Garden Photo of the Day

More from John’s butterfly (and hummingbird) garden in Michigan

Hummingbirds love spring and summer flowering annuals, like lantana (Lantana camara and cvs., Zones 10-11). Photo: John Blair

We wanted more photos, and John obliged! In case you missed it, here’s what he said yesterday: “I have been a gardener all of my life since I grew up helping my father, who loved having a vegetable garden, and my mother, who loved roses and beautiful flower beds. When my wife and I got our own home 25 years ago, I was excited to have my very own land to be creative with and soon had a small vegetable garden, flower beds, and water features.

My garden path looking west. I love that you can find nearly every single color of flower in this photo!

“During the winter of 2012, I attended a presentation on creating a butterfly garden utilizing native plants and this really caught my interest! That spring, I expanded my previously small vegetable garden into a much larger garden for not only native plants but my favorite annuals and butterfly nectaring plants. I currently have 54 different species of native plants in my garden, with some favorites being Joe Pye weed, cardinal flower, boneset, anise hyssop, purple coneflower, queen of the prairie, ironweed, various blazing stars, five different species of milkweed, bee balm, orange coneflower, and many others.

New England asters (Aster novae-angliae cvs.) intertwined with morning glories.

“I also have added some of my favorite non-natives such as zinnias, cleome, lantana, ‘Victoria Blue’ salvia, delphinium, and Mexican sunflower. I was thrilled to have over 25 different species of butterflies visit my garden last summer and beautiful ruby-throated hummingbirds every day!

A tiger swallowtail butterfly on purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

“My hobby of photography dove-tails beautifully with my gardening and I spend time nearly every summer day capturing the beautiful bird and butterfly visitors as well as the incredible beauty of the flowers. Additionally, I have become interested in helping preserve the Monarch butterfly and by planting milkweed as a larva food source and numerous flowers as a nectaring source, I was able to get my garden certified as an official Monarch Waystation by Monarch Watch.”

This is a time exposure photo I took of my garden at night in mid-August!

Gorgeous garden, gorgeous photos, John. Thanks so much for the bonus batch! ***fresh captions with the photos***

The ruby-throated hummingbirds are especially fond of the red cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis).

—-Winter is the perfect time to take a photographic stroll through the photos you took in your garden this year……and then send some in to me at [email protected]!

I took this photo of my garden earlier in the summer before everything was in full bloom. To get this interesting perspective, I was up high on a rickety aluminum ladder propped up in the bushes!
On these cold, gray winter days, when the beauty of my garden is long gone, I look back at these photos and can hardly believe my eyes. It was a real pleasure looking through my photos of last summer again and being able to share them with other gardeners!

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View Comments


  1. perenniallycrazy 02/04/2014

    Thanks John and Michelle for obliging us and brightening this gal's cold winter day!

  2. perenniallycrazy 02/04/2014

    A toast to you and all like you who garden with a purpose. Cheers!

  3. user-1020932 02/04/2014

    John, i couldn't wait to get up today to see moreof your photos and it was another treat for the senses. i just went back to yesterdays and i'm glad i did. i, like May, visited your flickr link and was totally blown away, each photo better than the one before. you should make a calendar! its' as if your flowers , butterflies and hummingbirds are going to fly right off the screen. i am SO glad you chose to share these visions here on GPOD

  4. GardeningRocks 02/04/2014

    Incredible pictures! What a wonderful garden! Thank you for sharing!

  5. greengenes 02/04/2014

    I can hardly wait till spring! Once again, they are beautiful pictures! Like tntreeman I couldn't wait to get up this morning to see more of your wonderful garden! ITS 3:30 here on the west coast. I especially like the night scene pic. I will have to try doing that. It sure has been a pleasure to see your garden and all of the other ones, too. Thanks to you Michelle for all the work and fun you do to present this to us. I will see you at the garden and flower show!

