Ken Soltesz, Dragonfly Mentor

Ken Soltesz in the center surrounded by an enthusiastic group during a Cape May Bird Observatory Dragonfly Walk he led, June 20, 1992.

Those of us who have been nurtured by mentors are the lucky ones.

My strength as an educator and wealth of knowledge as a naturalist are largely due to five very important mentors in my life.

  1. My husband, Clay, put a pair of binoculars into my hands (when I was still a bookworm) and opened up a world of wonder to me.
  2. Bill Bailey taught me botany, coastal erosion, pollinators, and so much more. After our first day afield I was afraid to take a step without first looking down to see the many plants I might crush. Prior to my outings with Bill Bailey I had only noticed the bright and showy obvious plants.
  3. Al Nicholson shared the mystery and beauty of Bear Swamp and many other South Jersey wilderness areas with Clay and I.
  4. Ed Manners shared a wealth of information he had gathered over 40 years of studying Saw-whet Owls at a winter owl roost along the Delaware River in New Jersey across from the Philadelphia Airport – sadly developed and gone today.
  5. And Ken Soltesz put names to over 100 species of dragonflies and damselflies in Cape May County, helping me (and many others) to become intimate with them, their natural history, and needs (fishless ponds to breed in).

Ken Soltesz entered Cape May County’s natural history scene in 1989 and turned it upside down with his keen interest in dragons and damsels. He grew a small army of odonate enthusiasts.

I lost my dear friend and mentor, Ken Soltesz, on September 20, 2012. Ken was passionate about the natural world, delving into its mysteries and studying it from every angle.   He touched my life and the lives of many others.

Learn more about this amazing naturalist and sharing mentor by reading my latest post on Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens.

2012 Wildlife Garden TOURS

(1) meadow w-sigThis is the 21st year I’ve been leading these tours of private backyard wildlife gardens.  And they just keep getting yummier and yummier!

Be sure to mark your calendars with the following dates & plan to join me on one, several, or all NINE of the 2012 “Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens” that I will again be leading for NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May.

Alert your friends, family, neighbors, … anyone you’re trying to HOOK on wildlife gardening!

These wildlife-friendly gardens offer so many ideas in the way of design, use of space, plant combinations, native plants that are lovely AND beneficial to wildlife, “chocolate cake” nectar plants, key caterpillar plants, great native shrub ideas, “how to” create your own meadow ideas, garden accents and features like misters, dragonfly ponds, arbors . . .

Imagine getting a glimpse into private backyard wildlife gardens, interacting with the artists who created them, having each and every garden and wildlife question answered, and enjoying it with a group of fellow wildlife gardeners.

Enjoy a SNEAK PEAK (South Tour, North Tour, Mid-County Tour) into some of the gardens we’ve visited in the past.

“Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens”

with NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May

1600 Delaware Ave., Cape May, NJ 08204

(609)898-8848

 

Tours of Private BUTTERFLY Gardens — 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Friday, July 13: SOUTH “Cape Island”

Saturday, July 14: MID-COUNTY “North Cape May to Rio Grande”

Sunday, July 15: NORTH “Goshen to Dennisville”

(2) Butterfly GDN.jpgMore butterfly and hummingbird gardens are tucked into Cape May County than probably anywhere else in the country. Mid-July is the time of peak butterfly diversity and numbers. Gardens look completely different from one month to the next (so seriously consider all 9 tours). Learn the magic combination of native nectar plants and caterpillar plants that makes a garden especially attractive to butterflies. Design ideas and new wildlife plants will be showcased while tour participants are entertained by a blizzard of butterflies and hummingbirds.

Tours of Private HUMMINGBIRD Gardens — 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Friday, August 17: NORTH “Goshen to Dennisville”

Saturday, August 18: SOUTH “Cape Island”

Sunday, August 19: MID-COUNTY “North Cape May to Rio Grande”

(3) Hum GDN 1.jpg

At the peak of Ruby-throated Hummingbird migration, we’ll savor an array of diverse gardens that have hosted nesting hummingbirds since May and are now drawing in dozens of migrants. Native nectar plants, healthy insect populations, water sources, and adequate cover are key elements of each garden.

