After weeks of dry weather and air filled with smoke from huge forest fires off to the West, the past ten days have brought us the summer "monsoon" season - late, but much better than never. We've had some whopping thunderstorms - today's brought pea-sized hail, which I would not have chosen if anyone had asked for my opinion! But the storms have also gifted us with nearly two inches of rain, and my garden's loving the moisture plus the nitrogen fixed by the lightning, as are the wildflowers in our restored native grassland front yard.
The hummingbirds zip around the yard in the morning and the evening - they rest in the shade through the hot parts of the day - drinking from the scarlet gilia, the orange-red flames of Indian paintbrush, and the dangling bell-like blossoms of the scarlet bugler penstemon. We never got around to putting up a hummingbird feeder when we finally got this house finished enough to move in last summer (after spending six years building it, but that's another story!). Now I'm glad. The flowers in the yard are so abundant that the hummers don't waste energy fighting over the feeder. We get to watch their natural behavior, noting which wildflowers they prefer at different times of day. And they get to play their part in the community of our yard, pollinating the flowers that entice them with nectar. Today I watched two broad-tails, one rufous, one calliope, and an immature I couldn't identify, all feeding in different parts of the yard at once.
Since we garden without pesticides, the wildflowers and the herbs attract a steady parade of butterflies too, including this female black swallowtail (that's from Butterflies and Moths of North America, a fabulous butterfly and moth identification web site hosted by Montana State University) laying eggs on our dill. I don't mind leaving extra dill to feed the caterpillars that metamorphose into these gorgeous black-winged adults. Watching them float through the garden on sunny afternoons is more than worth the loss of a few dill plants!