  6. flowerladydi 02/04/2014

    Good morning John,

    So enjoyed your photos again this morning,,,, I went back to yesterday,,,as I had not been on the post since yesterday morning and read about your life changing experience and how you have come to love this passion.,,,, I feel humbled after reading it,,,, and so happy for you to have not only found this passion,, but to see the encouragement and joy that you have given to others,, and your expert ways of portraying it,,, through your beautiful photography as well as the explosion of colors in your garden, like a painting on canvas.
    Thank you,,,, you inspire us all I know,,,, and we all here,, gain so much from the exchanges between us,,,, thank you,,, thank you Michelle,, and everyone!

  7. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 02/04/2014

    Thaks for sharing more photos! The sots of the hummers and the tiger swallowtail are beautiful.

  8. pattyspencer 02/04/2014

    Again beautiful pictures. It's amazing that this garden has only been planted a few years ago and looks like it's been there forever. I think I saw faries in your night picture and they seem very happy with the home you've provided them and their friends.

  9. Kris_at_Blithewold 02/04/2014

    I love your rainbow assortment (what a sight for snow-blasted eyes!) and getting a glimpse of the wildlife it supports. Kudos to you!

  10. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 02/04/2014

    Wow, John what a great story! I went back to yesterday's post to see how I missed the Flikr link and found I had missed your compelling story. Blessings!

  11. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/04/2014

    Well, John, you're certainly giving some winter weary eyes a much appreciated reminder of what we have to look forward to. Your photo captures of hummingbirds and butterflies are pure enchantment. I love the hand of nature weaving the blue morning glory through the clump of the purple aster...such a perfect touch of serendipity. Thanks again for brightening our days.

  12. user-7006902 02/04/2014

    No no John, I believe the pleasure is all ours! I must try growing Cardinal Flower (again) in my garden. Just wonderful and what a great way to start the day.

  13. wGardens 02/04/2014

    Thank you, John, for sending more photos. Such a treat for us all; especially as we are waiting in earnest for SPRING. Great idea to take the time-exposure night shot.
    What a bonus for all your efforts to have 25 butterfly species last year! Fabulous!

  14. GardenGrl1 02/04/2014

    More beautiful photos! I can barely wait until Spring!

    Thank you John & Michelle!

  15. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/04/2014

    Just gotta' pop back on here to encourage everyone with a little extra time to check out John's flickr will never want to leave. It's just one truly gorgeous picture after another. Here'a repeat of the link.


  16. user-1020932 02/04/2014

    meander1 you are so right about those photos. you see one and think nothing could be better then the next one is just as good or better! my favorites ,,,,,,,,the hummer shaking pollen off itself and the little girl with the butterfly on her hand. the past two days here have been wonderful and i'm grateful to have gotten time to spend with John and his garden. i'm just totally blown away by everything!

  17. tractor1 02/04/2014

    John, thank you for the great photos, I especially like those that include some sky, adds depth to your garden. You certainly exhibit tremendous patience to capture all those critters... again, thank you, John.

  18. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/04/2014

    Hey, tntreeman, I fell in love with the front on close up of the male and female cardinal. I joked to my husband, Darwin, that it was the bird version of Grant Wood's iconic painting, American Gothic.

    By the way, John, in two pictures, you referred to one as a male monarch and the next as a female...what is the give-away in telling the gender?

  19. Quiltingmamma 02/04/2014

    I didn't think yesterday's shots could be topped, but today's are stellar. I also went back and saw the flickr link. Haven't gotten through them all but working on it. I have learned so much about hummer behaviour from them.
    Because I am curious - and in a similar zone as you - do you take up your pond liner every winter, or is that an extra one turned upside down over your existing pond?
    Thank you for sharing your new found hobbies and loves with us. I am glad you have been able to find something so artistic (you do have a good eye)and rewarding after your life change. Sometimes something bad happens as a reminder to slow down and do what we are really MEANT to be doing.
    I am off to Ecuador this week for a month, but when I get back, I hope I can drop you a line to further discuss the group plantings needed for butterflies. Thanks for that tip.

