February 25, 2014
Everybody loves a garden party. But in our Southern Gardens, we often have invited guests, along with some party crashers, especially when it comes to nature's critters. Some of these critters are easily seen, and are invited and honored guests. Hummingbirds absolutely love cigar plant cuphea, so they can be attracted to our gardens by design. The same is true of butterflies. These colorful orange fritillary seem to be attacking this Dallas red lantana. The black swallowtails love the nectar from these Mexican firecracker plants. Monarchs love the butterfly weed, and their invitation to the garden party is often followed by interesting, colorful, and hungry caterpillars. Most gardeners don't usually plan on inviting bumblebees to the party, but they're still welcome guests. In fact, their work in pollinating plants is a necessary job in the garden. Other insects often crash the party, but that doesn't mean they cause problems. This predatory wasp often searches out garden pests, and proves to be a beneficial guest in our garden. Reptiles also prove to be uninvited but beneficial garden party guests. This garden anole spends his days prowling the garden, eating whatever bugs he can find. And sometimes, even bigger reptiles hang around. Here, our Southern Gardening producer, Tim Allison, finds a slithering garden visitor, this little garter snake. Also, be aware that dangerous predators are always around, waiting to pounce on their unsuspecting garden prey. Everyday, your southern garden hosts a garden party. Take the time to look for and enjoy your garden guests. I'm horticulturist Gary Bachman, for Southern Gardening.