sweet scent of jonquils, bird’s nests along the meadow’s edge, the song of the Baltimore orioles returning, walking along the beach (without bundling up), friendly Red Admiral butterflies, lilacs, plum blossoms, magnolias in bloom, dogwoods in bloom, orange poppies, sweet pea tendrils, and sweet alyssum (see there, its not that hard).
Hurry Up Spring!
Tulips at The Mary Prentiss Inn
Cornus florida rubra
Blue Lilac ‘President Grevy’
Rosa rugosa and Bee
Lilacs flower in an array of beautiful hues
Currently I am working like mad on design projects, both creating new gardens and organizing existing gardens. Along with butterfly and pollinator gardens, I design many different types of gardens, including fragrant gardens, night gardens, children’s gardens, and seaside gardens. One of my favorite aspects of the design process is creating the horticultural master plan, which is typically done simultaneously after discussing with the client their needs, hopes, and aspirations for their garden, and when working on the plan drawings.
While working on planting plans, I thought our GMG readers would benefit from suggested plantings and illustrated design tips. I started this series awhile back and called it Antennae for Design, and still like that name.
In designing gardens the first step is always creating the framework and trees comprise a major component in establishing the framework, or bones, of a garden. Trees provide a welcome sense of shelter with the shifting light and shadows filtering through the ever-changing ceiling. Fragrance, flowers, the shelter they provide, form, and texture of the leaves are not the only attributes of a tree garden. During the winter months there is the elegant beauty of pure line, the beauty of the branch.
For a multitude of reasons, one of my top choices when planting a tree-garden is our stunning native American dogwood (Cornus florida), both white and pink flowering forms. The fresh beauty of its spring blossoms, horizontal level branches, myriad pollinators attracted to the tiny florets, and the elegance of its bare limbs in winter are just some of the reasons why I love this tree! For a night garden especially, the white flower bracts are especially luminous in the moonlight. And, the American dogwood is also a larval food plant for the diminutive Spring Azure butterfly’s caterpillar!
Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden is available at my publisher’s website, click here.
Pink Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida rubra)
China Town Viridiflora Tulip
Kay Tompson sings “Think Pink!” in Funny Face (1957, starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire). The character of Dick Avery, played by Fred Astaire, is in part based on the real life fashion photographer Richard Avedon.
The Supervising Editor for my Black Swallowtail film, Craig Kimberley, and I, spent Saturday afternoon adding titles and color correcting. I have been looking at lots of films to study how some of my favorite film titles are created and discovered that Richard Avedon designed the opening title sequence and provided the stills for Funny Face, including this famously over-exposed iconic photo of Hepburn.
Tired of the monochromatic New England landscape? Tonight, Thursday, I am giving my lecture program The Pollinator Garden from 7 to 9 at the Andover Public Library Memorial Hall. The public is welcome.
North American Native Pink-flowering Dogwood ~ Cornus florida rubra
Native Pink Flowering Dogwood ~ Cornus flordia rubra
While writing Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! I would often come across what seemed at the time random information, but would jot it down anyhow hoping that it would find its way into the pages of my book. The following excerpt was found within a display of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) porcelain at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore where I was researching Chinese flower and bird painting. I laughed out loud when reading and it makes me smile with every subsequent read but wonder if it is only funny to we flower- lovers.
Enjoying flowers with tea is the best, enjoying them with conversation the second and enjoying them with wine the least. Feasts and all sorts of vulgar language are most deeply detested and resented by the spirit of the flowers. It is better to keep the mouth shut and sit still than to offend the flowers.
—from a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) treatise on flowers Walters Art Museum
The idea that flowers can be offended by bad manners reflects the belief that the world we inhabit is an organism in which all phenomena interrelate. By the same reasoning, someone who drinks tea from a peach- shaped pot will live longer (peaches symbolize longevity), and someone who dips his writing brush in a peony-shaped bowl will have good fortune, as the peony is a metaphor for success and wealth. The love of flowers was and continues to be a passion among the Chinese and trees and plants are genuinely loved as living creatures.
To win a free copy of Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities ! Notes from a Gloucester Garden leave a comment or see yesterday’s post about the Magnolia virginiana.
Native Flowering Dogwood ~ Cornus florida rubra
I am so excited to be teaching my photography workshop tomorrow. I’ve created an over arching superstructure for the class, from covering camera and photography basics, relevant to close-up photography, onto very specific techniques for capturing wildlife, and even more specific tips for individual species of butterflies.
I’ve been pouring over thousands upon thousands of photos and with over one hundred photos for the slide presentation, each technique will be comprehensively illustrated.
Several of the students have emailed and I am looking forward to meeting everyone. I hope to see you there. Nature in Focus.
Eastern Tailed-blues ~ Everes comyntas
The Eastern Tailed-blue is a relatively small species of butterfly with a total wingspan of approximately one inch. It was at first very surprising to find a little group, of about a dozen or so, wandering around this pink zinnia. Eastern Tailed-blues are very skittish and generally a challenge to photograph well. I quickly realized that they had all recently emerged from their pupal cases. Butterflies emerge from their chrysalides with wet crumpled wings and generally cannot fly until their wings are thoroughly dry. I took advantage of this fact and just snapped away while this unique opportunity presented itself.
You could say I have an obsession with spring flowering trees, especially our native dogwoods. Is it a mystery why?
I adore flowers and branches shrouded with tree-flowers are even more romantic, perhaps because we are seeing repeating flower shapes, en masse.
Native Flowering Dogwood ~ Cornus florida
Even with only the tiniest bit of space, I encourage everyone to plant a tree-garden. Contact me if you need help in finding the perfect tree for your garden.
Is there a tree more lovely in flower than the North American native dogwood?
Whether flowering with the classic white bracts, the stunning rubra bracts, or the less often seen pale, creamy rose-tinted bracts, our native dogwood (Cornus florida) never ceases to give pause for beauty given.
NATIVE TREES SUPPORT NATIVE POLLINATORS!
At this time of year when traveling along southern New England roadways we are graced by the beauty of the dogwood dotting sunny roadside borders where meets the woodland edge. The bracts and flowers emerge before the leaves, serving only to heighten their loveliness. The fresh beauty of the bract-clad boughs is offset by the impressionistic symphony of tree foliage unfurling, shimmering in hues of apple green, chartruese, moss, and lime peel.
*Bract – A bract is a leaf-like structure surrounding a flower or inflorescence. The colorful bracts of poinsettias, the hot pink bracts of bougainvillea, and the bracts of dogwoods are often mistaken for flower petals.
The open florets (pea-green colored) and unopened buds are surrounded by the rose red-shaded bracts.
Read about how to help prevent an attack by the lethal dogwood anthracnose. Read more