Scene from Garden Muse: A Botanical Portfolio

7 05 2012

In April, my friend, Mary Ellen Ryall (left), came all the way from Minong, Wisconsin, to see my photography exhibit (Garden Muse: A Botanical Portfolio) at Green Spring Gardens and to promote her new children’s book, My Name is Butterfly. Accompanying her to the show were Deneen Stambone (middle), a Fairfax County English teacher, and artist Worth Cooley-Prost (right), who is a glass artist as well as a mixed media artist. Check out her work here.

I met Mary Ellen more than seven years ago when I purchased milkweed seed from her via eBay. We started corresponding and are now in a publishing venture together. I also designed and produced her bimonthly newsletter, Butterflies & Gardens and currently maintain her Happy Tonics blog here. I visited her neck of the woods last August (see postings from that trip in my August 2011 archives here). Mary Ellen blogs about environmental education, sustainable agriculture, Monarch butterflies and other pollinators, and other nature-related topics here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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A favor, pretty please?

2 02 2010

WE NEED YOUR VOTES FROM FEBRUARY 1-15!

Many of my regular visitors know that I do volunteer design and photography work for Mary Ellen Ryall, founder of Happy Tonics, Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(3) environmental education in Shell Lake, Wisconsin. The purpose of the organization is to promote organic gardening and open pollination for biodiversity. Happy Tonics is dedicated to teaching about the risks of invasive species and genetic engineering to the food supply, and their impact on the environment, other species, indigenous and native crops, and health. Happy Tonics created a restored remnant tall grass prairie two years ago (the Monarch Butterfly Habitat).

Happy Tonics has applied for a $999 grant proposal with Brighter Planet and is in fourth place now. Voting takes place from Feb. 1-15.

Please take a minute to visit the Happy Tonics blog here. You’ll find a link to the sign-up and voting page for Brighter Planet in the first posting. You can also skip the blog and register to vote here. You can vote multiple times, too! On this second link, you’ll meet Mary Ellen, founder of Happy Tonics.

It doesn’t cost a thing and will only take a moment of your time!





The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

28 06 2009

While in Key West, we visited the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory before we met up with the Muchemore family for the big event—Chantell and Austin’s wedding. If you want to see the wedding photos I shot, click any of the links below:

Weekend in Key West!

Much more of the Muchemores

Muchemore redux

Chantell and Austin on the pier

Yes, another wedding photo…

This conservatory is definitely one of our favorites now! As you walk around the winding pathway through the conservatory, you’ll hear classical music playing. Not only are there 60+ species of butterflies, they also have an array of exotic birds, tropical plants and a koi pond. Ever notice that most butterfly conservatories are hot and humid? That’s the case here, except for the strategically placed cool air tubes throughout the conservatory—these are to help cool the air for the birds. We humans appreciated that touch on a hot Florida day, too! There’s also a Learning Center and a wonderful gift shop. Founders Sam Trophia and George Fernandez established the Conservatory and the Trophia Butterfly Foundation in January 2003. Read more about Sam Trophia in this article on www.SunSentinel.com.

I photographed a plethora of butterflies at the Wings of Fancy exhibit at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland last year. If you fancy butterflies, click here and here to see those photos. I often find butterfly subjects to photograph in our garden—check out the Monarchs I photographed last fall here. Last year I designed a Monarch Butterfly Habitat poster for my friend Mary Ellen Ryall of Happy Tonics in Shell Lake, Wisconsin.

I have no idea what kind of butterfly this is below, but it’s a beauty, isn’t it? I made a half-hearted attempt to identify it for you but it’s late and I need some shut-eye (it may surprise some of you, but yes, I do sometimes sleep).

As my father often writes on his blog www.thekingoftexas.wordpress.com, “I’ll get back to you later with more details.”

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Butterflylorez





10 for 10

22 05 2009

About a half hour before the Green Spring Gardens plant sale was to close this past Saturday, the Virginia Master Gardeners booth started hawking all of their plants as “ten for $10.” Yep…some of the same plants I had purchased about two hours earlier for $5+, much to my chagrin. Reasonable prices before, yes, but at $1 each—what gardener in their right mind would possibly pass on that offer? Never mind if we’ve run out of space in our gardens—they’re a dollar! Just a dollar! We’ve discovered that some of the vendors do that each year so they don’t have to drag all the unsold items back to wherever they originated…and I am only too happy to help them lighten their load.

My 10-for-10 purchases included:

PrimroseOenothera Lemon Drop, common name ‘Evening Primrose’—a low-maintenance, herbaceous perennial that blooms in full sun from June-September. This perennial is tough, tolerates poor soil, and loves the sun. Bright yellow blooms all summer. Deadheading is not necessary, it’s drought and heat tolerant and grows 8-12″ tall. It can also be grown in containers, where it will trail over the sides. And of course I already have some of these in my front yard garden, courtesy of our friend Micheline, who shared them with us when she downsized houses a few years ago. There was a large bank of these cheery flower blooming profusely in her backyard garden. Photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder.

