As a follow up to my previous post, I should have posted these photos in mid April when I took them, but alas here they are! This first photo shows a monarch about 1 hour before emerging. The chrysalis is completely see through at this point! Also in the second photo notice the curled wings before the dry out. This was taken a few minutes after emerging. The fourth photo is pretty cool in it’s own right because those two monarchs literally emerged within minutes of each other!
And just when I thought our monarch adventure was done for the season, we now have 14 new caterpillars within the last week. That month in between gave the milkweeds just enough time to replenish to give life all over again.
The ONLY plant that monarch caterpillars can eat is milkweed. There are many varieties, so it’s best to buy the ones that are native to your area if you’re interested in helping the monarch butterflies reproduce. It’s kind of like a science experiment in your yard. I have learned things about these amazing creatures through seeing them live through their life cycle that I never knew before. And it started with one plant.
Sure these little guys will start off tiny and within a matter of days double their size over and over. In the process they will systematically eat every single leaf and flower off your milkweed. But it’s okay. Because milkweeds are built for this. They will grow back. And then a monarch or two will lay eggs on it again and it’ll get mowed again and it will again grow back.
So when my daughter and I counted 38 baby caterpillars on our ONE milkweed about a week ago, I knew they would run out of feasting material fast. So I went to the nursery and bought 3 more plants. Then 2 days later I bought 6 more. And they were finally happy and fat and had had their fill of the buffet. Whew! It was then that I got worried. They were lethargic and many had curled up. I calmed my concerns with a quick internet search informing me that they do this before getting ready for their next stage in the chrysalis.
And then they started disappearing. They were off to find their magic place to make their final transformation into a butterfly. I managed to find 4 of them in a nearby tall bush called “pink breath of heaven”. When they attach themselves to wherever they have chosen and form their “J” as my daughter likes to call it, they are C O M P L E T E L Y still. Take a glimpse at the 3rd and 4th pictures below. That’s the same caterpillar before and after the chrysalis. And the time in between taking those shots today? 2 hours. That’s it. You can youtube a video of a time lapse of this process if you’re interested. Pretty amazing. Now we wait!
A few mornings ago I saw this beauty while out on my morning walk around the yard on our recently acquired milkweed plant. These plants are havens for butterflies and also support their lifecycle. I felt fortunate to have caught it on camera when I did. I presume it was laying an egg or two since yesterday these 2 were found cruising around the same plant:
This last photo is sort of a “Where’s Waldo” of caterpillars. It’s exciting seeing these caterpillars grow so fast on the milkweed. My mom told me that when they’re big enough, they leave the plant to find a safe place to make their chrysalis. I was relieved to hear this because last week’s large caterpillar seemed to have disappeared and I was worried about a bird having eaten it for a snack! (By the way, my mom gets all the credit for inspiring me to buy a milkweed plant. She has many in her front yard and even though she doesn’t care for the twiggy look it has after the caterpillars have eaten it all up, she knows the plant will grow back to feed a whole new crop of future monarchs.) Seeing the butterfly’s life cycle in action is also a wonderful science lesson for kiddos. Do butterflies in your neck of the woods a favor and get a milkweed plant!
I’ve never had a fruit tree bloom quite like this before! Doesn’t it know that apples and pumpkins get to be the star now? It has just really started to cool down here in southern California. I can almost guarantee that this bloom will fizzle before it bears fruit, but it’s an interesting site in the garden.
The potted pink mandevilla next to the outdoor fireplace it definitely more sure of itself and I’m happy to report that it’s creeping along the mantel quite nicely, situating itself in the cracks of the stones.
I decided that with my lackluster fruit tree growth this year, I would adopt a technique that I used for the Spice Zee Nectaplum when I planted it this spring and it did fab. When I planted it, I also planted a two foot long plastic pipe found in the hardware center plumbing section. I use it to give water directly to the roots deep in this hard, dry soil. So, I picked up 6 more and carefully dug holes around my already planted fruit trees and positioned them down in the ground. I also drilled about 4-5 holes in the lower half of the pipe to give water all around.
The center part of this 5′ tall sunflower has finished drying in the sun and the seeds are now exposed. I’m planning on roasting these home-grown seeds. Since this will be my first time doing my own roasting, I looked up this recipe, which only involves boiling the seeds in a pot of salted water and then roasting them in the oven. I’m looking forward to seeing how they turn out!
And the Red Baron peach tree fairy gives her approval after many weeks of overseeing the sunflower seed soldiers.
I took my normal walk around the backyard taking photos, as is my M.O., and realized only after looking at them on my computer this morning that each photo represented a first in my garden. This is the first time I’ve seen my Eva’s Pride peach tree produce fruit:
And the first time I’ve seen the Double Delight nectarine I bought in January leaf out and bloom:
And seen the flower up-close:
And the first time I’ve seen the Thompson Red Seedless grape do this:
Last year it had just started to produce fruit clusters but before they had a chance to fully form something happened and they either fell off or were eaten by something.
And the first time I’ve seen my favorite specimen (Red Baron peach) blooming against the backdrop of my favorite backyard retreat after being completed last summer:
Beauty has woken from it’s slumber and the flowers around the backyard are bountiful.
Golden nasturtiums. They’re edible and are beautiful as a garnish on salads.
Royal Lee Cherry blooming away.
Today I tried my hand at being a pinch hitter pollenator. While there are some bees around the garden, I hadn’t seen much activity on this cherry tree. Being that this one cross pollenates with Minnie Royal, and that one bloomed later with only 4 blooms so far, I decided to increase my odds of ending up with a real, live cherry in May. I took the smallest paintbrush I could find and gently brushed the pollen from the flowers of one tree and brushed what I collected onto the stigma (the longest part of the center of the flower) of the other tree, and vice a versa.
Here’s what I believe to be the beginnings of a grape cluster!
It’s funny because I can’t ever remember this iris blooming. It surprised me a few mornings ago when it’s color caught me eye and made me smile. Iris’ are special in my family and seeing these blooming in the yard makes me want to plant more.
Bulbs really are a cherished thing. They sleep in the ground just long enough for them to slip our mind come spring. Then they bloom in a furry and fade away just as fast as they came. (Thank you to my daughter for taking the first photo above, which proved to be better than most of mine.)
Dishes aren’t so bad when I have this Spring scene to gaze upon.
Each of my fruit trees now has this flexible landscaping barrier. Luckily my husband found it at a garage sale and it was long enough to cut for all 4 trees exposed to the happy, digging talons of our Ameraucana hen, Henrietta. Unlike the vertically challenged Silkies, Henrietta can go almost anywhere she pleases with a flap of her caramel color wings. A favorite hangout of hers had become the base of the fruit trees, which I’m sure had nothing to do with the yummy homemade compost and grass clippings that I’ve been layering around their root zones all winter. And you’d be surprised how deep a chicken can dig! These barriers seem to be effective at keeping her at bay.
And there’s that chicken in question (bottom right), running away from the ferocious sounds of the play lawnmower.