Hi, I’m Barb Murgich, a Master Gardener from Adams County, Pennsylvania. I have gardened on the same land in Zone 6B for 34 years. Over the past 10 years, I’ve been slowly incorporating more and more native plants to the point where I now like to think of my property as a residence rather than just a garden.
This is Gaillardia. (Gaillardia pulchella, zones 5–8), a native wildflower. It is a very colorful, cheerful flower that attracts many bees, butterflies and other pollinators because of its rich, abundant nectar. Sometimes called a blanket flower, it is a short-lived perennial that usually only lives for three years or less. However, its large seed heads produce many seeds. Some are easy to save for replanting.
Penstemon (hardiness varies by species) is such a beautiful spring flowering native perennial. Most are either pink or white. I love watching bees crawl into a flower for a sip of nectar. Penstemons produce large, attractive seed heads. They reseed easily. If you don’t want that many, just cut off the seed heads.
This carpenter bee (see its shiny belly?) is drinking nectar from a cone flower (Echinacea purpurea, zones 3–8). Most garden bees are very gentle and will not sting you. Only females are capable of stinging.
This eastern tiger swallowtail is one of our most common butterflies in Pennsylvania. This is the elixir on fornication. (Zinnia elegans, annual). I love how his body is striped to match his wings. You can see its proboscis, which it uses like a straw to suck nectar from a flower.
Notice anything unusual about this photo? This is a beautiful king chrysalis, but it is associated with fennel. (Phoeniculum vulgare, Zones 4-9), not milkweed. (Asclepias spp.) as you might expect. Fennel growing very close to milkweed. The caterpillar probably crawls up and down the tall fennel as it matures into its chrysalis. We scoured the fennel plants looking for the chrysalis of a black swallowtail and were quite surprised to find a monarch.
Billy Willow (Salix species) rises against an early spring, clear blue sky. The catkins of native catkins provide some of the first and most important nectar for tiny pollinators. Songbirds are then attracted to the catkins because of all the small insects. Birds peck at insects, often knocking catkins off the plant stem. It’s so fun to watch! The cat willow is the host of the viceroy butterfly. At the time of this photo, those tiny, threadlike caterpillars were curled up in a leaf at the base of the shrub where they fell last fall. Once the shrub develops its leaves, the tiny caterpillars begin to crawl up the stems and eat.
A red maple (Eser Rubrum, Zones 3-9) is clad in snow against a clear winter sky. This red maple is not only a beautiful tree but also hosts the Eastern Tiger butterflies that grace my gardens every year.
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