Is Gardening Getting to Be Too Much?

Swallowtail

Where you fear for the weather to come next year? Garden plants getting too much or too little rain. Too much searing heat? Late frosts? Damaging storms? The norm now is the extremes it seems.

Common-Ringlet-1

Do you believe butterflies are in peril? “Species that depend on one another may become out of sync. For example, plants could bloom earlier than their pollinating insects become active.” (source – Nat Geo)

Swallowtail-3

Pipevine Swallowtail in my garden? Very north of its range.

Pipevine Swallowtail

Do you look at wildlife and think you might not see it again next year? “Ecosystems will change—some species will move farther north or become more successful; others won’t be able to move and could become extinct.” (source – Nat Geo)

Common-Ringlet-2

Many species we have taken for granted seem to be disappearing before our eyes. I was going to do a post on the different species of butterfly I saw this year and quickly realized, I did not see that many. Last year I saw much more variety.

Pearl-Crescent

Clouded-Yellow

Clouded Sulphur

Today through my office window I saw two Monarchs feeding on my Butterfly Bush. I was so happy to see them after not seeing them all summer, I stood and watched for the five minutes they fed. No camera to disturb them. When they finished, they headed south. What a beautiful sight. I fear I may not see that again next year.

Swallowtail-5

Seeing the ragged look of the few butterflies I did see this year really is telling. Old age or hard life?

Swallowtail-2

The decline of some species, like bees for instance, have obvious repercussions. Butterflies are less apparent.

Red-Spotted PurpleRed-Spotted Purple usually found south of here, yet seen here in Niagara Falls. Makes one wonder…

I think next year, science will have quite a bit to report. Do you?

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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41 Responses to Is Gardening Getting to Be Too Much?

  1. I agree Donna! It seems the past few years have been uncharacteristic of normal weather patterns. This year we saw fewer butterflies as a result of our cooler and very wet Spring/Summer but then again I saw more Eastern Tiger Swallowtails than ever before so it seems so insects benefit while others perish. I haven’t seen a Monarch all year. I keep planting more milkweed but the populations are so low that I wonder if I will see them in my garden at all.

    • I have only seen 4 Monarchs this year. Like you I saw an increase in Tigers. I have many photos of them, and Black Swallowtails from around mid-summer. It seems more butterflies are around now than all summer. Dragonflies are about now too. I think maybe the breeding season got off later. I really am interested in what science reports from studies. I think people like bloggers help identify trends early, but science needs to verify what we all seem to notice. The weather has been crazy dry here. Today we are supposed to have a big storm and it is sunny here. When we finally get rain, it comes down hard for minutes then stops. Meadows are dry so it is no wonder butterflies are sparse. Up here, one nature group is raising Monarchs for release. I wanted to go to their release demonstration last week and had to miss it. At least I would have seen hundreds of them.

  2. connie661 says:

    This is definitely something we need to keep an eye on.

    • I agree, it makes it hard to know what to plant. Being dry here in the last few years could quickly change. Some areas around WNY did get some rain this year, but it keeps missing NF. I am not sure planting for insects will matter if they do not make it up here on their travels.

  3. Donna, I was thinking the same thing about the monarchs. We have two butterfly bushes in the backyard and in previous years there have been many monarchs on them. This year, there were only about 6 at most and only for a day or two. I am in Chicago area. Our drought is really getting bad (after a really wet, cold spring) and it’s 95 today!!

    • I know the concerns on Monarchs are real according to studies. I think since Monarchs are so well known and admired, they do get most of the press. I have been reading on grassland butterflies in decline as well. Monarchs have a very long travel to here and Southern Ontario and it really makes sense that we would see few since in their winter breeding grounds in Mexico, there has been serious reduction in their numbers. I have been thinking back to when our drought conditions started here and remember jobs I was on, so it is longer ago than I thought. We started out here with very cold weather this year, and that delayed the insects arrival.

  4. Scott Weber says:

    It is a very worrying time, for sure…and it’s so hard to know what, exactly, the future holds 😦 I try to do as much as I can for the pollinators…and, even if it doesn’t seem like much, if we all do it…maybe we call help alleviate a tiny bit of the pressure they are feeling.