AnemoneOne sorta sad-looking (had to rescue it, though) Japanese Aneomone or Windflower (Anemone hupehensis)–-the tag indicates the flowers will be pinkish/mauve, so this might be the variety ‘September Charm.’ This perennial plant bears poppy-like flowers in September and October. The plants reach a height of four to five feet with each flower having five or more petal-like sepals that enclose the golden stamens. The leaves turn wine-red in autumn. Wish this plant luck—it will need it! Photo © Cindy Dyer.


WhiteWoodAsterTwo White Wood Asters (Aster divaricatus)—also known as ‘Eastern Star’—perennial herbaceous native to the eastern U.S. Grows 1-3 feet high with 3/4 to 1-inch white ray flowers that bloom profusely from August to September. The center of each flat-top flower starts yellow then ages to a reddish purple hue. The leaves are heart-shaped, stalked and sharply-toothed. White Wood Asters grow in part shade to full shade, are low-growing and low maintenance, and attract butterflies. They thrive in dry shade but become lush in moist soil. Cut hard at least once in spring to set the foliage back. Photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder.

Viola striata (other common names: Striped cream violet, Common white violet, Pale violet, Striped violet)—native perennial herb blooms white and purple flowers April through June. Requires part shade and moist, loamy soil. This plant spreads through its rhizomes. Flowers attract bee flies, butterflies (particularly caterpillars of Fritillary butterflies and several species of moths) and skippers. Seeds are eaten by mourning doves, wild turkeys, mice, and rabbits.

MaxSunflowerI should be punished for purchasing another Maximilian sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani). I bought the same plant four years ago because I thought it would be perfect at the bottom of the steps of our front porch. The plant label purported, “cheery little yellow flowers on 4 ft. stems.” Four feet tall—nice size for the front entrance, right? By the end of the summer, visitors were asking us if we were growing corn in the front yard. We measured it and the tallest stalk was about 12 feet high! I just did some research and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center site claims they grow 3-10 ft. high. What kind of wild range is that? (Imagine this scenario: Officer: Ma’am, how tall was the man who stole your wheelbarrow? Me: Ummm…he was three feet tall….then again, he might have been ten feet tall. I can’t be certain!) The plant grows Jack-in-the-Beanstalk high and then very late in the summer it sprays forth masses of miniature (2-3 inches across) yellow sunflowers that are at their most beautiful when they sway against a cornflower blue sky. And if I really want to get some good closeup shots of the blooms, I have to drag out the tall ladder to do so! Did I need another of these plants? No. But it was only a buck! Anyone have room in their garden for it? Photo © Cindy Dyer.

EchinopsRitroGlobe Thistle (Echinops ritro)—Clump-forming herbaceous perennial with coarse, prickly leaves (and how!) with 1-2 ball-shaped silvery-lavender-blue or dark blue flowerheads blooming in early to late summer on rigid branching stems 24-48 inches tall. These beautiful ornamentals grow best in full sun to mostly sunny areas, attract bees and butterflies, are good for cut flowers (and dried bouquets as well), will tolerate the heat and are deer resistant. And yes, I already have one—it’s about three years old and is the size of a small shrub already. I expect a plethora of blooms this season. Photo © Cindy Dyer.

SnowonthemountainSnow-on-the-Mountain (Euphorbia marginata)—I photographed this beautiful annual plant at Green Spring Gardens last year and posted the images on my blog here. A member of the spurge family, it flowers in the summer. Reaching 18-24 inches high, it requires sun to partial shade, and will attracts a plethora of butterflies, moths, bees, wasps and other insects—a veritable photographic smorgasbord! Now I’ll have one of my very own…once I find a place to plant it, that is. Folks, it was just a dollar, remember? Photo © Cindy Dyer.


Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)—This tough native is deer-resistant and provides food for larval butterflies. Clusters of sweet-scented white flowers appear on 1-2 foot stalks in June and July. Whorled milkweed can be found in prairies, pastures, open woods and by the roadside. Learn more about attracting Monarch butterflies to your garden (and purchase milkweed seeds, too) at www.happytonics.org, owned by my friend, Mary Ellen Ryall.

