By Lesley Arrandale

It is often more rewarding in the heat of summer to reflect and observe our gardens — and not work too much in the heat. What is flowering? Are the vegetables holding up? What insects can I see, without spending too long looking under leaves? Are birds visiting the feeders?

Red pentas (Pentas lanceolata). The tall, old-fashioned variety with solid red flowers is especially good at attracting butterflies.

Firebush (Hamelia patens). Its bright orange tubular flowers are a hummingbird magnet. 

Wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis). Not to be confused with the invasive introduced Mexican petunia. It hosts several butterflies and supplies nectar for a variety of small pollinators.

Wild red salvia (Salvia coccinea). It’s not dramatic but attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

Starry rosinweed (Silphium asteriscus). It has been producing its two-inch yellow daisies for weeks on sturdy two to three foot branching stems. A very nice plant. 

Ironweed (Vernonia sp.). These began flowering earlier than last year. I’ll cut back some of them after they’ve flowered but keep some seedheads in place for birds and insects. 

Maypop, or passion vines (Passiflora incarnata). This vine has beautiful flowers and you’ll be rewarded by butterflies flitting around your yard all summer – gulf fritillaries and zebra longwings lay their eggs on its tender new growth.

Some large brown stink bugs have found our tomatillo plants. I haven’t been able to identify them, but they probably aren’t good news. I first noticed a small colony of them on a weedy member of the Solanaceae family, and they migrated to the tomatillos (in the same family). I now either squish them or dump them in soapy water as soon as I find them.

There are pollinators aplenty buzzing around the garden. Perfect! 

Birds at my feeders are a delight. They seem to turn up early in the day and late in the afternoon, and any time of day when rain seems imminent. A strategic time to get some extra calories, perhaps.

Photo courtesy Lesley Arrandale

Maypop or passion vine.

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