Tours of Private MONARCH (butterfly) Gardens — 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 14: MID-COUNTY “North Cape May to Rio Grande”

Saturday, Sept. 15: NORTH “Goshen to Dennisville”

Sunday, Sept. 16: SOUTH “Cape Island”

(4) Monarch w-sig 2.jpgAt the peak of Cape May County’s world-famous fall Monarch migration, tour diverse gardens that have hosted Monarchs since May. Each features native nectar plants and as many as five different kinds of milkweed (used by Monarchs for egg laying to create the next generation). Expect clouds of Monarchs and other butterflies, Monarch eggs, caterpillars, and maybe even a chrysalis. The complex Monarch migration will be both explained and enjoyed.

TOUR DETAILS AND PRICING

Gardening naturalist and author, Pat Sutton, leads these tours, which include her own garden in Goshen (North tour). Bring lunch since the group will eat in one of the gardens.

If some of you are keen to create a butterfly & hummingbird garden, be sure to download the article & plant list I wrote / created:

Limit: 25 per tour. Nine Tours / Cost per tour: $30 members (NJ Audubon), $40 nonmembers.

(Join three tours at a discounted rate of $75 members, $100 nonmembers.)

These tours require preregistration with payment.

You may register by phone at 609.898.8848 with a credit card or send payment to the Nature Center of Cape May, 1600 Delaware Avenue, Cape May, NJ 08204 (noting which tours and full names of registrants).

NCCM reserves the right to cancel programs, and refunds are available only if NCCM cancels the event. Walk-ins are welcome on a space-available basis. Become a member of NJAS and receive discounts in the gift shop and on many programs.

Hanging Baskets in Winter?

3 - sig
Brrrrrrr cold winter nights – one Carolina Wren safely roosts down in the basket, while the other roosts out of a prowling cat’s reach in under the roof corner

As a long-time wildlife gardener, I’ve learned to question every action.   Is it necessary?  Will it be detrimental to wildlife?  Most times, I talk myself out of one task or another.  Am I lazy or a wise wildlife gardener?  The joys I’ve experienced are my proof.

Learn more about Carolina Wrens and how we might help them survive another cold winter night by reading my latest column on the Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens website (where over 25 of us contribute educational and informative columns to guide and encourage wildlife gardeners, so they don’t make the same mistakes we did).

One Woman’s Wild Life

Pat Sutton in her GDN-6-24-10-w-sigHi Gang,

The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Ginny Smith did a feature on my efforts over the years to teach about Gardening for Wildlife, titled “One Woman’s Wild Life” (November 11, 2011).

Have a fun read & pass it along to others you know who are keen on wildlife gardening, and some you may hope to hook on the joy of it.

Happy Gardening!
Pat

The “tidy factor”

Sparrow eating seed heads w-sigI’m always surprised when the “tidy factor” wins and a gardener feels compelled to whack back spent flowers and seed heads and send them off to the compost pile.  I bite my tongue, but am deeply puzzled.

Learn how leaving those seed heads alone can benefit so much and maybe even help you hook a friend on wildlife gardening by reading my latest column on the Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens website (where over 30 of us contribute educational and informative columns to guide and encourage wildlife gardeners, so they don’t make the same mistakes we did).

Untidy Wildlife Gardens

AmGoldfinch eating PurpleGiantHyssop-SuttonGDN-8-9-11 (002)-w-sig
American Goldfinch feasting on Purple Giant Hyssop in my untidy garden

The typical garden may be “neat as a pin” but, to some, “ugly as sin” and pretty darned unfriendly to wildlife. I’m not saying that a garden has to be untidy, but so many of our maintenance tasks are just plain fussy and have the potential to be highly detrimental to the very critters we’ve invited into the garden.