  20. user-1020932 02/04/2014

    Quiltingmamma, watch out for that volcano! will you be in cuenca or vilcabamba?

  21. marymax 02/04/2014

    Thank you for the second round of pictures and the Flickr link. Your garden and photos are magazine/calendar worthy. I've saved the Flickr link in my favorites, it will brighten many more days to come.

  22. hummergirl 02/04/2014

    Thanks John for delivering on the pictures so soon!! They are outstanding! Love the way you have shown us how your garden started and blossomed - and those butterfly and hummer pictures are superb! It is just amazing what you have accomplished in such a short time. Can't wait to get started on my new hummer/butterfly garden now that I have seen yours!

  23. annek 02/04/2014

    I am speechless...well almost. The link you provided shows photo after glorious photo of beauty, color and critters. What talent you have. I'd say you found your calling with gardening and photography, which means there are probably many more skills lurking subsurface. Thanks for your generosity in sharing!

  24. GrannyMay 02/04/2014

    John, thank you again for taking the time to share not only your garden photos but the story behind them! It is truly inspirational, a reminder that there can be joy in life again and meaning from unforeseen directions, when some life change prevents us from going on as before.

    I too have saved your Flikr link - there can be no feelings of stress, despair or disappointment while one is lost in the enchantment of nature via your beautiful photos!

  25. janetsfolly 02/04/2014

    John, this is by far my favorite-ever GPOD! The garden you've created and so thoroughly enjoy, your joy in sharing everything about it, the inspiring back story, and then the wonderful responses from our group! Yay!!! Thank you for so many things, Latin names, plant sources, promoting Monarch Watch, and on and on. You've made many converts here and the wildlife will be the beneficiaries of it all. It's so great to know so many of us use no pesticides or herbicides. And someone mentioned bees. Even though you may not see as many honeybees because they ar struggling from year to year, there are thousands of native bees, some very tiny, that are surely visiting your garden. We need all our pollinators, even if they're not all as lovely as the butterflies! I also wanted to ask if you see many birds eating the wild grapes in your lush backdrop? Thank you, thank you for sharing so generously!

  26. annek 02/04/2014

    @ Janetsfolly: I love the sound of your words "our group". Quite the community has formed because of Michelle's vision and hard work as well as the high caliber of people who post on a daily basis. A very positive thing in an unsure world.

  27. GrannyMay 02/04/2014

    I just wanted to add that the main Flikr link to revisit John's photos is

    Prepare to spend a LOT of time there. John, it is fantastic!
    I don't know how you could choose which ones to send to GPOD, but glad you opened the door for us.

  28. John429 02/04/2014

    Good morning new friends! I rose a bit late today and see so many nice comments already - wow! When I posted the link to the photo of the Joe Pye Weed last night, I didn't realize you guys would discover all the other photos in the storage vault LOL! I'm very glad for you to enjoy them and I had asked Michelle yesterday if I could share my flickr photo album with you. She said I could do so today so here is a link will be much better organized for you to use on my main flickr page. You will see things arranged by category: Butterflies, Hummingbirds, Butterfly Garden 2013 (you've seen most of those here already) and my 2012 Butterfly Garden (first year), which shows the photos I took as we first cleared the space, prepared the site and did all the planting and planning of the paths for the butterfly garden, which some of you might find interesting to see :-) After you open an album (for example, "Butterflies"), if you double click the first picture, it will enlarge the photo and you can see my captions/comments to the right. You can then click through the rest of the photos in the album by clicking the arrow on the right side of the photo. Here is the main link to my flickr photo page for those interested:

    (as before, I think you will need to copy and paste this link into your browser)

    Again, thank you all for your interest and kind, heartfelt comments! Wow!

  29. user-1020932 02/04/2014

    May, he not only opened the door he GAVE US THE KEY, how cool is that?!?!?!?

