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Friday, December 30, 2016

New Year's Monarch!

I've been keeping a close eye on our house guests since my last post. I had to make several trips round the garden to clip more milkweed for the hungry caterpillars.  And in the process I inadvertently brought a few more indoors along with the milkweed!

I ended up with a total of 13.

Thankfully they all pupated without any problems and I no longer had to scour the garden for greenery for they.

Yesterday I noticed one of them was turning color and by the time I took this photo last night, another one was starting to turn color as well.

Over the course of the morning I went into the bathroom to check on them several times, but of course I missed the actual moment of eclosing!

When I went in there just now, this beautiful Monarch was hanging from its empty chrysalis, drying out its wings.

I'll be cutting up some fruit, such as grapes and melon, and putting it on a saucer to feed the butterfly until it's ready to be released.  I learned that little trick from a wonderful Facebook group I found -- Monarch and Milkweed Network, Houston, Texas area.

So -- one down, 12 more to go!  Happy New Year!!!

Update:  A couple of hours after I published this blog, the second butterfly emerged.  Here he/she is still unfolding their wings!

Update 2: We have one boy and one girl so far.  Here they are having just been introduced to some nice juicy cantaloupe.  I hope they like it!

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On the First Day of Winter -- We Have Monarch Caterpillars!!

Recently we had a cold front come through our little corner of Texas. Check out that thermometer reading on our patio!

We had a couple very cold days and freezing nights that had me going round the garden rescuing Monarch caterpillars and snipping milkweed for them to graze on in my Big Cube mesh cage which I have set up in one of our bathrooms.  

(Don't worry, this bathroom also has a walk in shower and we have another bathroom also, so we *have* been able to bathe ourselves!!)

Today though, the skies were clear and a peek at the outdoor thermometer told me it was much milder so I took a stroll around the garden and what did I find?  Yup - more caterpillars!!

I was amazed that they had made it through the freeze but they seemed okay and were chomping away.  I decided to let Mother Nature take care of these as I already have a total of 12 caterpillars/chrysalides indoors to keep an eye on and not much milkweed left.

While I was strolling round the garden enjoying the warm sun, I saw a Monarch butterfly float through, but didn't get a photo.  I did, however, get a photo of this little bee, enjoying the Salvia Evolution (or perhaps it's the Pineapple Sage, I got those two mixed up when I planted them all together)

Can you see him, right in the middle of the photo?  (Click on the pic to see the larger version)

Two or three days ago, I would have believed you if you told me it was the first day of winter, but today, the actual Winter Solstice and official First Day of Winter?  No -- feels like a lovely spring day!!  Only in Texas!!

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to do some weeding....

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

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Garden in Winter

Well here we are in the middle of December, just a couple of weeks away from Christmas, and there are still flowers blooming in the garden!

I had been lamenting with my dad on the phone that the garden was past it's best and was looking ratty.  But when I went out and had a look around, I was surprised to see how much was actually blooming.

While the drifts of orange Profusion zinnia that once filled most of the island beds are now dead and brown, there are still a surprising number of flowers in evidence.

The Salvia Evolution that I started from seed in the spring was a real winner this year, and is still going.  Interestingly, I planted red and white, but only the red came up. The  pink and white Vinca is still with us too, while the Cosmos and Cleome have long gone to seed.

This dense patch is a favorite hangout of the local sparrows, who hide in there for hours, scratching around for seeds.  And, of course, the hummingbirds enjoyed the tubular red flowers.

Another bird favorite is the purple Fountain Grass.  In spring many of the plumes showed evidence that they were providing nice cozy nest linings, and the birds seem to like poking around in it for bugs as well.

The other island bed got overrun with Bermuda grass this year, as it seems to every year. With the two major surgeries I had this year, along with instructions not to do any bending, I wasn't able to keep up with it.  Even though it's overrun with grass, there are still some flowers hanging on, such as the pink Vinca and yellow Lantana in the photo above.

I've also still got quite a lot of milkweed, which is good because one of our neighbors put out a call in our neighborhood Facebook group last week that she needed some milkweed to feed the Monarch larvae that her grandsons had in their terrarium.  I was able to take her some cuttings (and while I was snipping, I found a couple of caterpillars that I brought in and set up in my Big Cube cage as we were expecting a freeze.  As you can see, some of the milkweed is even still blooming and, a bonus at this time of year, it's not covered in aphids!

We've had some strange weather recently.  We've had at least one frost where I thought I might have lost some plants, but surprisingly, they survived.  We also had a couple of nights with temps below freezing, but no frost.  The plants made it through that too.

That *may* have been our winter for the year, yesterday the temperature with back in the 70's!

And finally, the Bottlebrush bush is looking quite festive with it's bright red "brushes".  These seem to be a favorite of bees.  I wouldn't have expected that but, back in the summer, it was always covered in happy bees.  The Savannah holly is looking festive too, with its bright green leaves and red berries.  There was enough that I was able to take some trimmings to add to our Christmas decorations on the mantelpiece.

I've got one final surgery scheduled for tomorrow.  Luckily this is a minor procedure to insert a coil into the last aneurysm.  I'll be in hospital overnight and then back home for a few days' rest.

In case I don't get around to blogging again before Christmas, let me take this opportunity to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and the best of the Holiday Season.

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