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Sunday, October 8, 2017

The October Garden and Monarch Foster Success


I'm afraid I haven't blogged in a while.  The garden just looked too sad throughout the dog days of August, especially after Hurricane Harvey blew through.  The island beds and the back border were taken over by Bermuda grass and other weeds that I just couldn't keep up with.

That's not to say that the weeds are now under control - they aren't, by any means.  But it always seems that the garden gets its second wind in October.


The Lantana, which seemed to languish all summer, is blooming profusely again.  I have several, in containers as well as in the island beds.  Lantana is always a favorite with the butterflies, which makes it a favorite of mine too!


I have three Rose of Sharon bushes, all sprouted from cuttings I brought over from my last house 9 years ago.  The one below, which gets afternoon shade from the fence on the west side of our property, seems to do best.  The one on the other side of the garden, which struggles with full sun all day, as well as turf grass all round, is barely hanging on.  I may transplant it somewhere else this fall.


Last year, this Pink Muhly grass was little more than a big ant hill.  I have at least, managed to banish the ants, if not the Bermuda grass that seems to invade everywhere.  I was so happy I happened to look out in to the garden at just the right time to see the plumes turn vibrant pink in the morning sun.



 If you recall earlier this year, I raised and released some Monarch butterflies. I had hoped to raise a lot more but things didn't go as planned and I only released a few more and had a few sad losses which almost made me give up.  Then one of my friends told me she was going out of town and asked if I would mind keeping an eye on the chrysalides she had been raising, and releasing the butterflies when they were ready.

Would I ever!!

So Barbara brought over two hampers with a total of about 60 chrysalides and since then I have released six or more of them each day!


Luckily the hampers are easy to carry out and set on the patio table, and then I just let each on crawl on my fingers and make a note of whether it's male or female, before letting it fly off into the garden.  I'm at 51 and counting as of today!



I'll finish my post with a volunteer that showed up in the garden.  It's in more or less the same place that the wild bergamot grew and bloomed earlier this year.

I did a bit of sleuthing and have identified it as Mikania scandens, also known as Climbing Hempweed, Climbing Hempvine and Climbing Boneset.


It's very definitely a weed, having taken over a corner of the island bed and twined itself around the wind chimes.

I would have yanked it out of the ground at first sight except that the blooms reminded me of clover blooms.  Knowing how much honey bees enjoy clover, I wondered if this attract them as well, so I let it grow and bloom.


Sure enough - on close examination today I found several bees enjoying the flowers, like the one in the photo above.  So I guess it can stay for a while :-)

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Up the Monarch Nursery Trail

In my last post (a month ago!!!) I predicted I'd be seeing more Monarch butterflies, along with caterpillars and chrysalides, as we progressed in to August.  Well I'm happy to report that my predictions were correct.



During the week I clipped some leaves that had eggs on and brought them inside. (If you click on the images, you can see a larger version to see the eggs)  This method was suggested by members of a Facebook group, but I found that the leaves shriveled very quickly and went crisp before the eggs had hatched.


Once the eggs were hatched I added fresh leaves each day, but it's a lot of work keeping the container clean and I was terrified I was going to throw out a hatchling with the frass (caterpillar poop) and crispy leaves. In addition, the tiny hatchlings seem bound and determined to escape.  They were all over the place!

Now those caterpillars have grown a bit, I have transferred them to milkweed clippings in water picks, like the ones in the photo below. I think this is my preferred method.  If I can find stems with eggs and small caterpillars on them, I can cut out the first step above.

Giving them fresh milkweed is just a case of taking new cuttings and placing them in picks right next to the ones already there.  The caterpillars move over to the fresh leaves pretty quickly and then I can just remove the old ones.


The photo above was taken through the back door, with a bird screen on it, so it's not a great shot.  But do you see anything strange about this photo?

See that little flash of orange in the center of the photo?


There it is again - top left.  A Queen butterfly!  She was flitting around the milkweed as I was collecting clippings and when I went in to get my camera to try and get a photo of her, I couldn't believe when she started laying eggs on the stems I had left on the table!



See her little gift in the middle of the leaf?  


If you look at the enlarged version of this pic, you can see there's a tiny caterpillar on here too.  Not sure if it's a Monarch or a Queen.

So here I go on the Monarch Nursery trail again.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Butterflies and Bees

One of my favorite pastimes is watching the bees and butterflies enjoying the bounty of our island beds.  This year seems to be shaping up to be a good year for them.

This lovely pink flower is much beloved by the pollinators of all types that visit our garden.  But I have no idea what it is!! 


In fact, at it's base, I have a sign which states "I don't remember planting this"!  The very fact that it has taken hold and is thriving so well leads me to believe that it is, in fact, a weed.

If anyone knows what it is, I would really appreciate if you could let me know in the comments.   here's another photo, showing the forming seed heads.


The bumblebees also love the Salvia Greggi., there are usually at least five of them bumbling from bloom to bloom at any given time.  They make me smile.


