A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Posts tagged ‘milkweed’

The Only Color I See Outside Is In My Own Backyard.

The butterfly garden is doing well, with my help.  I water it a couple of times a week and that seems to help the plants keep flowering.  The rudbeckia have been covered with blooms for the past couple of months now, while the homestead verbena continues to really branch out into a nice ground cover.  The lantana is fine with the heat and is a big attraction to butterflies.  On the left below, the Spanish lavender is getting ready for a second show of blooms this year.

While the milkweed I planted almost all died, spontaneous plants from last year’s seeds have popped up everywhere around the yard.   They, too, have attracted quite a few Queen butterflies and fritillaries.  Below is the stone path with pillars of milkweed growing between as well as sweet alyssum, which, to my surprise, continues to live and flower despite the heat.  I planted them in March, I believe, and I expect them to last through to the frost.

The chives are putting on quite a show of flowers and a buffet for the honeybees, wasps and gray hairstreaks.

I keep the feathered guests happy with daily offerings of seed and fresh water.  The finches and cardinals really love coming by, as well as doves and blackbirds.  And the anoles have their run of the place since the birds are well fed.  They, too, love the sun.

I have started the fall garden in hopes that the weather doesn’t kill off everything.  I have several tomato and pepper plants, as well as a couple rows of bush beans sowed.  I’ll be starting the carrots, spinach and broccoli in the coming month and then lettuce for the winter garden.  I can’t wait for cooler weather…


In the Garden 3.26.11

I have finished transplanting all of the veggies for the spring garden.  In my little plot, I have 2 tomatoes (celebrity and early girl), 2 bell pepper (green, cal wonder), 2 jalapeno, 2 habanero, 2 cucumber, 1 squash (yellow crookneck), 1 zucchini, 1 watermelon (crimson) and 1 cantaloupe.   Right now there is quite a bit of space between the plants in the 4′ x 8′ plot, but I’m sure space will be a premium in a couple short months.  I totally forgot to take photos, so I’ll have to update the blog later this week with pictures.

The herb garden is also expanded this year.  Throughout the garden, I now have:  1 culinary sage, 5 parsley, 2 dill, 2 fennel, 2 tarragon, 3 oregano, 4 thyme, 6 chives, 2 rosemary and 2 basil plants.    Sadly, my marjoram plant from last fall died, so I’ll have to get another one.  I’ve found that growing herbs is a very worthwhile investment.  We use a lot of herbs.  In fact, we use one or more of these herbs on a daily basis, so having them at our fingertips is quite helpful.  From a cost perspective, organic herbs at the grocery store can run between $4 and $6/jar.   If I buy fresh, organic herbs cost about $3 for a small handful.  By the time they reach the store, they aren’t always in the best condition either.  Having our own garden means we have our own fresh herbs whenever we need them.  If we want, we can also dry sprigs to put in jars for later use.  Most of the plants cost less than $3 each, and will produce many harvests – many will produce over a number of seasons because they are very hardy.   They are also very low maintenance plants that are fairly drought resistant.  If you are new to gardening, I really recommend starting an herb garden.

I’m happy to report that the lantana plant, which I feared dead, has sprouted some nubs of green growth.  Thanks, Carolyn, for urging me to give it more time.  It’s a few weeks behind the other bush right next to it, but should catch up quickly.

I have a few milkweed seeds that have germinated.  The rest of them should be coming up soon, too.  I’ll let them grow for about four weeks before I transplant them in their final destination along the northern fence line.  It looks like I have about ten that made it through the winter and have another twenty cuttings on order, so I should have a total of about forty to fifty total plants in bloom by mid-summer.

The four-nerve daisy plant is going crazy!  I can tell it’s ecstatic that spring has arrived!  Can you?

My wife has a pot of amaryllis bulbs we’ve been meaning to separate into different pots for some time now.  She got them from her grandmother in Houston, who’s been holding on to them for years.  Before that, they came from my wife’s great-grandmother’s garden.  (If we have a girl in May, we’ll give the baby my wife’s great-grandmother’s name, Eve, as well as my mother’s maiden name, Rose.)  Although we haven’t separated the bulbs, we are happy to say that one of them has started blooming this spring.   Is this her way of saying she approves??  We’d love to think so!  I still hold out hope for a boy … 🙂

There’s really not much else to report.  I had some fun photographing a hoverfly that seemed to really enjoy the euryops flowers, spending the better part of an hour flitting from flower to flower.  He was wary of me and often hovered just above me as I readjusted myself to take photos.  I sure wish I had a macro lens to get in really close and capture more detail.  These are the best I could come up with!

Rooted Milkweed Cuttings

Fall 2010 - Milkweed plants grown from free seeds at LiveMonarch.


