Growing Things

My Very Hungry Caterpillar

For many years now, I've had a thriving butterfly garden.  (See my post from earlier this summer about my garden and how easy it is to plant and certify your own Monarch Waystation.)  And over those years, I've seen many a Monarch butterfly, flitting among the blooms.  But I had never actually seen the Monarchs laying eggs on my milkweed plants.*  And I had never seen a Monarch caterpillar.* Until this summer!  

* (I'm sure they've been there, doing just those things.  But I had never been there to see it.)

In July, I happened to be out in the garden and noticed a Monarch laying eggs.  I was thrilled!  (I posted this video on Instagram.)

And early last week, I found a very hungry Monarch caterpillar.

IMG_3904

He's gone now . . . off becoming a butterfly!  I look everyday to try and find the chrysalis, but so far?  No luck.  If I do find it, though, it will be the true triumverate of butterfly gardening:  eggs, caterpillar, chrysalis.  (I'd be over the moon. . .

To celebrate my caterpillar, I thought I'd share three quick facts about Monarchs with you today:

  1. Monarchs can produce four generations during one summer. The first three generations will have life spans from 2 - 6 weeks and will continue moving north. During this time they will mate and have the next generation that will continue the northward migration. The fourth generation is different and can live up to nine months. These are the butterflies that will migrate south for winter.  (My caterpillar falls into this fourth generation.)
  2. In their larval stage, Monarch caterpillars feed almost exclusively on milkweed, and as adults, get their nutrients from the nectar of flowers. The monarch will always return to areas rich in milkweed to lay their eggs upon the plant. The milkweed they feed on as a caterpillar is actually a poisonous toxin and is stored in their bodies. This is what makes the monarch butterfly taste so terrible to predators.
  3. During their migration, Monarch butterflies can travel between 50 - 100 miles a day.  It can take up to two months to complete their journey to winter habitats.

Beautiful, fascinating creatures!  I'm so happy to share my garden space with them.

==========

Be sure to visit Carole today -- to find more Three on Thursday posts.


Instrument of Grace

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.  Gardening is an instrument of grace."
                                                                        --- May Sarton

IMG_6434

Gardening is so easy in the spring.  Everything is exploding into green and foliage and colorful blooms.  It's exciting and fresh and new . . . everywhere you look.

In the fall, it's a bit harder.  Enthusiasm wanes.  The garden is tired, dying back, preparing for the dormant season.

IMG_6435

I love my bedraggled, heading-into-dormancy late summer garden, though.  It has a skeletal beauty that can only come from age and wisdom.  Successful young flowers turn into future-thinking seedheads.  Dead stalks shelter overwintering insects.  Spent foliage and grasses become cover for birds and rabbits and other woodland creatures.

Slow circles of nature.

IMG_6436

A garden . . . as an instrument of grace.

 


Late Summer in the Garden

"A late summer garden has a tranquility found no other time of year."
                            ----- William F. Longgood

IMG_5911

I saw the quote above the other day, and it made me smile.  Because truth!  By this time in the gardening season, things are ... what they are.

Things worked.
Or they didn't.
Most flowers have bloomed.
But not all of them.
Explosive growth has slowed.
The butterflies are everywhere.
Weeds will be weeds.
Always.
And everything is on clearance at the nursery!

IMG_5910

This is the time of year that my garden looks it's raggedy-ist.  It's still lovely, I know.  But there's a raggedy quality to it now.  And that raggedy-ness brings a tranquility that is liberating for me.  It allows me to . . . step back.  

Enjoy what's left of the season.  
Not worry so much about what needs doing.  
Let things go!
Just sit on the patio and sip . . . something.

I'm coming to terms . . . with the reality that summer is winding down.  (I might not like it, but I can deal with it.)  As always, my garden helps me weather the changes in the seasons.
 


Garden Delights

My garden is full of things that make me happy . . . flowers, foliage, birds, pollinators.  (You know the drill.)  But there are also little hidden "garden delights" that bring a smile.

Like . . . my little stone turtle peeking out from his home in this succulent bowl.

IMG_5671

Or . . . . this little yellow house with the stone chimney, standing sentry at my patio doors.

IMG_5670

And . . . this little kitty, hidden in my herb garden.

IMG_5672

Gardens delight . . . in so many ways!

==========

Head over to Carole's to read more Three on Thursday posts today.

 

 


Outside Inside

During the gardening season, I love to bring what's blooming outside . . . inside.  You can usually see what's blooming in my garden -- right there on the kitchen counter near the sink.  Or on the dining room table.  Or even in my bathroom.  

Today, we've got . . . 

IMG_5172

Heliopsis

Ornamental onion.

Purple coneflower.

Flowers are magical . . . outside and in!

==========

Be sure to head to Carole's today to read more Three on Thursday posts.


Out in the Garden

"When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, there is always the garden."
                                    --- Minnie Aumonier

IMG_5113

I hope you have some time to dig in the dirt (or whatever your soul-filling equivalent may be) this weekend.

See you Monday!


Waystation

I'm up north for a couple of days -- with Tom and my Dad.  The scenes here are much the same as always . . . the lake, the woods, campfires, loons.  

Instead of sharing more photos and stories of the same old thing, I thought I'd take the time to share something a little different. Today, I'm putting in a plug for the monarchs!  And I'm going to tell you how easy it is to help them along their way.

IMG_4957

This tangled mess of a garden . . . is my butterfly garden -- and a certified Monarch Waystation.  It's full of flowers especially appealing to pollinators of all kinds, and three kinds of milkweed for the monarchs.  (The bright orange flowers you can see blooming now?  That's butterfly weed, one type of milkweed.)