Another visitor this week has been this Black Swallowtail on the Dallas Red Lantana (at least I think think it's a Black Swallowtail).  I haven't had much luck getting a good photo of it's wings to ID it with.  I tried again earlier today with no luck at all!


I have better luck taking photos of Gulf Fritillaries.  They seem to like landing on blooms to eat, rather than fluttering around like the Swallowtails do.  Makes the photos much easier.  Here's one on the Violet Queen zinnia. 


Here's another one enjoying the Profusion zinnia.  You can also see the sign I mentioned earlier in the post.


I'm also seeing Monarch butterflies in the garden. This looks like a female, so it's not one of the ones I released a couple of days ago from my Monarch Nursery, which were both male.  


Speaking of the Monarch Nursery, I still have 4 chrysalides in the enclosure in the bathroom.  Here's a photo of some of the caterpillars before they changed.



And here's one who has left the milkweed and climbed to the top of the enclosure to make his chrysalis.  

I'll probably get a lot more caterpillars and chrysalides later in the year, as the Monarchs prepare for their migration.  Last year I had a total of 30.  I'll see if I can match that this year :-)  Wish me luck!

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

It's a Boy!

When I got home from work this evening, I went to check on my caterpillars, (now all chrysalides) and was thrilled by orange flapping in the corner of the mesh enclosure.

The first Monarch butterfly had hatched and was eager to be released!!


I carefully wrapped my hands around it and carried it outside to the patio, with my husband opening doors along the way.

Once on the patio I opened my hands ago let it go.  The butterfly sat there for a moment, opening its wings slowly to show me that it was a beautiful boy, and then he flew up, up, up and away. Gone without a second glance!

I do wish I had got a photo of him sitting in my hand, but he didn't hang around long enough!

I've got five more chrysalides in the enclosure, so perhaps I'll have better luck getting a photo of one of them in my hand.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy 4th of July!!

As a departure from my usual garden blogging, today I'm celebrating the Independence of my adopted country, the United States, with these images and quotes.  I hope you enjoy them.  Wishing you all a safe and happy Fourth of July.




Where liberty dwells, there is my country ~~ Benjamin Franklin


America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination ~~ Harry S. Truman




With freedom comes responsibility. ~~ Eleanor Roosevelt





Freedom is never granted. It is earned by each generation. ~~ Hillary Clinton


Images from Pixabay/Pinterest.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Pretty in Pink

The the past few years it has seemed like the flowers in the garden have been predominantly orange, with some complementary purple thrown in.

This year, the theme is pink, pink and more pink.

For some reason known only to the flowers themselves, it was only the pink blooms from last year that self-seeded.


This pink Cosmos is at least four foot tall and it's really put on a nice show.  The only problem has been that it's in front of the shorter Salvia Greggi and Pineapple Sage and blocking them  (and any hummingbirds that may be enjoying from view!


These pink Cleomes are about 4 feet tall as well.  They are more or less past their best now (this photo was taken a week or so ago).  I'm collecting seeds so I can start some seedlings and put them where I want them next year.  


I think this giant Violet Queen zinnia is more of a fuchsia pink than violet, but I love it anyway.  I had thrown several seeds directly into the island bed, but this was the only one that came up.  I've got more seeds, but probably too late to try and get them started now.  My bad.



In other news, I had been lamenting the total lack of Monarch butterflies in the garden so far this year, but in the past week or so there has been at least one female, laying eggs and enjoying some nectar.

I've only found two first instar caterpillars so far (click on the photo below to see the larger version and you may see one), but I'm sure there are more eggs around, ready to hatch.



I've set up the mesh  cage on the patio again and have ordered some more water picks to help me keep my milkweed clippings fresh.  I'm ready for the Monarch Nursery to get underway!

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Fruits of Our Labors

I have to admit, I don't eat as many vegetables as I should. I used to be one of those "ewww, it's green, I don't like it" people.  There are many vegetables I just don't care for, so our vegetable garden is small and simple.  We've had disappointments in the past, but we still keep trying.


This year I would say the results are mixed.  The green bean I selected very quickly grew up the bean tower and started flowering, but that was as far as we got.  Not a single bean and now it's looking heat-stressed already and summer hasn't really got going yet.  

Perhaps I selected the wrong variety - the one I chose was "Tenderstar" a runner type, which reminded me of the runner beans we used to have in England. Perhaps that variety doesn't do well in our climate.  Next year, I'll get them started earlier, and maybe plant a couple of different varieties.


We are, however, having better success with the Roma tomato I selected.  It's doing very nicely and we've harvested several delicious fruits already.


I had thought that the Sir Crunch-a-Lot cucumber was a flop.  It had lots of flowers but we didn't see any fruit forming for ages.  


Then earlier in the week, I noticed two huge cucumbers hanging from the frame.  Yay!  Success!


So this afternoon I went out in the rain and picked a cucumber and some tomatoes... 


... and sliced and diced them and tossed them with a light balsamic vinaigrette to go with our dinner tonight.

Can't wait to taste it :-)

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.