Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Jealous

My daughter sent me this pic of what I assume is a swallowtail caterpillar on her dill plants. She says there are four, chomping away. I offered up my butterfly habitat, but she declined. It's one thing if Mother Nature ends their lives, quite another if they die from neglect.


My dill is long dead, so now I am thinking I should plant it successively, to increase the likelihood that I will attract some egg-laying swallowtail butterflies.

Monday, October 01, 2018

As the worm turns

A few posts ago, I mentioned doing an entry on failures. But today I decided that there are no failures in gardening, just experiments and lessons learned. Also, one's goals may evolve over time.

The other day, I found myself gazing on the yellow, orange, red, and purple blooms in the backyard and thinking, "I like to look at these flowers, but the work involved is getting to be too much." So while most of my gardening over the years has been about expanding, now it's beginning to contract.

When I first bought my house, the northwest corner of the backyard had been used as a vegetable garden by the previous owners. It even had a rabbit fence around it. I continued that tradition until the nearby silver maple grew large enough to provide too much shade. Then the plan was to convert that area to a hosta garden, but that never came to pass. For one thing, I was not excited about the idea. For another, I had the silver maple (and three more next to the house) cut down.

For a while, I referred to that corner as The Meadow, but it was mostly Canada thistle. More recently, I started an orchard there, planting four cherry and four apple trees. This year, my SO helped me tote a ton of woodchips to the area, which I thought would keep it at least weed free, but volunteer milkweed popped up all over. Initially, I thought, Cool! But after a storm, all the milkweed fell down. And then the bindweed took over. Ugh.

Now that breeding season is over for the monarchs, I cut down all the milkweed. Today my SO helped me clear out the bindweed. Then I want to move the woodchips elsewhere and turn that corner into lawn.

I'm taking a hard look at the rest of the yard, figuring out how to make it attractive yet manageable. Stay tuned!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Down in the mouth

I've been ignoring the yard (and this blog) lately. Sometimes I blame the weather, which has been unseasonably warm and dry lately; today it's lovely out there, so that is no excuse. Maybe it's the political climate; didn't we fight these battles a long time ago? Maybe I'm just getting old.

But asters!

'Purple Dome' aster

And fungi!

Fungus on cherry tree trunk

I also saw bees, monarchs, and a hummingbird while I was outside. There is not enough chocolate in the world to make me feel better, but maybe I can take my angst out on some weeds and clean up a corner of my little world.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Warm colors for cool days

Garden photos have been lacking while I fixated on the monarchs. One reason is, thanks to the giant pile of wood shavings we had to move this past spring, gardening was a bit haphazard and not according to plan. New perennials went into "holding" beds instead of their desired location, annuals filled in the holes, etc. But there is a lot of color out there right now, even if it looks a bit messy.

Asclepias tuberosa, var. Clay

I find butterflyweed difficult to get established, but some I planted last year is still there, while newbies are doing okay. Conversely, coneflower and black-eyed Susan flourishes, although sometimes the latter struggles in ensuring years.

Rudbeckia subtomentosa

Besides the butterflyweed, coneflower, and black-eyed Susan, I have a jumbled bed of Ohio goldenrod, ironweed, and bergamot, none of which did much blooming this year.

Rudbeckia subtomentosa and Echinacea purpurea

There is also some cupplant and compassplant. It looks like the poke milkweed did not survive - too much competition from the common milkweed, I guess.

Echinacea purpurea

Annuals besides the Mexican sunflower are marigold, dyer's coreopsis, and cosmos, all of which I stopped plucking blossoms from, to give the pollinators something to feast on as summer draws to a close. Oh, and the redundantly named Red Scarlet zinnia is also providing late season nectar.

Tithonia rotundifolia 'Torch'

The volunteer goldenrod seems to have disappeared from my yard, because in the spring I mistake it for a weed; I'm sure it will be back. The prairie sampler on the south side of the house is a mess, but a few asters are making a valiant effort to start blooming; that area is due for a reboot. Later I will do a post on garden FAILS.

Rhubarb, turning

Monarch update: the adult appears to have taken flight, as it is MIA this morning. Another chrysalis is turning black, so a new butterfly should be free soon. The forecast is for warm and dry, so hopefully the last of them will hatch and head for Mexico. ¡OlĂ©!

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Are you tired of monarch pix yet?

Another monarch hatched yesterday. The chrysalis had turned black as its surface thinned to reveal the new butterfly within. At least, that is what I was hoping was happening.


I kept checking the habitat throughout the day, but missed the actual emergence of the adult.


The newly emerged adult butterfly is very tame, has no qualms about climbing aboard a human finger.


This time I managed to catch some decent photos of the wings, closed and open.


Some of these photos are with my Olympus SLR, some with my Samsung Galaxy phone camera. Can you tell the difference? I can't.


This fellow picked a cool and wet day to emerge. I left it perched on the outside of the habitat, then last night arranged some shelter to protect it from the rain. It is still sitting there today. Probably needs a little sunshine to get going. (Don't we all?)

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Finally

A day after my last post, I went to check the butterfly habitat and was startled to find... A MONARCH BUTTERFLY! It must have been newly hatched, as it was gently waving its wings to dry them. My source said it would take 4 to 9 days for the chrysalis to hatch, and I believe this one took the full nine days.


Taking photos was a bit awkward. I tried to catch one with the wings outstretched but the shutter delay was never timed right. I helped it out of the enclosure - its feet feel sticky - and it flew away (while I chased Finn the indoor-outdoor cat away).


When the caterpillar sheds its skin as it grows, it eats it. However, the shell of the chrysalis is left behind.


Raising butterflies is not quite as simple as it seems. For the habitat I have, I would like a branching structure that reaches from top to bottom, so the caterpillars can climb, and with platforms (or something) for holding fresh milkweed leaves. Even a small tree branch would do, I think. I'll have to ponder that for next year.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Still no butterflies

There are three pupae in the butterfly habitat, but none have hatched yet. I moved the habitat outside, as I thought maybe being exposed to natural temperatures instead of the steady 74 in my house might help things along and/or acclimatize the little buggers to the real world. So far, no luck. Hope everything is okay.


While gathering fresh leaves for the captives, I found this guy in the wild (backyard). I checked on it everyday, but now it is gone. Did a bird eat it? Did the dogs knock it off the milkweed? Is it pupating somewhere not obvious?


Regardless of my success or failure with the caterpillars, my heart has been gladdened by the sheer number of butterflies, especially monarchs, I see in the backyard these days. Most are nectaring on the Mexican sunflowers, along with the hummingbirds. Both are preparing for their migration south.


Otherwise, not a whole lot has been going on in the yard and garden. I finally tired of harvesting flowers for dyeing, so there is a small riot of color out there, mostly yellow and orange. The weather continues to confound - it's either too hot or too wet to do much besides mow. Speaking of which, I'd better get at it.