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Sunday, October 28, 2012

More Monarch News

What a wonderful day to be out in the garden!  Clear blue skies, low humidity, pleasant temperatures - just perfect!  OK, so I had some indoor chores I could have been doing, but it was just too nice to be stuck indoors.

I spent the afternoon out in the garden -- I planted a few bulbs, I pulled a few weeds, and then I just sat and enjoyed the day.

There were still several butterflies floating around, such as this Gulf Fritillary.  But the Monarch nursery is what has me super excited this year.

In my last blog post I mentioned that we had several Monarch caterpillars, and also some chrysalises, including a couple under the birdbath.

A couple of days ago, I took another peek under the birdbath and noticed that I could see the distinctive black and orange coloration of a Monarch butterfly inside one of the chrysalises (below on the left).  

Yesterday my husband spotted a Monarch sunbathing in our newly planted pine tree (replacement for the one that we had to have removed).

When I checked the chrysalis under the birdbath, sure enough it was empty! We were looking at a brand new Monarch :-)

Here's another chrysalis that's easier to see. If you click to see the larger version, you can really see the orange and black markings. This one is on the fence and I was hoping it would emerge today, while I was home.  But Mother Nature works to her own schedule!

To add to the merriment, I noticed a Monarch floating round the milkweed today, laying eggs. See that little white dot in the middle of the photo below?

 As I examined the plant to see if I could find any more eggs, I spotted a tiny caterpillar, about a third of an inch long. I couldn't get a photo of that one, but here's another that I was able to get a photo of.

There are still several more chrysalises to emerge, including one on the back of a garden chair, and now a new batch of caterpillars.  I hope the milkweed holds out!

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

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Banner Year

Just a couple of days ago, I blogged that we were still getting Monarch butterflies in the garden, and that we had a lot of caterpillars on the yellow Milkweed in the back garden (but none on the red and yellow variety).

I was worried that they would run out of leaves before they were ready to turn into chrysalises so I was out in the rain, snipping stalks with caterpillars on and relocating them to nearby plants!

Here's the yellow milkweed now:  as you can see, there's not a leaf on it, nor any caterpillars.

 Happily, the ones I relocated to the other milkweed plants are still doing well.


 But what  of the rest?

So far, I've counted four chrysalises -- including these two on the underside of the birdbath:

There are also a couple more on the fence:

I also saw a caterpillar crawling up the side of one of the planters, so I'm sure there will be a chrysalis there in the morning.

Looking back at my blog throughout the year, it's really been a banner year for Monarchs.  We first had caterpillars in the front garden back in April.

In June, we had so many chrysalises, I lost count of them all! 

At the end of June, we were lucky enough to witness some newly hatched Monarch butterflies.

In July, we had another generation of caterpillars, this time in the back garden.

By August, the second generation had eaten us out of house and home and had turned into chrysalises in some unusual spots and once again we got to witness new butterflies.

And now here we are in October, when I really thought we'd seen the last of them, we get to witness the miracle again. 

Something else I thought we had seen the last of for this year are hummingbirds.    I hadn't filled the feeders in a couple of weeks (but had neglected to take them down and clean them).

Imagine my shock when I saw a female ruby throat attempting to get a drink from one of them the other day!  

Luckily, we still have some blooms on the Rose of Sharon, the Vitex and the Flame Acanthus, so she wasn't going to starve. But I turned the kettle on then and there and made up some fresh nectar and later pulled the feeders down and cleaned them and refilled them.

I was able to get this photo of her.  My apologies for the poor quality but I was losing the light, plus I was taking the photo through a dirty window!

It's moments like these that make gardening in the brutal Texas summer a little easier to bearThis is why I garden and I still find it amazing that in four years we've accomplished so much.

Happy gardening all. 

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Fall Garden

Ooops - here we are half way through October and this is my first blog post for the month.

My husband and I went up to Lake Conroe for a weekend getaway last week so I didn't get around to blogging.

I really haven't done much in the garden recently, but it seems to be thriving, in spite of the benign neglect.

The island bed just continues to bloom and flourish, although I realized too late that Pink Muhly Grass grows a lot bigger than I thought it did! There's an Artemisia between it and the Cat's Whiskers, but you can't see it.  I need to plan more carefully next year.

I may need some advice on what to do with this glorious mess along the back wall, and when to do it.

The Southern Wax Myrtle on the left is beloved by birds of all kinds. However, I planted it too close to the Rose of Sharon (center) and now it is shouldering it out of the way.  I don't want to move it, and I'm not sure the Rose of Sharon would survive a transplant. I may end up doing what I did when I moved from my previous house -- start some cuttings from it (this one started life as a cutting from the Rose of Sharon at my old house.
Next to/underneath/behind the Rose of Sharon is a Flame Acanthus.  When we had the mother cat and her kittens in the garden the summer before last, the kittens did a number on the Flame Acanthus with their rambunctious galloping round the flowerbeds.  I didn't know enough about it then to know if it was safe to prune it and tidy it up and well, I haven't done anything to it since either.  As a result, it's a shaggy mess.  I need to find out more about pruning these things.

In between the Rose of Sharon and the Dallas Red Lantana is this plant, which I have no idea what it is.  The bees seem to like it though!  I got it at the Houston Chronicle garden bloggers plant swap a couple of years ago and it's been sitting in a container tucked in behind the lantana since then.
I would have moved it and planted it in the ground somewhere, but it's firmly rooted to the ground, pot and all! Not sure what the best course of action is now - any advice would be appreciated.
We still have some Monarchs floating around, mostly nectaring on the lantana now, but they've apparently been busy laying eggs.


Some of the milkweed is in disgusting shape, covered in aphids, caterpillar droppings and chewed to bits, but there are yet another generation of caterpillars out there as I type! 

Edit: When I got home from work this evening, I went out in the rain to check on them and sure enough, they had eaten the yellow milkweed down to nubs, so I snipped off the stems they were on and relocated them to milkweed plants that still had leaves. 

OK - so I'm weird! 

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