Archive for January, 2013

Post Mortem

January 28, 2013

Just a note to provide completion to the last post: both butterflies are dead.

The one in the chrysalis died within hours. I brought the other one in for the night in a box, to keep it warm, in the vague hope that it might somehow be able to fly. In the early afternoon today, I took the box outside and put it in the sun. The sunlight, as it always does, stirred the butterfly to activity, and it started fluttering and attempting to fly.

Unfortunately, it became clear that it was never going to be able to fly. It simply flopped around inside the box no matter how hard it flapped its wings. So I made the decision to euthanize it by putting it in the freezer — a technique I found described on a website for people who raise Monarchs by hand. The creature fairly quickly dies of hyperthermia, a much quicker and less painful death than the starvation or exhaustion that lies in store for it if left to its own devices.

RIP, two butterflies who were just born at the wrong time!

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Butterfly Surprise — Alas!

January 27, 2013

I was surprised this morning to come back from my daily Starbucks visit to find a Monarch butterfly sitting on my Artemisia:

Jan2013_MonarchCrumpled

Unfortunately, as you can see, its wings are badly crumpled and I fear it is doomed. I searched in vain for the empty chrysalis to see where it might have come from. Perhaps it made its chrysalis in the tangle of the Artemisia stems, and damaged its wings in the process of climbing out — I don’t know!

In the process of that search, I discovered another butterfly– this one very nearby on my Mexican Sage:

Jan2013_Chrysalis1

 

Unfortunately again, this one was only partway out of the chrysalis, and seems to have gotten “stuck” for some reason. I moved it a bit so it was hanging more straight down, and the butterfly is still alive, but I don’t think it will be so for long. Monarchs need to suddenly drop down from their chrysalises, and this one has not. We have been having cold, wet weather lately — perhaps that was a contributing factor.

You can see how close these two are — they must have come from the same set of eggs:

Jan2013_ChrysalisButterfly

 

I will monitor these two, but I fear the worst!

 

General Garden Updates, 2013 Edition

January 13, 2013

Finally I think we are through with the caterpillar dramas — no new caterpillars have appeared, and it’s too cold now. (It’s frigid here in Southern California — lows in the 20s recently.)

So … back to the garden! I have made many changes since the summer. First, let’s look at the overall picture — herewith photos from right after Christmas:

The front of the house with wreath.

The front of the house with wreath.

Wreaths on the front door.

Wreaths on the front door.

Jan2013_EastSide

East side near house. I extended the path into the "bench" area.

East side near house. I extended the path into the “bench” area.

My potted Mimulus near the bench ... just for added interest.

My potted Mimulus near the bench … just for added interest.

Northernmost east side. I am in the process of edging the path with stones ... a long term project.

Northernmost east side. I am in the process of edging the path with stones … a long term project.

Big changes here.

Big changes here.

In the above area, I removed the Lilac Verbena that was in front of the Canyon Prince Wild Rye. It just did not seem to fit with it. I also removed the Fuchsia that was to the right of the Deer Grass. It was not working out — its growth was stunted, its blossoms were few, and leaves from my neighbor’s Guava tree accumulated under it, providing an excellent breeding ground for hundreds of milkweed beetles. I felt this particular area, subject to unrelenting sun from dawn to dusk, needed to be populated with more sun-loving plants. So, I decided to create a small rock garden with succulents, which I will add to as time goes on.

Let’s zoom in on that area:

1. Variegated fuchsia 2. Aloe brevifolia 3. Dudleya brittonii 4. Agave victoria-reginae 5. Opuntia mocrodasys

1. Variegated fuchsia 2. Aloe brevifolia 3. Dudleya brittonii 4. Agave victoria-reginae 5. Opuntia mocrodasys

1. Aloe vera 2. Dudleya brittonii, green form 3. Aristida purpurea

1. Aloe vera 2. Dudleya brittonii, green form 3. Aristida purpurea

Highlighting the explosive growth of wildflowers since the rains started in December. I have been thinning them out and intend to do more.

