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Sunny Yellow Flowers For Fall Beauty From Raincatcher’s

Our yellow flower tour starts as the cheerful yellow daisy like flowers of zexmenia welcomes visitors to the garden.  It is hard to go wrong with this native plant. Zexmenia asks little beyond a sunny spot with a bit of room to spread.  Butterflies and bees are frequent visitors to the lasting display of clear yellow flowers.

Zexmenia

One need not go far to see the bees enjoying the fuzzy round blooms of the golden lead ball tree. This small tree, native to Texas, has been blooming for months.  The flowers are a bit out of the ordinary and always attract attention.

Fall is the time for the tall yellow cosmos to shine. It is true the tall plants may fall over in wind and rain and it can be over ambitious in seeding itself.  But, no plant is perfect and isn’t it a happy sight? It is well worth overlooking a few things—and bees and butterflies really do love it.

The fast growing well adapted argentine senna is literally covered in lovely yellow flowers.  Some sennas bloom for a short time and seed out to an alarming degree. This one doesn’t. The flowers last for a long time and seeding is not a problem.  If that isn’t enough to make it a favorite—it is also a host plant for those pretty yellow sulfur butterflies.

This yellow rose is part of the trials to try and find plants that resist rose rosette disease.  Let’s all think positive for this little plant with flowers in such a delicate shade of yellow.

Esperanza cannot be left out of any list of favorite yellow flowers.  This plant was almost given up for lost in the Spring—what a come back it seems to have more bright yellow flowers than it has leaves.

Don’t forget that vegetables can be as pretty as they are delicious.  This yellow okra flower is a perfect example.

If your garden could use a little sparkle or if you want to do more to provide the nectar pollinators need to live,  add some , or all, of these lovely yellow and you will do both.

You can see all of these plants at Raincatcher’s garden at Midway Hills Christian Church.  Garden work is on Tuesday mornings and you are always welcome.

Susan Thornbury

Pictures by Starla Willis

 

A Plea For Our Pollinators!

Susan and others have been working diligently in our butterfly garden. It’s beautiful and has a purpose. As gardeners do, Susan and I had a meaningful visit about the garden as we worked.  Here are my questions and her answers:

Why are you working so hard, selecting certain plants. You seem to be planting with a purpose.

The goal is to attract a wide diversity of pollinators and to that end, we need to cultivate a wide variety of plants all throughout the year.

Pollinators depend on us and it’s our sacred duty to provide for them in all their phases of life. It isn’t that easy, but like many things it’s very worthwhile.

Why as gardeners do we need to plant for pollinators? Isn’t this provided naturally?

Much of nature has been rearranged and habitats destroyed.  Every yard needs to count! Devote at least part of your garden to create a pollinator-friendly habitat.

Joy comes when you see these creatures thrive. If you take the step, I don’t believe you will ever go back to never-ending lawns with seas of begonias.

Keep going. it’s desperately needed and of serious importance for the next generation.

It’s up to us.

Thank you, Susan. You have inspired all of us to garden for the future.

Ann Lamb

Picture by Starla Willis

Under Raincatcher’s Resources, we have a list of butterfly friendly plants to help you get started.

Pollinator week is a week away.

 

 

 

 

Tagging Monarchs at Raincatcher’s

Monarch Butterfly Sipping Milkweed, Note the Tag

With a woosh of her net, Master Naturalist, Ellen Guiling, has captured another Monarch butterfly to be tagged and then sent on its migratory journey.

As per the Monarch Watch website: tagging information helps answer questions about the geographic origins of monarchs, the timing and pace of the migration, mortality during migration, the effects of wind and weather, and changes in geographic distribution of monarchs. Each year the information is collected and can be viewed at www.monarchwatch.org.

You may remember Starla found a tagged Monarch from Kansas who visited our garden in 2015.

