Monday, October 6, 2014

Butterflies - The Monarch

One of the pleasantries I have while working in the garden are beautiful visitors like this one.

He kept me company all morning.

I love butterflies but the Monarch has always held a special place in my heart.  Ever since I was in elementary school.

When I was growing up in Tulsa, OK and in the fourth grade I was walking to Paul Revere School on a cool Autumn morning with my sister Melody and her friend (probably Molly).  They had recently decided that it was cool to not wear anklets with their shoes and I'm sure became fashion trend setters.  I on the other hand loved my anklets and was not about to leave them behind.  Being the mean big sister that she was at the time, Melody made me walk at least 10 paces behind them.

I was OK with that; I could entertain myself.  We were walking north on Atlanta Place, one street over from ours.  Atlanta was lined with huge old trees.  Out of nowhere hundreds and hundreds of Monarchs are flying strait toward me.  I stopped, put my head back and my arms thrown up as to welcome them and laughed and laughed.  It was the most awesome thing I had ever seen and felt.  They went all around me and some would land just for a nano second.  Then they were gone.  It was magical and I've never forgotten it.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Summer Garden is Winding Down

The blooms of Summer are beginning to wane and look a little puny.

Yet more zinnias are popping up.  This pretty thing used to be a seed from a zinnia head I nicked from Stonewall Jackson's home garden in Lexington, Virginia last Fall.

Seed nicking from gardens has long been an obsession of mine.  Does that make me a bad person?

Looks like I will be able to enjoy the zinnias for awhile indoors.  Orange bouquets are brought in on Saturdays for my OSU Cowboys football games!

I don't have too many Fall blooming plants in my garden.  But the few I do have I love.  This is Sedum "Autumn Joy"

 The Liriope start showing off their pale purple flowers about this time of year.

 The coleus are feeling the cooler weather too and they are going into survival mode by wanting to flower and set seed.

They've actually been flowering for awhile now but I've been pinching them off the minute I see the flowers.

The flowers of the coleus are really pretty but once they start going to seed the plant itself starts to thin out and get really spindly looking; and not attractive at all.  I've been pinching the flowers out to stretch out the life of the plants.

I can feel a full day of Fall garden clean-up coming on.  Such is the change of seasons in the garden.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Accidental Pumpkins

Aside from totally disrupting the planting structure of my front flower bed, the accidental pumpkin patch has produced a fine crop.  These are the first two; harvested the first week of August.

They're a nice size, around 9 to 10 inches across.  I don't know if they are good for cooking but I'll find out.  I plan to roast them and make soup.

There have been 10 to 11 pumpkins from this one plant.

The bees did their job well in pollinating.

The transition from green to orange has been interesting to watch.  I placed folded up newspaper underneath each young fruit to keep them from rotting on the ground (you can learn all sorts of things from YouTube)

I am amazed at how beautifully smooth and round these pumpkins have been.

I've noticed that the last few pumpkins that developed are getting smaller and smaller.

The plant can produce only so many fruit.
Evey visited week before last and we found a female flower that we self pollinated.  I'll be keeping track of that pumpkin for her.  It will most likely be a very small pumpkin as one of the last that the plant produces.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Watermelon Update

The watermelons have proved to be disappointing.  Granted, they were not planted at the right time so they have been trying to produce in this extreme heat.

This little guy grew to the size of a ping pong ball and then one night, when I was too lazy to spray the deer/rabbit repellent, it was a snack for a deer.  The plants haven't produced a female flower since.

So much for the first try at growing watermelons.  Lesson learned....plant in March!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Butterfly Flutterby

Here are photos of the 'kids' from this Spring.

All in all there were 12 cocoons that produced butterflies. 


I like to think these are the kids returning home.

I'd like to think this is one of ours.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Swallowtails One and Two

We had the first butterflies push out of their chrysalis today.

 The first one went from this

to this

 And after several hours of drying its wings he/she looks like this.  I haven't really learned to tell the males from the females yet.

The second one was a surprise.  I happened to walk past the weed eater and this was sitting on it.  Upon closer inspection I found the chrysalis on the garden tool.

After church I found him at the garage windows trying to find a way out.  I got him on my hand and took him outside where he quickly flew away.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Butterfly Ranch

 These are photos I took last summer of the Giant Swallowtails that frequented the garden

The Giant Swallowtails are the real reason I planted 3 parsley plants in the garden.

I knew that, after mating, the Giant Swallowtails lay their eggs on parsley and that was also what the larvae / caterpillars fed on until they were ready to pupate.

Once the eggs hatch they are ugly little blotches that resemble bird poop.  I'm sure that is Mother Nature's way of trying to give them some hope of survival.

And sure enough I found the teensy tiny larvae hatched and feasting on the parsley.  The youngest one is barely seen on the parsley leaf in the upper right hand corner.  The larvae in the middle is a couple of days older.

The first group of larvae I found feeding on the parsley several weeks ago quickly disappeared in a day or two.  No doubt they were food for the birds.

Consequently, the next time I noticed more, I removed them from danger of becoming dinner for the Mockingbirds and moved them to the garage.

I carefully cut off the stem of parsley that was host to a caterpillar and placed the stems in vases of water.  I added extra parsley so they would have enough food for several days.

Within days they begin to grow out of their ugly little hairy bird-poop stage and become quite pretty.

These creatures eat and poop, eat and poop, eat and poop.  And the bigger they get the more they poop.  Such it is with Mother Nature.

Each day I would clean change out their poopy paper towel and refresh their food supply.

 This little guy looks different from the others; like the black and yellow markings are opposite.  I'll be keeping my eye on this one to see if his pupa is different.


When the caterpillars have eaten until they can eat no more, they start to wander off the parsley in search of a good place to anchor themselves and ready themselves for their final stage before becoming a butterfly.

 I found two crawling on the garage floor so I quickly put them on a tree branch that I had for decorative purposes.

See those two little yellow antennae-looking things?

 I accidentally touched his back and he reared up a little and out popped these two little yellow things.  At the same time I noticed that he sprayed a fine odorous substance (another defense mechanism).  Does anyone else think he looks like Alf in this pose?

I Google searched to find out what these antennae were and they are called the osmeterium and they do in fact put out an odor.

 This one quickly found a nice place to attach himself.   He attaches to the branch with a extremely thin (but obviously very strong) silk thread.

Here he is in his pupa stage

I also found one that crawled up on the ceiling of the garage.

Here's one that stopped on the wall of the garage.

This one found him a cozy little place behind the door to  the back patio but it looks as if a wasp or spider began eating him in the middle of his pupation.

These two obviously didn't want to leave the feeding trough and attached to a thick sturdy parsley branch.  Seems some of the pupa are green,  and some have a brown pupa.  I don't know what that means, if anything, but I'll be watching to see if a slightly different type of Swallowtail emerges.  Perhaps they'll all turn brown at some stage. I'm on a learning curve here.

Since the majority of the caterpillars seemed to be at the 'wandering' stage I put the rest of them in the bug cage so they would be safe and I wouldn't have to search for them in the garage.

All in all there are about 12 that have pupated and 1 that is getting close to taking his "walk".

Within a couple of weeks I should be setting some of these free to start the cycle all over again.