October Garden

Last weekend’s heavy rain and thunderstorms were badly needed to help gardens, trees and shrubs prepare for winter.  The downside is that the rain knocked off most of the blossoms on garden phlox, helenium, Russian sage, hosta and other flowering plants.  A few species continue to bloom in small numbers providing nectar for native bees and honey bees.  Here’s a sample of what’s still blooming in our garden in St. Paul, Minnesota, on October 11:

Japanese toad lily (Tricyrtis)

Japanese toad lily (Tricyrtis ‘Tojen’).

Aster novii-belgi with green bee (

(Aster novii-belgi) with green metallic bee.

Dwarf wood asters (Aster novi-belgii 'Woods pink')

Dwarf wood asters (Aster novi-belgii ‘Woods pink’).

Thin-leaved coneflower (Rudbeckia triloba) is a native wildflower that appeared under our ash tree a few summers ago.  The tree is a favorite perch for birds and gray squirrels and

Thin-leaved coneflower (Rudbeckia triloba) is a native wildflower that appeared under our ash tree a few summers ago. The tree is a favorite perch for birds and gray squirrels, which must have either dropped or excreted the seeds.

The yellow bloom of Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Mary Stoker' will develop pink highlights as it ages.

The yellow blooms of (Chrysanthemum rubellum) ‘Mary Stoker’ will develop pink highlights as they age.

Purple morning glories last all day in the gentler autumn sunlight.

Purple morning glories last all day in the gentler autumn sunlight.

A few hyacinth beans (Dolichos lablab) continue to blossom.

A few hyacinth beans (Dolichos lablab) continue to blossom.

Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicafolia) with Rosa 'Henry Kelsey' (Canadian Explorer series) in the background.

Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicafolia) with Rosa ‘Henry Kelsey’ (Canadian Explorer series) in the background.

Native goldenrod

Native goldenrod brightens up our autumn garden.

Monarchs and Joe-Pye Weed

Monarch butterflies are rare visitors this summer.  In a typical year, they float through the backyard all day.  Over the past week, a solitary monarch visited our patch of spotted Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum) each day between 7 and 8 a.m.  Sunlight glowed in its beautiful wings as it sipped the Joe-Pye nectar.

A monarch sips Joe-Pye weed nectar in early-morning sunlight.

A monarch sips Joe-Pye weed nectar in early-morning sunlight.

In the next two weeks, monarch migration through St. Paul, MN, should peak, according to MonarchWatch.org.  To check peak migration in your own area, visit  peak migration.  During the 2011 fall migration peak, 10-to-25 monarchs visited our Joe-Pye patch each afternoon, and often roosted in our apple tree for the night.  I’m interested in comparing this year’s numbers with the 2011 observations.  (Last year, the Joe-Pye blossomed two-to-three weeks earlier than usual, due to the early spring, and as a result, finished blooming ahead of monarch migration.

In addition to the low numbers of monarchs, I’ve only seen one each of black swallowtails, red admirals and mourning cloaks, and only two tiger swallowtails in our garden.  I haven’t found caterpillars of any of the five species.  Read more about the low number of butterflies this year, from the Star Tribune.