We have many butterflies visiting The Raincatcher’s Garden and the reason goes back to the careful planning and planting of host and nectar plants for many different types of butterflies. Review the butterfly plant list in our Raincatcher’s Resources on the right of our front page and enjoy the delights of your own butterfly garden.

Ann Lamb

Pictures and video by Starla Willis

 

 

Monarchs Tagged in Butterfly Garden at Raincatcher’s

October is peak migration month for millions of Monarchs flying through the “Texas funnel” to overwinter in their ancestral roosts in Michoacan, Mexico. As the Monarchs flutter through the Raincatcher’s Garden, we have also had another visitor— one with a butterfly net.

monarch-tagging-ellen

Master Naturalist Ellen Guiling frequently visits the butterfly garden to capture and tag Monarchs. Ellen hovers by the Greg’s Mistflower, then her butterfly net swooshes and snaps to flip the net sock around the circle of the rim to prevent the butterfly’s escape. She gently folds the Monarch’s wings closed in the net then reaches in to hold the butterfly’s body and remove it.  It takes seconds to press a Monarch Watch tag on the discal cell, a spot on the middle of the lower wing.

monarch-tagging

She quickly checks the sex of the captured Monarch. Two small black dots on the veins of the lower wings signal that this male with his pheromone sacks is probably quite the favorite with the lady Monarchs.  Released into the intense October skies, the Monarch flutters back to the Greg’s Mistflower, ready for his trip south.

Male Monarch-see the spots!

Male Monarch-see the spots!

Ellen has tagged about 40 Monarchs this fall at Raincatcher’s.  After recording the date, location and complete tag numbers with other information, Ellen will send her data sheet to Monarch Watch at monarchwatch.org, the organization that helps create, conserve and protect Monarch habitats.   Tagging data by volunteers has been critical in mapping Monarch migration patterns. Scientists study the tagging results to answer unanswered questions about Monarch migration, such as whether migration is influenced by the weather and if there are differences in migration from year to year.

Elizabeth

Pictures by Starla

More about Monarchs:

A Monarch Pit Stop

Butterfly Migration

Butterflies at the Raincatcher’s Garden

Dallas Butterflies

 

Grace Academy Field Trip 2015

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”

Rachel Carson

 

Field trips to The Raincatcher’s Garden are designed to increase that sense of wonder about our natural world. Dallas County Master Gardeners assisted Grace Academy Second Graders as they made their very own journals to write about what they see, feel, and touch in the garden. 

Dallas County Master Gardeners, Nature Journals, and Grace Academy Second Graders

As you know, we spend quality time with worms and learning about vermi-composting!

The Wonder of Worms and how they are known as "Nature's Plough".

Worms are masters of composting. We also teach traditional composting methods.

Lisa, a Master at Composting and Teaching!

Metamorphosis, cocoon to butterfly is studied and the science of  host plants and nectar stations is seen first hand in our butterfly garden.

Grace 2015 Butterflies

Ann

Pictures by Starla

Favorite quote by Cynthia

 

 

Butterfly Migration

Exciting things are going on at the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills – It’s now Fall and the irrigation is almost done – thanks to many hours of trenching, laying pipe, setting up the drip beds — the children are coming to the garden and exploring the area we have set aside for wildflowers, learning about vegetables, compost and the flowers that inhabit our butterfly areas — And we have had our first sighting of a tagged butterfly!

While out in the butterfly area, a small round dot was seen on a monarch that was feasting on some lantana. After closer inspection with the help of my trusty zoom lens on my camera, I realized that this butterfly had been tagged for its trip down south this winter.

A Butterfly From Kansas Visiting our Garden

A Butterfly From Kansas Visiting our Garden

Not exactly sure of what to do, I researched information about the Monarch Watch and the efforts to tag them. Turns out the process is relatively simple. Get the information from the tag and email it to the address or the phone number located on the tag, including the Number that is assigned to the monarch, the date and location spotted. I was able to send a picture, but that is not required.

