Saturday, November 19, 2016

In the Pink

It's mid November. No doubt back in the UK it's a bit chilly and probably grey and dull.  I don't miss the UK weather at all! Here  it was cool enough last night to need a quilt on the bed and this morning we used the heating for the first time this winter but now, mid morning, the sun is shining and  it's about 75F. I've no complaints!  And out in my yard there is quite a bit of color. In particular one  furry little cactus is blooming its socks off! Mammilaria rhodantha ssp McCartenii has produced dozens of tiny cerise pink flowers with a host of buds waiting their turn. What a star for a winter bloomer!

And an update for those of you that read the last blog about my Monarch caterpillars. Suddenly they all disappeared. I have no idea whether a hungry bird gobbled them up or whether they've entered the next stage of the their life cycle. Wikipedia tells me that they will travel 10-15ft to find the perfect spot to pupate. Well I've searched but can't find them. Maybe one day we will see beautiful hatching butterflies or maybe we'll have to wait until more eggs are laid!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Lepidopterous midwifery!

After a disappointing summer, the yard has cheered up a bit and come to  life again in the cooler weather. It's like spring but its actually fall or autumn as we say in the UK. Plants have sprung a new lease of life, fresh foliage and some new flowers. The Cassia 'Buttercream is flowering for the first time, having been a small plant purchased just a year ago. The double form of Madagascar periwinkle, Catharanthus 'Soiree' has sulked all summer but is now full of bloom. And one of our garden center purchased Echinopsis has produced three fabulous late flowers.  Our plant of Canna 'Durban' looked very drab and tired in the heat of summer but now has a wonderful crop of fresh vibrant foliage.

In particular we are thrilled to see that our milkweed is finally acting as a host for Monarch butterfly caterpillars. Probably the only crawlers we'd welcome in the yard! Apparently the butterfly will feed on a variety of nectar producing plants but the larva will only feed on milkweed, so the eggs are laid here. We bought red and yellow flowered plants but only the yellow survived. The caterpillars seem to prefer to feed on the seed pods and appear to be leaving the leaves alone! The final picture is not from our yard but just to show you what we are hoping we will eventually get! Fancy the thrill of acting as midwife to a bunch of butterflies!