It’s that time of year to order your rooted milkweed (asclepias curasavica) cuttings from LiveMonarch.org.    As they succinctly put it:  “living plants milkweed = monarchs”.   Or, to use a quote from one of my favorite childhood movies, “If you build it, they will come” (Field of Dreams). And they will, trust me.  I ordered mine last spring and, before too long, I was attracting Queen and Monarch butterflies and by fall had a dozen or more caterpillars busily munching away on the bumper crop of milkweed plants (thirty five in all).  There are two good reasons for ordering plant cuttings:  you’re guaranteed a living plant (vs. seed germination rates) and you’ll have milkweed plants ready for butterflies forty-five days earlier (vs. seed sowing).


Image from LiveMonarch.org

In case you’re not familiar with LiveMonarch, here is a quote from their website:

Our Mission: To keep our skies filled with Nature’s color.

We are a National Foundation that protects and restores butterfly habitat across North America. Our butterflies are guaranteed the best, largest and healthiest you have seen! We grow our caterpillar food plants hydroponically (no soil). We do not use artificial diets. Find Out Why?

Help us make sure butterflies have plenty of gardens to find food in … Plant free seeds and Please do not overlook the perfect Gift… Personalized seed packs.

Would you like to save 45 days growing time and have butterflies in your garden right away? Then get some small milkweed plants.

Did I mention that the cuttings are cheap?  This year, I placed an order for twenty plant cuttings and the total was only $27 with shipping and handling charges.   That comes out to $1.35 each.  Plus your purchase helps them grow their foundation, while at the same time, helping the monarch population.  All of my cuttings survived being transplanted and even produced flowers and seed pods the same season!

Why not head over to LiveMonarch and pick up some cuttings today?  They also have free seeds if you’d prefer to do it that way.

Heck, if you’re interested in free seeds, I have a few thousand I collected from last year’s plants.  Leave me a comment expressing your interest and I’ll send some over to you.

Monarch Nursery

Last spring I ordered ten milkweed cuttings from livemonarch.org.  When they arrived, they also arrived with 75 free milkweed seeds.  I sowed the seeds and then let them sit outside until July when I finally got around to transplanting them.  I ended up transplanting a total of 32 plants along the southern fence line.  The heat of the summer killed off a few of them, but I now have at least 25 plants over two feet tall and all of them are blooming.  Besides seeing a couple of monarch caterpillars and a couple of queen caterpillars, I thought that the monarchs must have missed me this year (I haven’t seen one land on any of the plants in the yard).  I was very excited to go out yesterday and find about thirty monarch cats busily munching away on the milkweed.  Here are some photos of them:

Milkweed bed looking west


Milkweed bed looking east



Garden Life at Morning Light

I spent some time Saturday and Sunday mornings photographing our garden’s visitors.  The Honey Bees and Bumble Bees were very active this weekend, while the Monarch cats were busy munching almost all day long.  Here they are with a few other guests (click on any pic to view a larger, more detailed photo):

Honey bee on Indigo Spires salvia

Monarch caterpillar munching on Butterfly Weed

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed

Honey bee on Whirling Butterflies gaura

Grasshoppers "playing piggyback"

Monarch caterpillar resting on underside of milkweed leaf

Serphid fly nectaring on milkweed flower

Green Anole catching some rays

Monarch caterpillar looking for breakfast

Bumble Bee on Indigo Spires salvia - disturbing something else!

Quarter-sized green Lynx Spider - yes they do kill and eat Bumble Bees

From One Instar to the Next

I’ve been sleeping terribly lately.  Last night I went to bed at 10PM and slept all the way through to 3:30AM, the longest I’ve slept at one time in over a month.  I tossed and turned for the next few hours, then finally got up.  Around 7AM, I ventured out into the garden to do some work.  I found several of the monarch caterpillars resting on the underside of some of the milkweed leaves.  This little guy, however, caught my eye.  He looked like he was up to something unusual, so I sat down with the camera and caught a few shots of him pushing and pulling his way out of his skin.  Over the course of several minutes, he finally wriggled loose.  It was fun to watch and was pretty interesting how his rear feet remained anchored to the leaf as he compressed his body and pulled out. I also shot a short one minute video of the last part of it.

Here’s the video.  At about sixteen seconds in you can see his “helmet” fall off:

I found this one on the verbena (next to the milkweed).  He was resting, no doubt tired from the ordeal.  I picked him up gently and placed him on the milkweed.

Queen Caterpillar in the Garden

This is a first for the garden and a welcome one at that!  Sunday morning I discovered a bright striped caterpillar on the butterfly weed and I thought I was right to identify it as a Monarch.  As it turns out, I was wrong and it isn’t a Monarch, but a Queen caterpillar.   (Thanks for setting me straight, Carol!) Yes, a happy Queen butterfly found our garden and laid an egg, giving rise to a beautiful queen caterpillar.   I’m glad at least one has found its way into the garden.   We have a total of forty milkweed plants in the garden, though only about six of them are currently flowering.  We started the others from seed earlier in the summer and transplanted them about a month ago.  They’re getting bigger now, and hopefully they’ll be a good-size by the early part of October to attract more Queens and, HOPEFULLY, monarchs, which typically migrate through Central Texas!

Queen caterpillar on Butterfly Weed

Milkweed bed along south-facing fence

Asclepias Curassavica seeds obtained from livemonarch.org