Phascination & Painting – Praying Mantis Pods

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My husband and I spent the good part of an hour this past winter in search of a praying mantis pod. Praying Mantis are a terrific predatory bug for keeping garden pests in check. Unfortunately, they cannot discriminate between a bad bug/good bug, and will eat caterpillars, butterflies and ladybugs too. There have even been instances, captured on video, of praying mantis devouring toads, frogs, small snakes, juvenile rodents and other small creatures.

We never found a pod this year, and I thought…’Well, maybe it is meant to be…the butterflies will be safer this year.’ Imagine my surprise to find a pod, as in the past, quite close, hidden in my holly bush.

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I have mixed feelings about the praying mantis. I want a mantis in my vegetable garden to keep cabbage moths and other destructive bugs at bay, but I don’t want to lose any beneficial or beautiful creatures to their powerful forelegs and mandibles. Praying mantis in the garden are definitely a mixed blessing.

This month’s Floral Plant Parade Challenge at WetCanvas is a combination work of art with the subject matter of any flower with a butterfly included. Plant Parade Challenge – May 2015

Welcome to the Plant Parade for May, 2015, or a ‘Symphony of Colors’!!

With Spring showing off the different flowers, a remarkable sight begins grabbing our attention!! We notice that the flowers are not the only attraction, but small insects that have brilliant and colorful wings start ‘strutting’ their stuff!! They put on a grand show of flitting and swirling around the flowers and amaze us with their beauty!! How can there be so many unique shapes of the Butterflies? But, watch, when they land on a flower, we have stereo colors. . .both are competing for our attention! But, wait, competing or becoming one? A flower alone is sometimes breathtaking, but with a Butterfly so brilliant with its own remarkable markings, wow, what a kaleidoscope of colors!!

This month we are going to paint brilliant flowers with equally brilliant Butterflies attached to them. We will call it a “Symphony of Colors”!!

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Floral Plant Parade reference photograph courtesy of WetCanvas Library and DominicM

Photo Challenge – Swallowtails, Zinnias and Bumblebees, Oh My!

“Away with the colors of Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa. Show us what “Yellow ” means to you.” Photo Challenge at WordPress – December 19th

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My first thought for this challenge was to choose a photograph of yellow flowers. I have dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of flowers on disc. Many of the photos have been taken in my own gardens, others at local public gardens in the area I live.

I decided instead to combine a favorite flower, zinnias, with a yellow swallowtail butterfly. Perfect. I love swallowtails. Lately, the weather and environmental issues have diminished their ranks, but hopefully their numbers will rebound in our area soon.

I love zinnias, and especially am entranced by the yellow ring of flowers surrounding their center. I always give this ring of small flowers, technically called “disc flowers” my own whimsical name of fairy ring flowers. This is where the butterflies find the nectar that they drink.

Zinnias have “Heads composed of both disc and ray flowers, with disc flowers tightly packed together in the head’s “eye,” while enlarged ray flowers function as petals radiating outward from the eye.” Composite Flowers – Backyard Nature

Here’s a closer look at the yellow “fairy ring” of zinnia disc flowers, this time hosting a Skipper butterfly.

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I loved this photograph so much I used it as a reference for a 5 x 7 watercolor, and posted the finished results on this blog: Skipper on a Zinnia

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Another visitor to the zinnias is a bumblebee in a fuzzy yellow jacket. Gorgeous insects all!

This post is definitely a tad out of season, but perhaps you are like me, and at the threshold of winter enjoy being reminded that Spring is only three months away.

Plants – Zinnias

Recharging…Resting…Rejuvenating… In the meantime, I’m re-blogging some of my best garden posts. Happy Spring!

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Last Saturday night my husband went to the races. In honor of Mother’s Day the racetrack, and a local garden center, provided a zinnia plant for the mothers present at the race, and for those who stayed home. I was delighted when I found this extra small flower pot on my kitchen table.

I adore zinnias. I think it is genetic. My maternal great-grandmother grew a large bed of zinnias in the summertime. I am named for her, so perhaps, a little extra of who she was lives on in me.

I recently found quite a few zinnia seed packets on sale. I had already planted the larger varieties, 36 inches and taller, throughout my garden. Still, I could not resist the smaller sizes. I bought four packets, and I am full of purpose to place a few in every bare spot I might find in my garden. I am also planning on growing a dozen or so in pots so that when I have the invariable bedding plant catastrophe, I will have a few replacement plants on hand.

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Zinnias are a favorite of mine to watercolor.

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I love the second ring of yellow flowers lying deep within the larger petals. These small yellow flowers are where the nectar hides. Hummingbirds and butterflies will visit your yard daily, more than once, to sup on this treat. Here are a few of my zinnia reference photographs with some of their visitors. All artists and crafters are welcome to use any of my reference photographs for inspiration. Happy Painting!

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Plant – Verbena bonariensis

blog 028Last year I wrote about a plant I loved by the name of Verbena bonariensis. Well, this year I love the plant and its flowers even more! The plant self-seeded and now I have dozens of this tall and beautiful perennial adorning my mid-summer garden. The flowers draw honeybees, bumblebees and butterflies.

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I get a lift each time I walk by and see the blossoms swaying in the breeze or playing host to a hungry bee or butterfly.

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Some great information about verbena bonariensis can be found here: Verbena bonariensis

Photographs and Place – Block Island Getaway

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My husband and I have just returned from our yearly vacation to Block Island. Block Island is a gorgeous island off the coast of Rhode Island. This beautiful butterfly was photographed outside of the cottage we rented on the island. You can find more information on “The Cottage” and “The Upstairs,” at this link: The Upstairs at Block Island. We love this spot on the island, secluded, yet the center of town is only an easy walk or bike ride away.

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This butterfly bush on the property kept me fascinated. Each time I passed by I found a beautiful winged creature to admire and photograph.

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This gorgeous hummingbird moth visited the butterfly bush every day. What an amazing sight, imagine my delight when I spied two of these beauties on the same bush. Here’s a bit of information about Hummingbird Moths: Hummingbird Moths

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Sweet little skipper butterflies also stopped by the bush.

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Although their season is almost over, the wild roses are still putting on quite a show. This one was photographed beside “The Cottage” where we stayed the week.

Place – Butterfly Room @ Academy of Natural Sciences Part I

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The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia is a nice outing for all ages. My favorite exhibit is the Butterfly Room. You can find more information here: Butterfly Room at Academy of Natural Sciences

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I was fascinated by the cocoon hatching area.

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The butterflies are attracted to the yellow walls of the room.

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Maybe the butterfly in me is why I am attracted to yellow walls. SMILE!

Perspective – Amazing Video and Project

I’m not sure I can sufficiently explain the idea behind this haunting video, but it seems appropriate to post it now with what is going on in the Middle East. Children are still dying. Wars are still being fought with possible horrific consequences for us all? Does anyone know the answer? Although this video and the butterflies were made in 2010, the purpose behind the project will never end. We should never forget what happened in the Holocaust, we should guard against it happening again.

Here is the link to the author of this video’s blog post: The Butterfly Mandate

Place – Philadelphia Museum of Natural Science

My husband I recently took our grandsons to the Philadelphia Museum of Natural Science. We had a grand time. My only complaint…it’s a little dark inside.

My favorite exhibit was the butterfly house. It’s amazing to feel butterflies flitting right by your head.

The museum has a dinosaur hall too…quite a few dinosaur skeletons on display.

There is even an Egyptian mummy on display.

On the way home we said “Hello!” to William Penn. It was a perfect day in the City of Philadelphia.