Salvia

‘Ostfriesland’ Salvia (Salvia nemorosa)—also known as Violet Sage, Ornamental Meadow Sage, Perennial Woodland Sage—this sun-loving herbaceous perennial grows 12-18 inches high with fragrant violet-blue flowers blooming from summer to autumn. Attractive to bees, butterflies and birds, and deer resistant. I couldn’t find this version in my files or a suitable one to reprint, so I’m showing a similar salvia I photographed at Butchart Gardens. Photo © Cindy Dyer







Much more Monarch mania

15 10 2008

Yes, more Monarchs. I can’t help myself. They’re everywhere! I learned a technique from my friend Mary Ellen of Happy Tonics about how to “stalk” Monarchs with a camera. Wait until they have their proboscis inserted into a flower and they become completely distracted by the task at hand—then move in closer, staying as still as possible. They won’t even notice you’re there. This one sure didn’t. I was able to shoot about 50+ images of this Monarch in less than five minutes.

Want to learn more about the senses of a Monarch? Click here.

Here’s a surefire way to attract Monarchs to your garden—plant milkweed!
Mary Ellen sells common milkweed seeds in her eBay store here. Milkweed is the sole food for the Monarch caterpillar. Adult butterflies can feed on other plants such as this butterfly bush, but the caterpillars only eat milkweed.

Mary Ellen and I crossed paths a few years ago when I purchased seeds from her through eBay. This led to a frequent e-mail exchange, and now I do volunteer design and photography for her organization. I design and produce her quarterly 4-page newsletter, Butterflies & Gardens, as well as other marketing materials. You can download the latest issue of the newsletter in pdf format here. I also designed a Monarch Butterfly Habitat Poster for her this past spring.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Check out my other blog, www.cindydyer.wordpress.com, where I write about gardening, traveling, photography, graphic design projects, family and friends, and more.





Going, going, (almost) gone!

13 10 2008

It’s late in the gardening season, but the Monarchs are still out in full force, flitting from butterfly bush to butterfly bush. I just photographed this one in the front yard a few minutes ago as he worked his way around this cone of flowers, full circle, then flew away when neighborhood kids went (loudly) by and startled him. I’d like to trim back this bush and put the garden to bed for the coming winter, but as long as the Monarchs are around, I’ll have to postpone my pruning duties. I also saw an American Painted Lady.

Check out the Monarch butterfly poster I designed this past spring for Happy Tonics to use as an educational tool to show what native plants will be grown in the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary being developed in Shell Lake, Wisconsin.

You can learn more about Mary Ellen, Happy Tonics, and the Monarch Butterfly Habitat at http://www.happytonics.org/. In addition to utilizing photos from my own archives, other images were provided by Happy Tonics, Jeff Evans (http://evansimagesandart.com), and Brian Loflin (http://www.loflin-images.com/).

Learn more about Monarch butterflies at this site: http://www.monarch-butterfly.com/

Want to see more of my butterfly images? Click on any of the links below:

http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2008/09/05/wings-of-fancy/

http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2008/09/05/a-flash-of-blue/

http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2008/01/24/wings-for-jennifer/

http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2007/07/28/17/

http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2008/06/21/meanwhile-in-the-garden/

http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2007/08/12/hello-world/

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





At long last, butterflies en masse!

4 10 2008

The butterflies that we have waited for (en masse) all summer have finally begun appearing regularly, particularly Monarchs and now the American Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) I photographed late this afternoon. It is very similar to the Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui). Those same links show you how to distinguish between the two. 

They move really quickly, so I wasn’t able to get many good shots before they moved onto other flowers in the garden. Most of the butterfly activity in our front yard garden is in the lilac-colored butterfly bush. I saw two American Painted Ladies and three Monarch butterflies just this afternoon, along with several Cabbage White butterflies and Silver-spotted Skippers—both daily visitors to the garden since early summer. This same butterfly bush is also a magnet for the Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth.

Click here to see a Cabbage White butterfly I photographed in the backyard in June. Click here to see Monarchs, Silver-spotted Skippers, Swallowtails, and other beauties I photographed at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia. Learn more about how to create a habitat for Monarch butterflies on the Happy Tonics web site.

I found a really terrific butterfly identification site here. To identify your specimen, click the boxes that correspond with things such as the group (moth, butterfly, etc.), how the wings curve, whether they’re curvy, jagged, or wavy, then how the rear wing is shaped, whether there are broken bands or dark or light ones, main colors that appear, and your location. After you click on all the matches to your specimen, a list of possible “suspects” will show up on the left. Simply click on each one until you find one that best matches your specimen! I’ll be using this site a lot more often.

If you really love butterflies, check out the images I shot in September at the Wings of Fancy exhibit at Brookside Gardens. And while we’re on the subject of Brookside Gardens, click here to see images I shot when my friend Jeff and I took a field trip with the Mount Vernon Garden Club this past April.

WANT TO SEE SOMETHING NEAT? Click here to view two claymation movies that illustrate butterfly metamorphosis. They were created by third grade students from Kings Park Elementary School in Springfield, Virginia.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.