Learn more about my love of untidy wildlife gardens and why at the Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens website where over 30 of us contribute educational and informative columns to guide and encourage wildlife gardeners, so they don’t make the same mistakes we did.

Hummingbird Garden Tours

Ruby-thHumm on ornament-w-sigHi Gang,

Hummingbird activity has exploded in our garden. Young are off the nest & flying about. Birds from the north are on the move south through our area. Females are busy with their 2nd (or maybe even 3rd) nest. Territorial males are busy, busy, busy as they dash about chasing several hummingbirds away from each of the five feeders we’ve hung and their favorite flowers. It’s quite a show. Makes your head spin.

Ruby-th Humm on Cardinal Flower by Pat Sutton
Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Cardinal Flower

With the heat this summer we’ve been cleaning out the feeders and refilling every few days with fresh solution. In our garden they’re also feeding on Cardinal Flower (which is in full bloom), many different salvias (Black and Blue, Blue Ensign, Texas Sage, Salvia Indigo Spires, Belize Sage, and others), Cannas, the 2nd bloom of Bee Balm, Cuphea David verity, Orange Cuphea, Mexican Sunflowers, Trumpet Creeper, and some still-blooming Coral Honeysuckle. Insects are plentiful in the garden and an abundance of fruit flies over my dish of gooey fruit for the butterflies also attracts the hummingbirds and keeps their diet rich in protein.

Can’t wait to share it all with you during the next set of “Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens,” August 12, 13, & 14 — this time focusing on “Hummingbird Gardens.” My garden will be on the August 12 (Friday) “North: Goshen to Dennisville” tour.

Tours of Private HUMMINGBIRD Gardens

Friday, August 12: NORTH “Goshen to Dennisville”

Saturday, August 13: SOUTH “Cape Island”

Sunday, August 14: MID-COUNTY “North Cape May to Rio Grande”

10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

At the peak of Ruby-throated Hummingbird migration, we’ll savor an array of diverse gardens that have hosted nesting hummingbirds since May and are now drawing in dozens of migrants. Native nectar plants, healthy insect populations, water sources, and adequate cover are key elements of each garden.

TOUR DETAILS AND PRICING

Limit: 25 per tour. Nine Tours in 2011 / Cost per tour: $30 members (NJ Audubon), $40 nonmembers.  (Join three tours at a discounted rate of $75 members, $100 nonmembers.)  These tours require preregistration with payment.  You may register by phone at 609.898.8848 with a credit card or send payment to the Nature Center of Cape May, 1600 Delaware Avenue, Cape May, NJ 08204 (noting which tours and full names of registrants).

This is the 20th year I’ve been leading these tours of private backyard wildlife gardens. Yowee! In September (23, 24, & 25) we’ll be focusing on Monarch Butterfly Gardens!

Ruby-thHummingbird-at SalviaIndigoSpires-SuttonGDN-8-3-10(001)-w-sig
Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Salvia Indigo Spires

These wildlife-friendly gardens offer so many ideas in the way of design, use of space, plant combinations, native plants that are lovely AND beneficial to wildlife, “chocolate cake” nectar plants, key caterpillar plants, great shrub ideas, “how to” create your own meadow ideas, garden accents and features like misters, dragonfly ponds, arbors . . .

Imagine getting a glimpse into private backyard wildlife gardens, interacting with the artists who created them, having each and every garden and wildlife question answered, and enjoying it with a group of fellow wildlife gardeners.

Hope to see some of you there !

2011 Wildlife Garden TOURS

sm-Pat in the GDN-5-16-10(001)Hi Gardening Friends,

Our spring garden was a show stopper with clouds of blooming Wild Columbine, Coral Bells, and Coral Honeysuckle and of course Ruby-throated Hummingbirds galore.

Now it’s bursting at the seams as all the other perennials fill out and bump into each other. Common Milkweed and Butterflyweed are in full bloom and pulling in many butterflies. And many, many other perennials are about to pop . . . just in time for this year’s “Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens.”

This is the 20th year I’ve been leading these tours of private backyard wildlife gardens. Yowee!