    • So true. My next post on the weather issue explores that as a designer, how do we deal? It has been getting more difficult as a designer to spec plants for jobs. One wet year after many dry years would kill off some of the plants being installed. Our problem here is wet winters and they are very likely since over the past six years we have been getting less and less snow. I did a post showing photos on the same day for five years straight. It showed a real reduction in snow for that date, which was pretty consistent for each year in totals too. I plant many native and drought tolerant plants, but have been seeing less insect activity. Where it is most noticeable have been at the meadows at the Falls. Very, very few insects can be seen. Bees especially. I have quite a few native bees in my garden, but that might be because I have hydrated my plants this year and last. I even pulled my irrigation a number of years ago when I redesigned since I was never using it. Now I wish I based the design on that system.

  5. bittster says:

    I do feel like there are no more “normal” seasons, I hope that’s not the new normal! I also hope the swings in insect populations are normal. I remember a red admiral explosion a few years ago and then nothing for the next few years so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the rebounds. I’ll keep trying wherever I can, plants for what’s here now and new plants for the southern immigrants.

    • I agree. It has been too many consecutive years of higher than normal heat and little rain. We had the irruption of the Red Admiral here in 2012. It was followed by an increase in Black Swallowtail later in the season. We had very few Monarchs that year. There was no irruption of any butterfly species here this year though that I am aware. The heat has been studied as a cause for butterfly decline. Habit loss is also one result of high heat and little rain. If weather changes next year, which is a possibility, things would start growing vibrantly again and insects returning to lush meadows. We can only hope.

      It has changed in some places of the South East with more than normal rain after successive years of drought. But I think that is a problem worth noting. How does that affect their native insect populations and plant species? It would be too hard to plan for species not native to our climate. One bad year and they would be gone. But if studies prove to be what they predict, it is warming and we should expect more and more to push further north and extend their normal range. As a designer, I look at just providing for what we have as endemic to our area.

  6. Pat says:

    A lot to think about. I’ve seen few butterflies and only one monarch this summer. Hordes of skippers, though.

    • I find it sad we have had less butterflies. It seems to be insects in general too. I let weeds grow at this time of year (for the insects) and have seen far less activity – declining with each passing year.

  7. barbie says:

    I totally agree with the extreme weather! Gardens are soaked to the brim and the cold snap is still here, early spring! I have also seen less and less bees and butterflies and frogs! Very worrying! I have to plant more indigenous plants!

    • That has to be unusual in your area. I think more bloggers should write on how weather has been stacking up over the past few years. How different it is and what it affects. I find it really eye opening seeing the flip of conditions in places. Our Spring was always a wet one and cool. Spring has really flipped here with little rain for a number of years. 2012 we did have too wet a Spring and farmers could not plant many crops. It was followed up with a Summer and Fall of drought. Funny to mention indigenous plants. I have been noticing them not faring too well here in meadows and fields. They live and make it to next year, but they dry and do not provide sustenance to the insects that depend on them. In my own garden, even with supplemental watering, plants are dry and not providing enough nectar to the insects.

  8. Roger Brook says:

    I think you are being a little pessimistic Donna.
    I have been gardening sixty years and have always enjoyed the challenge of changing conditions each season. I share your concerns about climate change but big seasonal changes are not new.
    I recently did a post about my sister-in-law who traps moths in Northumberland UK (for climate research) and she is finding exciting increases in the variety that she finds. The post is called Kirk Whelpington Moth trapper and can be found in my search box

    • It is not me per say, it is the studies I am reading. I guess it depends on where one lives too. I agree, history proves big seasonal change with warming and cooling climates, but it is the frequency and severity of that change I am reading about. Our area is not one to have drought like has been happening. Sure, next year we could be drenched in rain, and that would be welcomed. This year our street lost 6 severely stressed 100 foot high Norway Maples from a major high wind/thunder storm. Add that to the 12 lost in the last few previous years. Those trees stood for 100 years and in the last ten years almost three dozen of them have come down. More are looking very stressed and will likely fall or be removed. This is a result of lack of rain among other factors (old age, insect infestation, cramped growing conditions, new sidewalks). Will rain help build the water table? Will lower temperatures help stressed trees?

