Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Transplanting a Garden

The thin, green strip has been mowed again—that narrow band of grass and weeds that runs in the few feet of unplowed land on either side of the lane that I walk along each day.

Chicory, Cichorium intybus

The danger in letting it grow, I have not quite determined, for nothing woody remains along the field's edge—nothing that, if not cut severely back each month, would soon overtake the road.
Yet the tractor trims it harshly. On rural land, nothing must grow unbound.
Each chicory, each great lobelia, each milkweed succumbs to the blade until all that remains beside the farmer’s field of beans is one towering bull thistle, just out of reach. How it must have irked him to leave it standing, proudly swaggering, a dozen purple heads staring back at him!

Great Lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica,
in front of soybean field

There used to be scores of dragonflies here, perching atop each tall stem on a heated afternoon, then coursing high above the bean field, hawking insects. Sulphur butterflies tumbled from one flower head to the next, drinking in the nectar. Scores of spiders built broad, round webs between them, capturing grasshoppers along every few feet of the road’s edge—all now gone. Except one, who by good fortune placed hers quite near the bull thistle—a magnificent black and yellow garden spider.

Transplanted garden spider reconstructing her web on goldenrod

She’s been transplanted—to a golden field atop my hill, where she’ll rebuild her broad, round web and capture scores of grasshoppers. And not be mowed by the tractor.

(All photos enlarge with a click)

Black and Yellow Garden Spider, Argiope aurantia

Although female black and yellow garden spiders may be quite showy and large (over an inch), they are considered harmless to humans. Argiope aurantia (from the Greek aura for breeze) build large circular webs (up to 2 feet across) which they situate themselves in the center of and are able to undulate in a breeze-like action that may help elude predators and/or ensnare prey.
The male is considerably smaller than the female (less than ½ inch) and is drab brown.

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Beverly said...

As usual, you have brought a bit of nature right into my home. While I seem to be having lots of spiders inside lately...none so beautiful as your garden variety.

Have you ever noticed that the inside spiders that look most like those called Daddy Longlegs, rapidly vibrate their webs and whip them into an almost circular motion as if trying to imitate a whirlwind? Wild...and it probably works to scare off some smaller nosy-neighbors.

Love the note about posting, too!

Kat said...

We watched an orb spider last night as it caught a grasshopper, wrapped it up, and then proceeded to sip its juices. Thrilling, creepy, thought-provoking.

Kathy McDonald said...

Nina, I loved that you took the time to move the spider. I've often wondered who can we contact to point out the silliness of using so much resources to mow and hack "non-lawn" areas as well as maintaning a monoculture of grass along others. Thank you for being a good example for all of us.

Guy said...

Hi Nina

I must admit I always wonder why even in rural areas there exists such a need for control or the feeling of control at the expense of nature. Your photos are as always stunning.


Robin said...

I work in an urban garden center more or less in Chicago. At lunch, I go to an abandoned parking lot to catch the shade and watch the critters play around the wildflowers. There was so much Queen Anne's Lace and Goldenrod, and then one day... guys came with their trimmers and cut it all down. Why? With no one around, who were they offending?

Since I'm the 'specialist' (which means nothing, really) of the aforementioned garden center, I can mark plants down this time of year to get rid of them (I call it helping the plants fulfill their destiny before they die in a pot)... but I digress.

I just can't find it in me to mark down the butterfly bushes and I've ordered more hyssop... which may or may not sell before frost. Why? I get so much joy watching the butterflies and bees find their mother lode.

Thank you for moving the spider. Truly, thank you for being you....

Adrienne Zwart said...

I love the chicory and Queen Anne's Lace that grow along the roadsides here. I'm always sad when the mowing crew comes through.

It made me smile to read that you transplanted the spider. They are so fascinating!

gartenmalereien said...

Such incredible great Photos

i will come again

greetings Stephanie

Trish Callis said...

Nina, I have always enjoyed the sight of chicory popping up on the roadsides in July and August. A few years ago, a lady from another part of the country was visiting a garden on the far west side of Columbus and asked if she could buy some! Great consternation ensued, but she did go home with a shovelfull. I doubt chicory transplants well...

Jan said...

Hi Nina,
How very well written and photographed. My old house used to overlook a huge empty lot that went to meadow (I sold my house as the back was being turned into a housing development). Twice a year I would be reveling in the color of wildflowers, delighted in the beauty right outside my window. Then the owners would mow it all down. I would mourn the destruction, only to watch a different set of flowers,a different combination of colors, take its place. Seldom in the fifteen years at that house would I see the exact same combination. I would never stop mourning the destruction of a meadow in full bloom, but I learned nature is resilient. That helped me learn patience. P.S. It also made me glad I got away from the view when it was taken over for "development."

A Colorful World said...

I used to have a several of these wonderful spiders around the outside of my house in Texas. I didn't wash the outside of the windows for fear of disturbing them! I knew they would make short work of other peskier insects, and they are beautiful to look at! That purple lobelia is quite lovely. Too bad the tractor mowed it down. So many lovely things in nature go unappreciated!

Nellie from Beyond My Garden said...

While your essay on the spider is very good and interesting, I really want to know how you got those birds into your blog banner. That is so cool. I don't usually like animation because it slows things down and detracts, but those are great.

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Nellie, the animated birds are part of a public awareness campaign by the National Audubon Society called Birding the Net. It's supposed to lure people who aren't already birders into a game of finding birds hidden within internet sites and collecting them for prizes. If you search Audubon's website, all the details are there. Glad you like my scarlet tanagers and prothonotary warblers--but I need a change. Cerulean warblers perhaps?

Mike Whittemore said...

I find it so hard to capture blue wildflowers with my camera. Love the chicory photo. Also, we had Amorpha canense and Amorpha nana in North dakota - leadplant (a prairie plant) and dwarf false indigo, respectively. The A. nana is one of the more aromatic plants I've ever smelled. Beautiful group!