Be sure to mark your calendars with the following dates & plan to join me on one, several, or all NINE of the 2011 “Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens” that I will again be leading for NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May.

Alert your friends, family, neighbors, … anyone you’re trying to HOOK on wildlife gardening!

These wildlife-friendly gardens offer so many ideas in the way of design, use of space, plant combinations, native plants that are lovely AND beneficial to wildlife, “chocolate cake” nectar plants, key caterpillar plants, great shrub ideas, “how to” create your own meadow ideas, garden accents and features like misters, dragonfly ponds, arbors . . .

Imagine getting a glimpse into private backyard wildlife gardens, interacting with the artists who created them, having each and every garden and wildlife question answered, and enjoying it with a group of fellow wildlife gardeners.

Enjoy a SNEAK PEAK (South Tour, North Tour, Mid-County Tour) into some of the gardens we’ll be visiting as I include photos of different gardens over the course of the summer.

“Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens”

with NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May

1600 Delaware Ave., Cape May, NJ 08204

(609)898-8848

 

Tours of Private BUTTERFLY Gardens — 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Friday, July 8: SOUTH “Cape Island”

Saturday, July 9: MID-COUNTY “North Cape May to Rio Grande”

Sunday, July 10: NORTH “Goshen to Dennisville”

Tiger Swallowtail on MonardaMore butterfly and hummingbird gardens are tucked into Cape May County than probably anywhere else in the country. Mid-July is the time of peak butterfly diversity and numbers. Gardens look completely different from one month to the next (so seriously consider all 9 tours). Learn the magic combination of native nectar plants and caterpillar plants that makes a garden especially attractive to butterflies. Design ideas and new wildlife plants will be showcased while tour participants are entertained by a blizzard of butterflies and hummingbirds.

Tours of Private HUMMINGBIRD Gardens — 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Friday, August 12: NORTH “Goshen to Dennisville”

Saturday, August 13: SOUTH “Cape Island”

Sunday, August 14: MID-COUNTY “North Cape May to Rio Grande”

Hummingbird Moth-PhloxAt the peak of Ruby-throated Hummingbird migration, we’ll savor an array of diverse gardens that have hosted nesting hummingbirds since May and are now drawing in dozens of migrants. Native nectar plants, healthy insect populations, water sources, and adequate cover are key elements of each garden.

Tours of Private MONARCH (butterfly) Gardens — 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 23: MID-COUNTY “North Cape May to Rio Grande”

Saturday, Sept. 24: NORTH “Goshen to Dennisville”

Sunday, Sept. 25: SOUTH “Cape Island”

Monarch on Common Milkweed in Sutton's Monarch Waystation-byPatSuttonAt the peak of Cape May County’s world-famous fall Monarch migration, tour diverse gardens that have hosted Monarchs since May. Each features native nectar plants and as many as five different kinds of milkweed (used by Monarchs for egg laying to create the next generation). Expect clouds of Monarchs and other butterflies, Monarch eggs, caterpillars, and maybe even a chrysalis. The complex Monarch migration will be both explained and enjoyed.

TOUR DETAILS AND PRICING

Gardening naturalist and author, Pat Sutton, leads these tours, which include her own garden in Goshen (North tour). Bring lunch since the group will eat in one of the gardens.

If some of you are keen to create a butterfly & hummingbird garden, be sure to download the article & plant list I wrote / created:

Limit: 25 per tour. Nine Tours / Cost per tour: $30 members (NJ Audubon), $40 nonmembers.

(Join three tours at a discounted rate of $75 members, $100 nonmembers.)

These tours require preregistration with payment.

You may register by phone at 609.898.8848 with a credit card or send payment to the Nature Center of Cape May, 1600 Delaware Avenue, Cape May, NJ 08204 (noting which tours and full names of registrants).

NCCM reserves the right to cancel programs, and refunds are available only if NCCM cancels the event. Walk-ins are welcome on a space-available basis. Become a member of NJAS and receive discounts in the gift shop and on many programs.