Monarch of the backyard

Yesterday I mowed the lawn and weeded, despite the 100-degree temperatures AGAIN! Man oh man, global warming is real on the East Coast this summer. But at least I was entertained in my endeavors by three of these beauties who kept darting and fluttering around the yard. I was so excited to see them! They really were highly entertaining. I watched them approach different flowers to see if they could snag a snack from them. You could sort of sense their disappointment when it didn’t work out. They seemed very fond of the sweet peas, had no interest whatsoever in the calendula, loved the phlox, and were more or less indifferent to the zinnias. My echinacea isn’t open yet, but I think the monarchs will like them, too. Apparently they’re most fond of milkweed, but I’m not getting into that. I have been thinking of getting a butterfly bush, though I’m not sure where I’d put it. There’s one in the neighborhood that I lust after; it’s more like a butterfly tree, really, with purple flowers. I watch for it to bloom every year.

Oddly enough, while I spent the afternoon admiring my monarchs, I spent the morning solving a mystery. I’d planted a smallish planter with some nasturtium seeds—’Alaska,’ the variety with the variegated foliage—encircling a nice fat bulb of elephant ear. You have to have the patience of Job with elephant ear around here. I planted it in late April, and the first leaf is only now unfolding. But it’s the nasturtiums that were making me crazy. SOMETHING was eating them, methodically and daily. I thought it might be the neighborhood bunny, but it seemed a pretty high reach for him/her. I thought maybe bugs, but I hadn’t noticed any on the plants. But the poor things looked like skeletons, with the new leaves eaten away every morning. So yesterday, I pulled the planter out into the sunlight and took a long, hard look. And there they were: two slim caterpillars, the exact shade of green of the stems. I think they’re white cabbage moth caterpillars, from what I can tell. I pinched them off and … well, I squished them. With a boot. To save my nasturtiums. I did think of Gandhi when I did it, but Gandhi wasn’t a gardener, I don’t think. So—sorry, greater universe and lifeforce. But nobody eats my nasturtiums. Nobody.

Photo by Louise Docker licensed under the Creative CommonsAttribution 2.0 Generic license.

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