After a couple of days, I received an email back from Kansas University stating that the information was received, but they were unable to tell me where the butterfly was originally tagged because the tagging information has not yet been submitted.   Hopefully we will hear about our little guy making it all the way to his destination — and then back again.

Keep your eyes out and your camera ready for these exciting visitors to our area and our gardens.  You may have a part in documenting their journey.

Starla

DALLAS BUTTERFLIES

Move over husband Mike.  I’m in love, but I can’t spell—or pronounce–his name.

To bring you up to date, the old 8,000 square foot garden on Joe Field Road is now moved lock, stock, compost pile, tomato support, and rototiller to a fabulous new location at Midway Hills Christian Church, Royal Lane and Midway Road.  We also have a new name, Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, an Earth-Kind ® Water/Wise Demonstration Garden, a collaboration of the Dallas County Master Gardener Association, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, and Midway Hills Christian Church.

Midway Hills Christian Church, Site of our New Garden

Midway Hills Christian Church, Site of our New Garden

MHCC has generously offered us a 100’x300’ field for a new garden and plans are hatching.  Just like butterflies will—we hope—this spring.

We brainstormed the components that we wanted to bring (or not) to the new garden: vegetables, an education garden, and a wildlife habitat. And some new things we wanted to feature, like urban trees and turf.  But probably tops on people’s list was a butterfly garden.

Which brings me to my new love: skippers, brushfoots (not “feet), whites, sulphurs, blues, hairstreaks, and swallowtails.  I’d like to learn to be a lepidopterist, but I’ve got to set some time aside to learn to roll out that moniker.

Diving into Butterflies of Texas by Geyata Ajilvsgi and the Dallas County Lepidopterist’s Society website maintained by Dallas butterfly expert Dale Clark was absolutely fascinating.

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

I learned if you want to attract grass skippers, you need an abundance of host grasses like bluestem and side-oats gramma in your garden.

Most gardeners know to plant dill, fennel, parsley, and rue for swallowtail caterpillars, but they also have a hankering for citrus, celery and Queen Anne’s Lace.

We’re familiar with the Pirinae family of sulphur’s and white’s passion for broccoli and cabbage. But the Coliadinae family of whites and sulphurs pine more for senna, marigolds, clover, and false indigo for host plants.

Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies on Turk's Cap, Photo by Janet D. Smith

Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies on Turk’s Cap, Photo by Janet D. Smith

Hairstreaks look for oaks, mistletoe, Texas bluebonnets and okra. Blues are thrilled with frostweed, lima and garden beans, and snouts want sugarberry and net-leaf hackberry. Fritillaries swoon for maypop and passionvines, monarchs for milkweed.

Brushfoots remind me of a 17-year-old football player.  They’ll clean out your garden “refrigerator” of almost everything.  Wildflowers to thistles to American elm, to frogfruit are on the host plant menu.

As we’re planning the garden, there’s more to think about than host and nectar plants.  You want your plants in full sun (more nectar), have enough water to prevent wilting (nectar stops with inadequate moisture), use favorite colors of purple, pink, yellow and white, and include a variety of bloom shapes.  Some little guys forego the nectar plants and pull over for old fruit, a fermented sugar mixture, or a damp salt and sand mixture for amino acids.  Rocks and logs in the sun give a spot for basking.  Old logs and brush provide Red Admirals and Mourning Cloaks a spot for hibernating.

The monarch has gotten a lot of press lately concerning the declining amount of milkweed necessary for its caterpillars.  We plan on having a Monarch Waystation, based on recommendations from Monarch Watch, filled with native and tropical milkweed for the trip north and favorite nectar plants for the fall migration to Mexico.

Monarch Butterflies Nectaring on Blue Salvia at our Old Location

Monarch Butterflies Nectaring on Blue Salvia at our Old Location

 

As our plans take place, we are looking forward to late spring and summer, and we hope, a large garden full of fluttering beauties.

Elizabeth

Pictures by Starla and Ann and Janet

More about Monarchs!

 

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