IMG_4963

When we first moved to our house 15 years ago, I was thrilled with the gardening possibilities in our new yard.  We were moving from a house with deep, deep shade.  Only shade.  No sun to speak of at all!  And here - in my new house - I had both.  Shade on one side, sun on the other.

I immediately set out to create the English cottage garden of my dreams.  I planted delphinium and foxglove and hardy geraniums.  Clematis and lavender and phlox.  It was lovely.  For about two weeks in early June.  And then it just faded!  Because, really, that sunny location wasn't right for those gentle plants.  Too hot. Too dry. Deer. Rabbits.  

I was so discouraged.

IMG_4958

About that time, I started learning about pollinators and following along as the plight of the monarch butterfly was unfolding.  (You can learn more here.)  I decided to turn my (failing) English cottage-style garden into a pollinator garden -- and, specifically, into a monarch-friendly garden.

IMG_5010

After doing a little research, I discovered that there were published guidelines for creating monarch habitats.  Home gardeners can easily create and certify their gardens as Monarch Waystations by providing:

  • dedicated space (while there is no minimum size requirement for certification, butterfly gardens are most effective at 100 square feet or larger)
  • sun exposure (a minimum of 6 hours of sun each day)
  • shelter from predators and the elements (plants close together without overcrowding)
  • milkweed plants (at least 3 varieties to attract monarchs during their breeding season)
  • nectar plants providing continuous blooms throughout the growing season and into the fall (which is migration time for the monarchs)
  • regular maintenance (weeding, thinning, eliminating pesticide use, watering, etc.)

IMG_4956

When I first certified my garden as a Monarch Waystation, Tom and Brian used to call me and pretend they were monarchs, trying to make reservations in my Waystation.  (Do you have any rooms available tonight?) (Haha. Very. Funny.

My garden does attract lots of monarchs -- and many other types of butterflies, as well.  Swallowtail.  Red and White Admiral. Skippers.  Glassywing.  Fritillary.  It's also popular with various moths, hummingbirds, and bees of all types.  The birds are thrilled with all the seed heads after bloom.  It is a VERY happy place!

IMG_5011

If you have a little space in your garden -- and if you're interested in saving the monarchs while attracting any number of cool pollinators, check out Monarch Watch and see how easy it is to create and certify your own Monarch Waystation.

(And then just get ready for all those monarch calls . . . asking if you have any reservations available!)

 


TGIF, Garden-Style

Back home.  Back in my garden.  And it's Friday.

IMG_4327

Time for a little TGIF . . . garden-style!

T - Thinking About silver linings.

First, it was super annoying to have my air conditioning break down.  Then, I had to dig up large swaths of my garden to facilitate installation.  But, now that it's done, I'm actually . . . 

G - Grateful.

Not only for new (and functional) air conditioning (because YAY), but also for this "clean slate," which allows me to re-fresh yet another garden bed!

IMG_4326

Now I'm totally . . . 

I - Inspired.

Because I have this collection of plants to play with all over again.  (My poor, displaced plants).

IMG_4325

It's like re-opening an almost-new box of paints.  And, really, won't that be . . . 

F - FUN!

==========

Have a great weekend!  (You'll know where to find me.)

 


Tales from the Garden . . . x 3

At this time of year, my garden is exploding everywhere -- and I am always racing to keep up with it.  (It's my own personal Whack-a-Mole game out there.)  

Sometimes it feels like Major Overwhelm.   Then I need to talk to myself and remind myself that . . . 

I love to garden.

This is the way gardening works.

I couldn't wait to get out there again when it was never-ending winter.

Just. Dig. In.

And so it goes.  

==========

Here are three little tales from my garden this week.

1 - Earth Moving

IMG_4126

This little garden bed near our back patio had gotten WAY overgrown in the last few years.  The old path was pretty much inaccessible.  Too many plants growing too well . . .   So.  We battled the heat over the weekend (near 100 degrees F every day) to dig out plants, level the ground, and re-set the path.  (JoJo is happy to demonstrate that even the dogs appreciate an easy-to-walk pathway through the garden.)

I have more work to do out there -- a bit more thinning-out and some planting-in.  We placed three big rocks in the newly-opened area to remind me NOT to overplant.  I'm happy with the new path -- and I want to keep it open and functional.  

2 - Resilience in Action

IMG_4129

One day early last summer, I stopped at Lowe's for . . . something (but not a plant).  I entered the store through the nursery department (as one does), and a couple of lovely, blooming, Asian lilies caught my eye.  (It was their stunning orange blooms.  They get me every time.)

On impulse, I bought 'em.

But once I had them at home, I couldn't figure out where I wanted to put them.

So they hung out on my patio - in their original plant containers - all summer.  I took care of them, of course.  I kept them watered and sheltered while I tried to figure out just where they might fit in my garden.  But, by fall, I realized they were going to have to overwinter on their own, still in their little pots -- and I was completely prepared to just let them go.

The photo above?  The same lilies (in the same pots) today.  Resilient little suckers, non?

(I'm still looking for a place to put them.)

3 - Over Too Soon

IMG_4128

I love my allium blooms . . . hovering there each spring over the newly-unfurled hostas in my garden.  It always looks so magical.  And it did this year, too.  For like . . . one day!  I didn't even get a picture this year . . . 

You see, allium are spring blooms.  They like gently-warming days.  You know . . . the kind you usually get in, oh . . say, late May?  Cool nights, warming days.  That kind of thing.  And the blooms will last for weeks under those conditions.

This year?  We went from mid-50s to upper-90s in the same week!  Those allium?  Super confused.  From bloom-to-done in a couple of days this year.

(I'm tempted to spray paint them.  I've seen that done on many a garden tour . . . )  (But I probably won't.)

==========

And now?  I'm headed out for some early morning weeding.  (It's the only way when it's This Hot.)

Head over to Carole's for more Three on Thursday posts today.