Summer Magic…

Today we visit my gardening BFF, Judi, at her home in Southern Orange County, CA.  Judi and I have been garden touring and plant shopping companions for more than 25 years.  We can find a new place to explore or a new project on which to embark every time we get together.  Judi has a passion for fostering and nurturing wildlife in her garden.  Her plant and garden management choices are made with the bees, birds and butterflies in mind.  Her petite garden space has been named a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat and proudly displays this plaque near her back gate:

Certified Wildlife Habitat sites can be residential, community parks, schools, corporate buildings –just about any location where the landscape is managed, using sustainable gardening practices, to provide the four basic elements that all wildlife need: food, water, cover, and places to raise their young. For more information about creating a certified habitat go to the Federation’s website at or call 1-800-822-9919.

One of Judi’s special interests is the Monarch butterfly.  She provides many Asclepias tuberosa (common milkweed) and Asclepias physocarpa (Hairy Balls plant, Swan plant, Oscar milkweed) as host plants.  The Monarch butterfly lays its eggs on the host plants.  The eggs develop into the striped catepillars which then feed on the foliage of the host plant, often stripping it down to the stems. As the cycle continues each catepillar will prepare for the chrysalid state by attaching itself to a solid surface such as a tree branch or the overhang of a block wall.  Given adequate host plants for food Judi may see up to 20 chrysalids at any given time.  There are undoubtedly many more that are never observed by the humans inhabiting the garden.  The Monarch chrysalid is easily recognized by its bright lime green color and  gold band around its circumference and looks like it is wearing a dainty string of black pearls.  Within 10 to 12 days the chrysalid will take on a brown hue and you know that emergence of the butterfly is imminent. When the time is right the butterfly emerges very quickly, staying near the chrysalid, and flutters it’s wings to dry.  A sunny spot aids in this drying process.  And then the butterfly is off! This cycle of life is magic repeating itself in every butterfly friendly refuge over and over–amazing to think  that we can offer a bit of assistance to these lovely creatures by our garden choices!

Gardening friends! Please bear with the formatting eccentricities on this first post composed on my new iPad. Everything is in a different place and some of the tools I can’t find at all!!

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