Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Life Cycle of a Butterfly

The Life Cycle of a Butterfly

Monarch feeding on Helenium

Butterflies are the jewels of a garden perhaps in part because of their extraordinary life cycle that can last a month or nearly a year. They begin life as a tiny egg that the female has attached to a leaf of a host plant or near one. A host plant is what the caterpillar will feed on when it emerges. Host plants are critical to butterflies because some, like Monarchs can only feed on one species of plant, milkweeds. 
Monarch Caterpillar

If you look closely, you can often see the caterpillar growing inside. When the caterpillar or larva emerges from the egg it is in a feeding and growth stage. It will shed its skin several times to accommodate its growing body. When the caterpillar spins it’s cocoon the transformation begins in the chrysalis or pupa. Many species overwinter in this stage. Finally, the magic is complete and the adult or imago emerges. In this stage butterflies mate and migrate or colonize new areas so, the circle begins again.

One of my favorite milkweed plants, Asclepias 'Hello Yellow'

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Disneynature's Wings of Life

Disneynature's Wings of Life

Following a link from Eco Dads  I was lead to a magnificent video trailer from Disneynature called Wings of Life. The stars of this movie are butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, bats and the flowers they’ve evolved with. Fully one third of all the world’s food supply depends on these increasingly threatened pollinators. Wings of Life was directed by Louie Schwartzberg and narrated by Academy Award® winner Meryl Streep, and is available on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, Digital and On Demand today, April 17,  - just in time for Earth Day.

This Sunday morning, April 21, from 11:30-12:30 (EST) you can take part in Director Louie Schwartzberg's Webinar on Best Gardening Practices in Support of the Pollinators & the New Disneynature Film Wings of Life.
To celebrate the debut of Wings of Life, Disneynature has made a contribution to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) to protect pollinators worldwide. The DWCF has already supported more than 20 projects across North America focused on protecting pollinators and their habitats. Grants have helped conservationists save endangered butterflies, expand habitat for honeybees and educate children about the importance of pollinators and how they can help protect them.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


I love all of the surprises that come with spring. My memory is fading and I can hardly remember what I planted last fall. So, when these treasures come up and bloom they are like Christmas presents. Even the plants I know are coming feel like gifts when they bloom. Each night we talk the garden to look at what’s blooming and what’s about to. It’s like an Easter egg hunt for gardeners!

Trillium grandiflorum
large white trillium

Mertensia virginica
Virginia Bluebells

Sanguinaria canadensis

All of these spring ephemerals provide an early nectar source for butterflies and other beneficial insects. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What are your earliest garden memories?

When I was little, I thought my mother was magic. She could make snapdragons talk and see faces in violas and tell me their stories. She could also tell my fortune in broccoli, which would only come true if I ate it but that’s a whole different story. Violas are still my favorite flower and Viola walteri 'Silver Gem' introduced by North Creek Nurseries is my new crush.

The silver-gray foliage stays clean and subtly beautiful all season long.

Our living table brings these little gems up to eye level. Planted here with other spring flowering natives such as Trillium and Houstonia - quaker ladies.

The tiny purple flowers are good enough to eat!

Many thanks to our friend Ellen Wells from Flower Ink for featuring ‘Silver Gem’ last week. Here’s the link: you won’t want to miss here blog!