  9. Denise says:

    This year I saw very few damselflies,dragonflies, ladybugs and frogs. But I hope that that is because of the long winter we had and I hope next year they will return. I also hope that one day a butterfly, like the ones in your beautiful photographs will visit my garden.

    • I thought we had a reduction in dragonflies this year, but just yesterday I saw a number of them in the meadow. I think they got off to a slow breeding start here. Just a guess since I don’t know, but it is odd to see more now. I did not see ladybugs either this year come to think of it. I wonder if they are losing in numbers?

  10. janechese says:

    Lots of dragonflies here this year, they are everywhere! I see more butterflies but that could mean I am seeing more than before. We did spot some Monarchs here last year, which is very rare for this far north (and west?) I appreciate hearing from other bloggers about chages, arrivals of migrating birds etc.

    • It really is good to hear what others have seen in their locales. It would be even better if they could say all is like it has always been. Canada does seem to have less of the major storms like here in the US, but Canada is a huge country too.

      • janechese says:

        We more more rainfalls with up to 60 mm of rain in an hour or two that caused floods and billions of dollars of damage in southern Alberta this summer-even made the US news but most doesn’t. Last winter in the maritime provinces four feet of snow in one storm. More tornadoes but nothing like you got hit with.But I will try to keep people posted of the changes in the blogs.

        • Your flood did make world news. I do remember it now. It was very similar to some major storms here in the US. The US seems to cover so many temperature zones and get more hurricanes than many places though. I just read, and I wish I could remember the article, but they said the US has more varied climate events than other places in the world. They indicated we hold that title. Not a good title to have though.

  11. I’m trying to be hopeful, but it has been hard the past couple of growing seasons. Last year it was the terrible, nearly summer-long drought. This year, it has been hearing about fewer monarchs (although that happened last year during the drought, too). And now we’re in drought again, and I’m worried about the trees and plants making it through the winter. But then, on a more positive note, I’ve seen more hummingbirds and dragonflies in my garden than ever before. And the bees seemed to be doing just fine, too, until the past couple of weeks. I guess I’m moving more toward plants that can handle the extremes–and most of them are native plants anyway. This is a thought-provoking and important post, Donna. Thanks for posing the questions.

    • I want to be hopeful too, but direct experience has reinforced what I have been reading. I know seeing insects not usually seen is not unheard of, but seeing them often will if that is to occur. I guess it will be a few more years to see if insects find this area worth extending their range. The hummingbirds are moving Southward and I saw one yesterday feeding. Odd thing, it was a male this late. Bees have been fine in my garden, but I have seen far less in the meadows. Less meadow bloom this year over 2011. The dry weather really has been affecting late summer bloom. I find it difficult to get many plants that will live through varied conditions. Even the native plants are looking less than desirable at this time of year. Many dried blooms. I still have bloom, but that is because I watered all summer. I did stop in August and it is starting to show.

  12. Weather has been acting strange lately here too. Too many rains and strong winds. On the other hand we had a relatively light winter and summer, which was good. However, one characteristic I can’t seem to recall from other years is weather contrasts. Temperature rising or droping by 10ºC in a day. Flowers bloomed much earlier this year. I hope earth hasn’t had it with us!

    • Here, flowers started off later as we had late frosts. In 2012 the warm weather started mid-winter. 2012 was a very strange year breaking all kinds of records. I remember here having the daily temperature fluctuation, but like you cannot remember exactly the dates. I think that is more normal to occur in any given year, yet it always seems odd when it happens.

  13. Layanee says:

    I have seen a great many butterflies here this year. It has been a good year for them.

    • Great to hear that. I wish more bloggers had that to report. Your weather is more moderate from what I remember with lower average temperatures. I lived in Warwick for two years a long time ago, but I know that it must be different now. I saw reports this year of the East coast getting rain, but it did not really help us out much. NF has been on the missed-rain schedule for some reason. Yesterday a big rain storm was predicted, but it was hot, humid, windy, and sunny all day. Today will be in the low 90’s. Now it is 84° in NF at 11am. Today the air is hard to breathe. Even the insects/bees seem to be hiding.

