“What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.”
– Gertrude Jekyll, On Gardening
My spirit always gets a jolt of energy and enthusiasm when green again is the prevailing color in the landscape, sprinkled here and there with the hues of native flowers. Along with the color reversal- the drabness of winter transformed to the vitality of new growth- comes the corresponding fauna that completes the composition of the landscape. Together, it is a better symphony than even Mozart could compose. For good or bad, nature has its own comprehensive coordination of flora and fauna, and all play the perfect instrument in the classical themes of nature. Phenology is a reliable system of determining what is happening and where to look for it.
This spring may have been late to start, plant development being 10 to 15 days behind “ normal”. But once plants started to green up, animals, birds and insects appeared on schedule right behind them. Last week, mantids emerged from their egg cases which normally is an event of mid- May rather than late May. But they are on a timetable that is in harmony with a calendar that is unrelated to the one we go by, and as such they can never be ‘ late”.
Late May is the time of lady slippers, columbine, tulip tree flowers and the star grasses. June follows with the milkweeds, the first of which is usually the whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata), which is found in dry soils often near woodland edges in a little shade. The Pinxter azalea (Rhododendron periclymenoides) can flower from early May to early June depending on location here in Connecticut. Named for the European Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum), Pinxter has honeysuckle-like flowers that are fragrant and appear in early spring, generally before the leaves appear. Look for these near the upland edges of ponds and streams.
This time of year gray tree frogs can be found along the ground and on low shrubs looking for mates. These frogs sing answering choruses during the day from perches in trees and come down during the night to feed on insects and other morsels. They may be endangered by mowing lawns as they are not exactly swift to respond to dangers while in the courting mode. Box turtles often appear in open areas during the day following rains. Many a box turtle leaving its forest home for a day has been spared from death when crossing the roads by alert and kindly motorists.
Leaf feeding beetles are in full force now, including some of the more. Check native viburnum and dogwood for the attractively marked calligrapha beetles that feed exclusively on these trees and shrubs. Not as worrisome as the viburnum leaf beetles and the dogwood sawflies, these beetles usually occur in small numbers and are seldom pests. Potato beetles are laying eggs as we speak, so be on the alert for rows of yellow eggs on potato and related plants.
The colorful lily leaf beetle has already laid eggs, and its larvae are active now. On a good note, assassin bugs and predatory plant bugs are currently on the prowl and also should be laying eggs. Lady beetle larvae are also active now. So with mantids out and with the other predatory insects active in the landscape, aphids and other pests may be taken out to some degree. Pine sawyer adults are also active now and they are sometimes attracted to oil based stains applied to decks and railings.
If you have catbirds and cardinals living nearby, you may want to add a birdbath to your landscape. Catbirds especially enjoy a good bath morning and evening. Make sure to put the birdbath where afternoon sun will not cause the water to get too hot. Catbirds in particular take objection to a hot bath and will let you know the water needs changing. My dad had catbirds for years that would mew loudly after testing the water with their feet and found it was too hot for their taste. So he would put fresh water in and, within seconds, the birds were having a cool, afternoon bath.
Enjoy what remains of this spring. Remember to water any recently planted trees, shrubs and other plants if drought conditions return. And try not to get annoyed if house wrens living nearby break the morning peace with their loud trilling and chirring voices. They probably have young nearby and are celebrating that soon their nestlings will become fledglings, and in due time they will be on their own.
Pamm Cooper All photos copyright 2015 by Pamm Cooper