Yes, I was inspired by “Pretty in Pink,” I admit it. I wanted to write a tribute to the Blue Mistflower in my garden, but since I titled my previous post “Blue September,” I wanted to avoid using the word again. And so we have “Lovely in Lavender.” I’m not sure why I feel compelled to keep writing color-themed posts lately. Maybe it’s because the beginning of autumn always reminds me that winter isn’t far behind, and most of the vibrant colors will be erased from the landscape for months. So let’s celebrate it while we’ve got it!
Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) doesn’t look blue to me; it’s more like a light shade of purple, or lavender. It’s not a native plant in the northwest corner of Ohio, but it was here when I moved into this house, and it IS native to southeastern Ohio, so I think that’s good enough reason to keep it. And to be honest, even if it wasn’t native to any part of my state, I’d probably keep this one. It’s an amazing pollinator magnet, drawing lots of butterflies and skippers, bees, and moths.
Speaking of moths, I found this diurnal Yellow-collared Scape Moth feeding on it today.
Some gardeners would scoff at a plant that spreads aggressively like this one does, but that’s part of the reason I like it. I can easily pull out the plants I don’t want, or dig them and give them to friends. I think one of my friends kept it in a pot after I gave him some a couple years ago, and that’s a good way to keep it from spreading.
If you’re a flower gardener you already know this, but one of the best parts of growing perennial plants is being able to share them with your friends. When I walk around my garden I’m reminded of how many of my plants were given to me from the gardens of my friends. And I love going to my neighbor’s garden and seeing plants I gave her. It feels like the plants keep us all connected in a way social media can only dream of.
By the way, have you heard of the superstitition that says it’s bad luck to thank someone for giving you a cutting or division of a plant from their garden? Some people believe that expressing thanks will cause the original plant to die. I had never heard this until a few years ago. Would you be upset if someone thanked you for a plant?
Mistflower starts blooming in early August and keeps going strong into early October, giving me lots of time to enjoy the numerous butterflies flitting all over it. It’s so strange though, because the growing requirements for this plant indicate that it needs regular watering and moist soil, and yet I have never watered it in the five years I’ve lived here, and it’s doing great. It’s on the south side of my house that gets direct sun all day long, and yet it doesn’t need watering, even in the heat of August. Even stranger is the fact that my soil is sandy, which should mean that it dries out faster than other types of soil. Isn’t that crazy?
This picture of a monarch feeding on mistflower is bittersweet now that they are officially listed as an endangered species. I wish more people would add a few milkweed plants to their gardens to help keep this species from disappearing forever. It’s such a simple way to give them a hand, and it’s so rewarding when you can watch them laying eggs and see the gorgeous caterpillars munching on milkweed leaves.
Yesterday my friend Kate alerted me to the presence of some migrating monarchs in a small town about 45 minutes west of Toledo. So we hopped in the car and went to see if we could find them. A local news report had mentioned that there were 50 butterflies in the woods in a particular park, so we went there and started walking in the woods looking for them. I didn’t have much hope of finding such a small roost, but shortly after we got into the woods we saw a few butterflies floating over us. Just singles though, and we didn’t see them going up into any roosts. But a short time later we found bunches of them hanging from tree branches and on tree trunks in a clearing in the middle of the woods, with sunlight shining down on them. We made half-hearted attempts to count them, and I came up with at least 500, and there were likely many more than that.
We had a lovely time just standing amongst them and enjoying their fairy-like presence, but I later realized that there’s a strong possibility that many of them died last night. On our drive to this location, we’d passed through a heavy thunderstorm, so these butterflies were likely soaking wet and needing to dry off. And the temperature dropped sharply last night; I’ve read that they can’t fly unless they can warm their bodies to 55F. Today was very cold and windy, so even if they made it through the night, I wonder if they managed to take flight. I know that’s a sad thought, but it’s a fact that insects live very short lives filled with peril.
I’ll end with this short video clip of the roosting monarchs from yesterday, and hope by sharing it I’ll motivate someone else to plant some milkweed to help these beautiful butterflies. Thanks for reading.