  30. John429 02/04/2014

    I should have gotten up earlier today - there are so many nice comments and don't know if I can catch up to respond to each one! I'm a slow, one-finger typer LOL.Please know that I've read and appreciate more than you can know every comment you folks have made! What I'll try to do is answer any questions I see right away :-)

  31. GrannyCC 02/04/2014

    Gorgeous photos John. What a lovely way to start the day. I have seen so many butterflies that I didn't know existed. It is certainly a new ares to explore. You are a very talented photographer and gardener. Thanks for joining our group and sharing you story.

  32. PamWittenberg 02/04/2014

    Wow, everything is so greeeeeeeeeennnnn, and lush, and pretend-looking, but then it's too beautiful to even be pretend! I got myself lost in the Flickr album for longer than I care to admit. Amazing and inspiring!

  33. John429 02/04/2014

    meander1 - The shot of the male and female cardinals together reminded me of the "American Gothic" painting also LOL! All that was missing was a pitchfork ;-)

    Regarding distinguishing male from female Monarchs - here's the easiest way. If you look at the two lower wings of the male Monarch, you will see, on each one, a noticeable black dot/bump in the center of each wing along one of the dark veins. This is a scent gland that helps attract mates and is only found on the male. The female doesn't have this black spot/bump on her wings. I just put together this quick graphic for you to see :-)

  34. John429 02/04/2014

    I'm so glad you are enjoying today's photos as well :-) It was so amazingly nice of Michelle to feature more of my shots for a second day :-)

    Regarding the ponds, since mine are just the plastic liners that set into the ground, I do empty them every year because I fear they would crack. So yes, that's why you saw that one upside down in the photo.

    I hope you have a safe and wonderful trip to Ecuador and I'll be happy to talk with you (or anyone else as well) who would like to discuss butterfly gardening/native plants and plantings to attract butterflies :-)

  35. GrnThum 02/04/2014

    Just love it! My version of the perfect garden. Keep planting that milkweed and (hopefully) we'll be able to keep the migration going. We can't give up! Spread the word!!

  36. Quiltingmamma 02/04/2014

    tntreeman, no, I won't be in either place. I have had Galapagos Islands on my bucket list since aged 10, so finally will visit. Also Amazon rainforest, cloud forest and for town - Quito. I started birding last year, so a lot of focus will be that, but I might need to take a side trip to a rose nursery as we know some of the best cut roses come out of Ecuador. When I am not photographing birds and marine iguanas, I'll aim for gardens I can share with you.
    Thanks for the pond clarification John.

  37. John429 02/04/2014

    janetsfolly, thank you so much and it gives me joy to know that the information and photos have been helpful and interesting. Also, I have been excited to see a number of folks interested in joining Monarch Watch, crating Monarch Waystations and planting milkweed for the Monarchs. Yay!!

    Regarding your question about whether I see birds eating the wild grapes - for some reason, those vines produce very few grapes. I didn't see any in 2012 and last summer, I only saw just a few small bunches along the fence east of the garden. Unfortunately for the birds, I LOVE those little grapes and I ate them! However, there are finches eating the seeds from the Purple Coneflowers as soon as they are ripe. I also maintain an outdoor feeder year-round, so the birds always have good things to eat :-)

  38. AnneinQC 02/04/2014

    I am inspired to plant more for blooms! I admit to not being a vegetable gardener so nice to know I can contribute more to all the other veggie growers by attracting more pollinators. Just wondering though, do the monarchs only nest on the wild milkweed or will one of the hibrids do? I have some of the wild ones in my garden and confess to pulling them out because they multiply so rapidly, I'll start leaving a few ...

  39. AnneinQC 02/04/2014

    I am inspired to plant more for blooms! I admit to not being a vegetable gardener so nice to know I can contribute more to all the other veggie growers by attracting more pollinators. Just wondering though, do the monarchs only nest on the wild milkweed or will one of the hibrids do? I have some of the wild ones in my garden and confess to pulling them out because they multiply so rapidly, I'll start leaving a few ...