  14. It saddened me to see the year we have had in my county. All that horrid snow then wonderful then torrential relentless rains then pretty Hummers were very mean, Monarch arrived Sept. 4th just one for a few days one Swallowtail when Lilacs bloomed but left promptly. Just plainly an off year in my yard.

    Lots of my perennials never came up so I will build soil with good sand mix everywhere to drain better. I will do all gardening next spring in containers where I can cover and protect them when needed maybe a rolling greenhouse 🙂 I would leave the doors open for the Bees and Butterflies 🙂

    I wish I had video taped this year would have made a great documentary

    Enjoy September.

    • Sounds like you have a plan for next year that came from all that was off this past year. At least there is a silver lining. I look at it that there is nothing to do but wait it out. Since the weather has been fickle, no sense in planting things that might not take heat, dry or overly wet. I am going to toss out seeds of annuals next year. What makes it will be a treat.

      • lol I did that a lot this year I should have thrown out grass seed but then the turkey would have gobbled them all up 🙂 I love gardening but I must be smart with injuries lol and money 🙂

  15. Rose says:

    I’ve seen so few butterflies this year, other than the cabbage whites and the occasional black swallowtail. It does have me worried, although I remember in past years when there’s been a shortage of butterflies, there has been a wealth of them the following year. The only scientific reports I’ve read have been about the Monarchs, which are definitely in decline. I was so happy to see one fluttering through my yard yesterday. Like you, I didn’t have my camera, but just watched it floating through the air.

    • Cabbage Whites are plentiful here too. I wonder what keeps them so plentiful and successful? In 2012 we had an abundance of butterflies, but that was likely weather related. The 2012 season started very early here with 70° and even 80° temps. January had temps in the 50’s ending with March going up to 80° for a day or two. I did a blog calendar each month through April in 2012, anticipating a weird year. The Spring was wet, but the summer and fall brought drought. We hit all kinds of records that year.

  16. Jennifer says:

    Somehow I manage to stay positive no matter what sign to the contrary cross my path. I remain hopeful that we will pay nature and the environment more heed. I have seen very few butterflies this summer, but hope that nature will find a way to bounce back.

    • I am not so confident because Canada and the US are not the only places in this world needing people to comply with better stewardship. Many places around the world are facing conditions they can’t change. The only thing many of them can do is work on reducing their population increase, which has a direct impact on resources, even those necessary like water and food. In our countries we take these things for granted, but it could come one day where it will be front and center for us too. The problems are being looked at but with very little headway when some of it is out of the control of humans. I am happy there are optimistic people like you. It will take one of them one day to figure out how to manage weather extremes for less impact for instance.

  17. Bom says:

    I absolutely agree on the erratic weather patterns. It’s been that way for some time now. When I was new to gardening (relative to other bloggers, I think I still am a newbie) I would monitor for typhoons and monsoon and bring in my tillandsias and other plants that didn’t like water. Then I would lug them all back out. I remember blogging about how there was an upside to having everything potted or hanging. All mobile and ready to go. Nowadays, I don’t bother unless we are expecting a signal no. 4 typhoon (equivalent to a category 4 and 5 hurricane). If the plants perish then that is just the way it is. Darwin’s natural selection at work.

    • I too had a backyard filled with potted plants that I had to cart to the garage in storms, so I can feel for you doing that. I did it because I had plants I grew or held for clients. It was not worth losing all the hard work growing them or replacing those purchased.

      • Bom says:

        I guess it is different if you are doing it for work. The size would matter. I have been able to propagate my plants which is why I don’t worry so much about losing one or two of them.

  18. lenaericsson says:

    How fun to find your blog. Mine is pretty much called the same as yours but in swedish and I too believ we should take care of the wild life more than we are today. Taking oictures of insects is great fun and yours are truly beautiful! I will for sure return!

  19. I have reported this year that we have seen few butterflies…the extremes in weather have definitely caused this and yes I fear I will not see them next year.

  20. Fergiemoto says:

    Sadly, I saw far fewer butterflies this year.
    Your photos are lovely!

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