Highlighting the explosive growth of wildflowers since the rains started in December. I have been thinning them out and intend to do more.

Southernmost east side.

Southernmost east side.

The mound.

The mound.

Above is the mound I created last summer, which I have started to populate with plants. First, I extended the “culvert” defined by differently-sized stones that suggest a stream bed. I am hoping that this will partially direct runoff from the roof to the two plants I have planted there that enjoy heavier soils and moisture: (4) and (5), Cape Sebastian Seaside Daisy, Erigeron glaucus. The other numbered plants are (1) Coffeeberry, Rhamnus californica, (2) and (3) Coast Aster, Aster chilensis, and Purple Haze Aster, Aster chilensis ‘Purple Haze’ (I forget which is which). The other plants are wildflowers that have unexpectedly popped up, in spite of the fact that the mound is new, and a Ceanothus in the lower left that’s been there for ages.

The west side.

The west side.

I removed the last remaining Canyon Prince Wild Rye from the west side. In spite of having cut it back severely last winter, it grew back in an ungainly manner and just got too big and floppy.

The southernmost west side.

The southernmost west side.

The northernmost west side. I cut back the Red Pitcher Sage (on the right), and I am going to remove it. It's a lovely plant, but is just too big for that location.

The northernmost west side. I cut back the Red Pitcher Sage (on the right), and I am going to remove it. It’s a lovely plant, but is just too big for that location.

The area where the Canyon Prince Wild Rye used to be. Now we have (1) a succulent that Pat gave me, the name of which I have forgotten, which used to be hidden under the Wild Rye, (2) the existing Fuchsia, which I drastically coppiced, and which is already growing back, and (3) my replacement for the Wild Rye, another Cleveland Sage -- tiny, as yet.

The area where the Canyon Prince Wild Rye used to be. Now we have (1) a succulent that Pat gave me, the name of which I have forgotten, which used to be hidden under the Wild Rye, (2) the existing Fuchsia, which I drastically coppiced, and which is already growing back, and (3) my replacement for the Wild Rye, another Cleveland Sage — tiny, as yet.

Now for some closeups on the succulents:

"Bunny Ears" cactus, Opuntia microdasys

“Bunny Ears” cactus, Opuntia microdasys

Aloe brevifolia

Aloe brevifolia

Chalk Dudleya, Dudleya brittonii

Chalk Dudleya, Dudleya brittonii

Queen Victoria Agave, Agave victoriae-reginae. A lovely plant.

Queen Victoria Agave, Agave victoriae-reginae. A lovely plant.

Dudleya brittonii, green form

Dudleya brittonii, green form

Aloe vera. It looks much better since the rains started -- this one is perhaps too much in the sun  during the summer.

Aloe vera. It looks much better since the rains started — this one is perhaps too much in the sun during the summer.

Purple Three Awn, aristida purpurea, a lovely grass that I thought would work well with the succulents.

Purple Three Awn, aristida purpurea, a lovely grass that I thought would work well with the succulents.

The environs of the bowl. Additions are: (1) Salvia compacta, a smallish (3') sage that I hope will complement the Winifred Gilman sage behind it (2) "Blue Chalk" Senecio vitalis, (3) some variety of Yucca, and (4) Paddle Plant, Kalanchoe luciae.

The environs of the bowl. Additions are: (1) Salvia compacta, a smallish (3′) sage that I hope will complement the Winifred Gilman sage behind it (2) “Blue Chalk” Senecio vitalis, (3) some variety of Yucca, and (4) Paddle Plant, Kalanchoe luciae.

I should mention, if I have not before, that few of my succulents are native. Counter-intuitive as it seems (given the dry climate here), California native succulents are relatively few and not all that interesting. There are so many lovely succulents in the world, I have decided to branch out!