  40. TeriCA 02/04/2014

    Thank you so much for sharing your lush garden summer pictures! You obviously have 2 major talents....horticulture and photography...loved them all!

  41. Meelianthus 02/04/2014

    Goodmorning John from Washington state. Don't ever underestimate the love of photos that we gardeners never tire of - and yours are truly beautiful and amazing. Gardens are such a wonderful respite in any season and any form. I do love your paths and don't think I have ever seen such flourishing flowers along a trail. Really beautiful. You have done such a wonderful job taking care of natures little winged delights.
    Thank you for sharing your passion.

  42. wittyone 02/04/2014

    John these are beautiful. Especially the second one down on the left---the path with the blue sky and clouds peeking out of the corner. Just perfect to remind me that spring and summer are waiting in the wings on this grey, grey day with more snow on the way tonight!

    I'm so glad you survived the aerial shot taken from the rickety ladder. Nothing like going all out for the best perspective.

  43. terieLR 02/04/2014

    Good heavens! I'll have to hurry through dinner and dishes so I can make a date with John's Flickr photos. Over the past two days I have jumped onto this page several times with intentions of commenting but I keep getting lost in all the details. Oh the joys of gardening, not only for ourselves but to be reminded that our efforts benefit nature to the extreme. We need only to take those moments and observe the fine details that surround us on a daily basis. So much of what we take for granted is capable of bringing simple joys to brighten our days.
    John, your passion to create this wonderful garden reaches out to inspire all of us. The photographs will give us a visual to draw from for months to come. Thank you, thank you for sharing your joys. We welcome you!

  44. BethinIowa 02/04/2014

    Gorgeous photos, John, again! May I ask what camera you are using? I believe you may be a photography-kindred-spirit. I use a Canon 6D and I really love it. I agree with Jeff tntreeman that the flowers and creatures look as if they will come out of the computer and be on my desk. Do you have any winter photos of your gardens? I personally really love winter nature scenes! I always feel a sense of calm and snuggly-ness as I imagine all my garden plants and creatures sleeping and hibernating, or in some southern locale, to return in spring and summer to my yard in Iowa :-)

  45. John429 02/04/2014

    AnneinQC, I have seen Monarch larva on Swamp Milkweed (Asclepia incarnata), Common Milkweed (A. Syriaca)and Butterfly Weed (A. tuberosa)in my area of Michigan. I do know the Common Milkweed can spread all over the place by underground rhizomes, so many folks don't like it as a garden plant for that reason. However, I have had good luck with Swamp Milkweed and Butterfly Weed staying where they are planted and not spreading invasively. And with beautiful pink (swamp) and orange (butterfly weed) blossoms, these two are fantastic additions to the garden. Regarding hybrid milkweeds - the only ones I have seen are some in catalogs where Butterflyweed has been modified to produce various different color blossoms on the same plant. I don't know how this hybridization would effect suitability for larva food, however, sticking with the native species would always be a safe bet :-)

    writes: I am inspired to plant more for blooms! I admit to not being a vegetable gardener so nice to know I can contribute more to all the other veggie growers by attracting more pollinators. Just wondering though, do the monarchs only nest on the wild milkweed or will one of the hibrids do? I have some of the wild ones in my garden and confess to pulling them out because they multiply so rapidly, I'll start leaving a few ...

  46. John429 02/04/2014

    TeriCA, Meelianthus, wittyone, BethinIowa and terieLR

    I read and enjoyed each one of your comments very much! I am so pleased to have happened upon such a wonderful group of kind, thoughtful and interesting people. Your comments were just wonderful. Thank you :-)

    BethinIowa, you had asked about my camera. I use a Nikon D5000 (got it for 1/2 price right when the new D5100 came out. I found it is always a good time to buy the old widget right when the new widget comes out!). I have several lenses I use. For my butterflies and birds, I use a Nikon 55 - 300mm zoom. For landscape I love my wide angle lens (a Sigma 10 - 20mm). I also still often use the lens that came with my camera (Nikon 18 - 55mm). Even though this isn't top of the line equipment, it has worked really well for me and since my camera and I have been on many adventures together, it seems kinda like an old friend. You also asked if I had any winter shots of the garden. Here is one from last winter. It looks the same now except the snow is deeper! (please copy and paste to browser)

  47. Yeddi 02/04/2014

    More is definitely better!

