Friday, October 17, 2014

Welcome to the world, new butterflies!

Butterflies have chosen my garden in which to hatch this summer.  We had at least two batches of Black Swallowtail butterflies like these that chose fennel plants as food.
Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars on fennel

Black Swallowtail Butterfly adult

On the Butterfly Weed, Monarch butterflies laid eggs.  After munching away on the plant for a couple of weeks, the caterpillars climbed to several different spots: on the fence, pictured below, on branches of bushes, and even on the electrified chicken fence, to form chrysalises.  The one below had hung on the fence for a couple of weeks, and waited there until it was time to leave the chrysalis. This simple creature knows the appointed time for its emergence, and it will not rush. 

Monarch Butterfly caterpillar the day before it emerged as an adult

24 hours later

The chrysales in the above two pictures are of the same butterfly; I had to put a piece of paper behind the second one so the camera would focus on the detail of the wings and not the house.  (I used my phone).

Brand-new butterfly
The butterfly above is from the same batch of caterpillars, but it's not the same one pictured above in the chrysalis.  Although I visited the butterfly pictured in the chrysalis every 15 minutes to half an hour, it didn't decide to emerge until we had to leave the house for a couple of hours in midafternoon, so I got no pictures of it emerging.

The same butterfly above from a different angle has more fully emerged

Another new butterfly; note the wrinkled wings

We didn't notice this one, in a antique rose bush I rooted from one at my grandmother's home, until we saw the orange wings.

We found the one from the chrysalis photos resting in the pine straw when we came home from our errands.

Friday, October 10, 2014

On October 19, visit Old McCaskill's Farm for the annual Farm Day

We visited the farm a couple of weeks ago and had a great time!  If you are near Columbia, SC, and would like a day on the farm, visit on October 19! Click here for more information.

Silly girls!

The farmer and Zeke, the Border collie, herding sheep

Zeke has finished his work and is resting

My daughter holding a baby guinea in the brooder

For more information about Farm Day, click here!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

While you're outside enjoying this fall weather, divide your spring-flowering bulbs

If you, like me, think every spring about how you just must divide those daffodil bulbs this year when they bloom in a crowded mass in the spring, but you forget about this task after the green foliage fades, consider this article your reminder.  In the spring, bulbs should remain undisturbed so they can change sunlight to food with their green leaves.  If you wait until the winter to divide the bulbs, you risk chopping of emerging shoots that will become flowers.  Summer and fall are the best time to divide spring-blooming bulbs because the plants are dormant.

To divide bulbs, use a spading fork or a shovel and insert it into the soil outside the area in which the bulbs are growing, and pry up.  You’ll probably end up severing some of the bulbs; toss those on the compost pile.  Separate the bulbs and replant them 4-6 inches apart and 4-6 inches deep, pointed end up.  Give the extra bulbs to friends, or expand your beds of flowering bulbs. 

I have planted daffodils throughout my woods, and in early spring, the woods are speckled with spots of yellow and white flowers.  Daffodils are reliably perennial, or come back every year, here.  Deer do not usually eat them, and so they are the perfect bulb to plant nearly anywhere in full sun.  Early, mid-season, and late blooming flowers are available so that the season of bloom can last from late winter to late spring. 

Here are my two girls enjoying the daffodils.  Don't worry, they didn't actually eat them.

Many of the daffodils I planted in my woods decided they could not survive their harsh life among tree roots, and have died.  I hope I’ll be able to divide my bulbs this fall, and to consign more bulbs to the woods.

Tulips are beautiful, but they do not  come back here reliably because our winters are not cold enough to give them the winter chill they need to prosper.  I obtain the best flowers by either putting them in the refrigerator, inside a paper bag, away from ripening fruit for about six weeks before I plant them, or by planting them in a container outside where they get cold temperatures without the insulating effects of the earth.  I treat them as annuals and throw the bulbs on the compost after they bloom.
Muscari, or bluebottles, make a nice container planting that lasts for years.

Bulbs make winter and spring container plantings interesting.  Instead of just planting a pot of pansies, tuck some bulbs underneath the pansies, in colors that coordinate with the pansies, and enjoy the surprise when they emerge.  If you plan to change the arrangement of perennials in the garden, consider putting flowering bulbs among the perennials so the emerging foliage of the perennials will conceal the bedraggled foliage of the bulbs.