Weekly Photo Challenge: Home (and Garden)

This week’s photo challenge is Home: “share a picture that evokes HOME for you. Apart from my family–the one I was born to, and the one that grew around me over the years–my home is the garden that embraces our house.

My garden before sunset

When I garden, I imagine myself the Little Prince, tending his planet against the catastrophe of the baobabs. Last year, I joined the Wildlife Sanctuary Program with the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, and that made me more observant and thoughtful about the environment I build. Here is my little planet and the creatures it shelters each year. 

February – With the robins back, our feisty mockingbird resumes her war over holly dominance (she usually wins).

February - mockingbird in our holly tree

Her highness Mockingbird, on her throne

March – Couples begin to form, and nests spring up in the oddest of places.

A couple of cardinals - March

Cardinals, basking in cool sunset rays

March - Carolina wren nest in a wreath by our front door

Inevitably, I forget the old wreath, and Carolina wrens move in–right outside our front door

April –We notice our first chicks, usually Carolina chickadees and wrens.

April - Chickadee by his nest in a cherry tree

A chickadee couple comes back to this cherry hollow every spring

Always within view, the wren nest soon explodes with tiny sounds. Happy story: Last year’s trio survived into adolescence (we lost track of them in mid-summer).

By late April, azaleas are in bloom, and everything around looks new and fresh.

April - robin in spring with a worm

A robin, having his elevenses

If it is warm enough, a black rat snake slithers out for a sunbath.

Black rat snake

And we even get an occasional mammal–in the least cultivated corner of the yard.

Eastern cottontail in my garden

An Eastern cottontail?

May – More nests! More babies hatch, and anxious, frantic parents begin the feeding frenzy. 

May - baby cardinals in their nest

Cardinal babies, so unnervingly reptilian

Always a shock, the mulberry season arrives. Berry stains are a pain, but the birds  these berries bring are worth the mess.

May - Red-bellied Woodpecker in mulberry tree

A red-bellied woodpecker on his daily visit

Toads and frogs make a gentle, unobtrusive appearance.

May - toad in the garden

Fowler’s toad, we think

And insects come into their own. I am especially happy to greet the lady beetles, my steadfast allies against aphids.

Ladybug on white flowers in May

June – Native wildflowers are teeming with bees, butterflies, and a myriad of other winged creatures. Every morning, we awaken to birdsong.

Butterfly weed with bee

There is always buzzing around butterfly weed blooms

June - Spicebush swallowtail

A spicebush swallowtail resting after visiting our spice bush, its host plant

June - a bee in a phlox bloom

An early phlox bloom opens up for its first customer

Gray Catbird on Oregon Grape Holly

One of my favorite crooners, a gray catbird

Last month’s chicks are now juveniles and the same size as their parents, but looking decidedly under-baked, haphazard. They cry out for food and are promptly satisfied by their exhausted caregivers.

A juvenile grackle calling out to his parents to feed him

A juvenile grackle, demanding to be fed

July – Just as the entire DC area turns into an insufferable sauna, EVERYthing blooms and buzzes in the yard. Charismatic garden visits occur daily. 

July - a swallowtail on phlox

An Eastern tiger swallowtail on purple phlox

August – Virginia gardens begin to look a tad tired and thirsty, but many native plants are just reaching their crescendo. A family of ruby-throated hummingbirds–we usually see several in our garden, an unusual sight for these territorial creatures, so we assume they are related–attack the scarlet cardinal flowers twice daily.

Ruby-throated hummingbird on cardinal flower

American goldfinches and other small birds descend on black-eyed susans and coneflowers, their seeds now quickly ripening.

September – Days begin to cool. Hardy asters take over, but August stars are still present. I watch milkweeds with particular zeal this month: The generation of monarch caterpillars that are devouring them now are the Methuselah generation, the only monarch cohort that lives up to nine months, enough to travel across the country to the same oyamel fir grove in Mexico. You can help this grand migration, so vulnerable to habitat loss, by supporting The Monarch Watch and joining its Monarch Waystation Program. 

September - mesuthelah monarch butterfly caterpillar on milkweed

A Methuselah monarch butterfly caterpillar munching on milkweed

Chipmunks, whom we’ve hardly seen through summer, are now back in view, swift and gratuitously cute. 

Chipmunk and asters

October – Rough clouds of white snakeroot flowers swathe my garden, still bright and buzzing with activity–the last hurrah before the cold season.

A common buckeye butterfly on white snakeroot (October)

A common buckeye butterfly on white snakeroot

A backscratching bee on a late Tennessee coneflower

A backscratching bee on a late Tennessee coneflower

Chipmunk and his nuts in our garden (October)

Chipmunk gymnastics

November – A trace of winter is in the air. The leaves are falling, flowers turn brown, and we come to know the squirrels by name.

November - squirrel waiting for food


Migrants from the north stop by. We are grateful to get a glimpse of them, if only for a few days.

Ovenbird in a holly

An ovenbird, the resident of Eastern forests

And we get to see our regulars at a far closer range.

December – The garden sleeps. Bright holly berries are the toast of winter.

Cardinal in a holly tree

A male cardinal in a holly

Grackle in holly tree

A grackle, “singing”

As it gets cold, a hawk begins to pay menacing visits.

Hawk in our Virginia back yardJanuary – Another year begins, weeks of grey still ahead. Life in the yard goes on. 

Blue jay in snow

Opossum prints

Opossum prints

We peer out, restlessly, counting minutes to spring. 

Cat, looking out of the window

Read on: 

28 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Home (and Garden)

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. They do all live or come for visits in my garden. I decided to try and plant native flowers and bushes, where I can–and it really pays off. I now have a whole different definition of “ornamental plants” (a.k.a., do their leaves host local butterflies and beneficial insects? Do their flowers attract birds and pollinators? It’s a different way to look at a garden, one I am enjoying much more–I actually LIKE to see eaten leaves now). I loved your pictures of home too. There is so much warmth and light in them.

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    • Thank you, Elen! Our squirrels are a year-around joy. The neighbors must hate us, but they are so engaging, and, to be honest, now that we give them tribute in nuts and provide food sources in the garden, I almost never lose bulbs to their digging.

  3. This is a great photo essay! I followed you here from another blog because I liked your name, and found out we are neighbors. You’ve done a great job of showing the good things about living around here…easy to overlook with all the political drama. I’ll come back to visit again.
    Greetings from Anne Arundel County!

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