  48. GardeningRocks 02/04/2014


    I had to come back to see your pictures again after work. They are wonderful! I have not mastered the art of taking pictures of hummingbirds in focus. I would also be interested to know what camera you use to photograph your garden, butterflies and birds, and how long the lens is. I am looking forward to improving my garden and bird photography after seeing yours!

  49. GardeningRocks 02/04/2014

    The camera answers were posted while I was asking about them! Thanks!

  50. janetsfolly 02/04/2014

    Quiltingmamma: your upcoming trip sounds fabulous! Hope you see lots of great birds! We'll be looking for your photos.

  51. kitsapcharly 02/05/2014

    Fantastic garden! More shots or shots from next season would be good. The nighttime scene is one of the best I've ever seen from anybody. The photography was as sharp and well done as the garden was beautiful.

  52. wittyone 02/05/2014

    John, I went back to Monday's post and read more comments and found the link to the winter scene. Looking at things in the side bar it was interesting to see how methodically you laid out the bed and path areas before planting. I wish that I could visualize in advance and plant like that but my beds generally just grow like topsy and bit by bit.

    The winter scene also shows that you are surrounded (it looks like) by houses on every side. The first batch of pictures looked like you were right out in the countryside surrounded by trees. What a nice sanctuary you have provided for yourself and anyone lucky enough to be invited to see your work.

    I also had wondered if you grew some or all of those perennials and annuals and see that you have quite a set up with grow lights etc. to work with. Some of those perennials really need special conditions to prosper and it's often hard to find all the information that you need for success on the first try.

    It's so nice to see those bright flowers and green foliage this morning after shoveling 8 inches of snow off of a double wide driveway. At least we don't have to get out and so can take it a piece at a time and work at our own pace.

  53. John429 02/05/2014

    wittyone, regarding laying out my garden, once I finally had all of the landscape fabric down and I was finally ready to plant my first plant, I stood frozen, looking at the immense, empty canvas I had to paint (using an art analogy)and it occurred to me, I had no idea where to start! I called in my sister, who is an artist (and a gardener), and it was her idea to use the garden hoses to lay out different ideas for paths and beds. We started in late morning and spent the whole day moving hoses around and walking through the different designs. It wasn't until late in the day when we finally hit the winning layout!

    Yes, we do have a subdivision that borders our south property line and in the summer, it nearly vanishes with all the thick foliage! Because the woods were cleared when the development went it, I actually have good sun due to an open southern exposure that I don't have anywhere else on my heavily wooded lot.

    Regarding growing my own plants, I did have some success that first winter of 2012. Although I started with 1,200 seeds planted of about 40 different kinds, things dwindled to about 100 plants by planting time. As you say, may species require very specific conditions for success. My best success with native seeds were my milkweeds and Joe Pye weeds.

    I too have been battling the winter snow. We got another six inches last night and we have been working together here all day on clearing the driveway (750 feet!). We all just came in about 4:00 after a long, long day!

  54. John429 02/05/2014

    kitsapcharly, Thank you! I'm happy you enjoyed the garden and photography and I will definitely be taking oodles and oodles (is that a word?) more shots of the garden this coming spring and summer. I don't know if I'm allowed to resubmit again next year or not since my garden was already shown here though? I'm glad you enjoyed the night shot. That was actually a really tough shot to get and it took many tries at different shutter speeds, f-stops and different lenses. I nearly gave up and on one of the last tries, I finally got that good one. I thought I would submit it to Michelle here along with the daytime shots because it was something very different :-)

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