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Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Everyone!

 Last year, we had a bit of a mishap with our Christmas tree when one of the cats that we had taken in caught a claw in our small table top tree and pulled it down.

This year, we decided to try the 7 foot tree which I felt fit the room better as we have high ceilings.

I'm thrilled to report that it's been a week now and... THE TREE IS STILL STANDING!!!

I don't know whether they remember the accident last year, when the small tree came crashing down, but after the briefest of sniffs, they are ignoring it.

 I got some new ornaments this year, which I'd like to show you here.  They fit in with the garden/wildlife theme, as I'm sure you will agree.

I adore this little brushy squirrel, which I found in Plants for All Seasons, along with the owl shown below. (I'm getting quite the collection of owls now - I love them!)

In addition to owls, I seem to be getting a collection of cardinals.  I have a stained glass window in the bedroom with a male and female cardinal.  On the mantel I have a beautiful wood carving of a cardinal on a branch. And the ceramic ornament in the center of the photo below features a cardinal on a snowy pine branch

It's one I made myself and it's available for sale in my Zazzle store.

I wish each and every one of you the very best of the Holiday Season and look forward to a wonderful New Year.

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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Butterfly's Tale

Yesterday I blogged about the freeze damage in the garden, and my concerns for the Monarch caterpillars and chrysalises.

Well this morning, when I went outside to feed the birds (quite a bit later than my weekday, pre-dawn bird feeding) I caught sight of a flutter of beautiful orange and black on the ground.

One of the chrysalises underneath the bird bath had emerged! 

She was sitting on the ground, soaking up the winter sun, unfolding her wings.  

 I left her walk on to my hand and transported her to a nearby container full of violas, so she has some nectar when she's ready.

A couple of the other chrysalises look like there's still change going on inside, so hopefully we'll see more beauties for Christmas!
The story is not over for this young lady yet.

Her wings didn't straighten out properly, so two days later, she's still unable to fly. She didn't appear to be drinking from the plant I put her on and she was becoming lethargic, so I mixed up some nectar for her and she sat on my hand having a drink yesterday.

Today, I went out and bought some fresh sponges to dip in the sugar water and hang up over the container of pansies. She's been climbing up and down the ribbon they are hanging from and taking sips of the nectar.

I don't have much hope that she will fly, but I'm doing all I can to make her short life as comfortable as it can be.

On the plus side, two more of the chrysalises hatched and I saw the butterflies fly through the garden a little while ago, in search of nectar. Perhaps they will join my little girl on the sponges now I've come inside.

We made the butterfly as comfortable as we could. Because of the expected high winds over Christmas, we brought her inside and set her up in a large cardboard box which I punched holes in for air circulation. We also set some branches in there, with the sponges dipped in sugar water hanging from them. For a few days she rested comfortably, either climbing the branches or sipping from the sponges.

Then, two days ago I found her lying on the bottom of the box. She was still moving feebly, so I set her on a nest of soft tissue.

This morning we laid her to rest in a special spot in the butterfly garden.

I hope she is flying free now.

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

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Winter Garden

The recent weather hasn't been too kind to the garden.  I suppose I shouldn't complain, after all it is winter.

But after spending early December weekends sitting on the patio in shorts and watching the butterflies, I was brought back to earth with a thump when last week's freeze did quite a bit of damage.

Oh, I know most of it will come back eventually and just needs to be trimmed back, but it's still sad to see.

Saddest of all is the fact that this Milkweed bush, now dead and brown, had a whole host of caterpillars on it the day before the frost hit.

I don't know whether the three chrysalises have made it or not.  They still look nice and bright and green, and being on the underside of the fence and birdbath, they were protected from the actual frost, if not the cold temperatures.

All I can do is wait and see. If they make it, I'll have to run and get some container plants so they have some nectar to feed on.

In addition to the freeze, we had some very strong wind and rain on another night and I went out the following morning to discover a large branch had come off the dead pine tree on the other side of the wall. (We've been waiting for the developer to respond to requests to take it down before it falls on our house, but that's another story).

But all is not gloom and doom.  Some things made it through unscathed.  As you can see in the photo above, my deliciously scented rosemary topiary is still healthy, as are the million achillea babies under the Vitex tree.

Note to self: must see about relocating some of these in the spring.

And also, in amongst the frozen Mandevilla and Lantana, the Turk's Cap Lilies are looking great - so far, at least.

So that's the garden in winter.  Some low points and some high points, but that's gardening isn't it?

How is your garden doing this winter?

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

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Queen Came to Visit

I've become so used to seeing Monarch butterflies floating around the garden, I almost missed this beauty.

It's a Queen butterfly, Danaus gilippus, another butterfly that lays eggs on Milkweed.  I've seen them before, but I think this is the first time I've been able to photograph one.

 Speaking of Milkweed, I counted 7 Monarch caterpillars munching away this morning.

We're expecting a freeze tomorrow night so of course I'm worried about them, and also the chrysalis on the fence that I posted about last week. I've put some bamboo poles in the ground around the Milkweed plant and will throw a blanket over them tomorrow.  Hopefully that will provide enough protection from frost so the caterpillars don't all die.

But I think other than that, I'll have to let Mother Nature take its course.

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

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What a Difference Two Hours Makes

Here we are in December and, although we had some cold weather and even some frosts earlier in the fall, the recent weather has been very mild.

Even so, I've been surprised at the number of butterflies we still have floating around the garden.  We've got Sulphurs, Gulf Fritillaries, Buckeyes and Monarchs.

At the end of October I blogged that we had Monarch caterpillars and chrysalises.  Who knew then that I'd be able to report another chrysalis in DECEMBER?

Mum and dad (visiting from England for the Thanksgiving Holiday) were mildly amused as I kept watch over the most recent caterpillar and probably thought I was nuts to get excited over it.

When I went out this morning to feed the birds at 9:51 am, I got even more excited when I noticed the caterpillar had attached himself to the fence and was starting to curl up.

I was totally amazed when I went to check on him later to discover that, in a period of just two hours he had completely transformed into a chrysalis! The photo below is time stamped 11:51 am!

For some reason, I thought it would take longer than that.  What a difference two hours makes!

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