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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Festive Colors in the December Garden and a Sad Butterfly Tale

We've had some strange weather so far this December. It's gone from warm and muggy to cold, wet and windy, but certainly nothing approaching "Christmas-y".  But I do have some festive colors in the garden, courtesy of the holly and the bottlebrush.

Earlier in the year, when the Savannah holly was blooming, it was covered in bees, enjoying the nectar.  Now it's the bottlebrush's turn to be the center of bee attention.  If you click on the photo to see the larger image, there are two bees in this picture.

The Savannah holly is now covered in bright red berries, which I hope the birds enjoy, although I've never really seen them.  The bushes are big enough that I can even snip a few branches and bring them inside to add to my Christmas decorations, something I have always wanted to do.


On another note - I mentioned in one of my earlier posts in autumn that I had been seeing butterflies around and then some caterpillars.  Unfortunately we didn't have much luck with Monarchs this year.  In previous years we had 15 or more chrysalises on the fence, the house eaves and elsewhere, and lots of successful hatching.  

This year, not nearly so many and even sadder, it appears that at least one female who was laying eggs was infected with OA, so her caterpillars either never made it to the chrysalis stage, or the chrysalis never hatched.  

I saw one butterfly at the beginning of November whose wings didn't unfold properly - a symptom of OA infection.  All I could do was pick it up and set it the only remaining zinnia I had in the garden at the time.  It had disappeared completely by the next day.

And on December 12th I found this male butterfly with half his wing missing fluttering on the lawn. Luckily I had planted some pansies a couple of weeks ago, or I would have had no flowers at all.  I let him crawl on my hand and set him on the container of pansies and he immediately probed the center of a pansy with his probiscus and starting feeding.

I brought the container on to the covered patio that night as we were expecting heavy rains and a cold front.  He was still alive, but very lethargic the next day because the temperature had dropped, but once I moved the container back into the sun and he warmed up, he started crawling around the pansies feeding again.

Today is December 16th and he is still out there.  I check on him regularly and have had to pick him up off the ground and put him back in the pansy container a couple of times.

Obviously, his days are numbered, and he won't be migrating, but as long as I have pansies, I'll try and make sure he can at least feed.

I've had similar events happen in the past and it always saddens me. I''m not sure what the answer is, but I'll just do what I can.  In fact, I think I'll go check on him now.
Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.


Dorothy Borders said...

Love the bottlebrush and the holly. I lost my bottlebrush - need to replace it. They are such neat plants. It's too bad about the butterfly. Nature can be very uncompromising. As you say, we can only do what we can...

Misti said...

I think the major monarch migration stayed west this year so that's why we didn't see so many in our area. I didn't have many in my yard either and I'm very near you.


looloolooweez said...

Ah, it's too bad about the monarchs. I haven't seen a single one this year, but we live closer to the Gulf Freeway so maybe they just don't typically make it down this way?