Tag Archives: monarch butterfly

I Planted Milkweed…

And the monarchs came!

Last fall at our WI cabin, I scattered milkweed seeds from native milkweed that had sparsely grown in what I call the “loop” in the center of the circular driveway.  It’s a native area anchored by three Hop Hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) trees.

There’s lots of advice on how to collect milkweed seeds from the pods on the internet, but I took the simple route of waiting until late in the fall when the pods were starting to open up on their own, and then pulled out the seeds. While still attached to the sticky silk, I just floated the seeds around the loop garden and around the edges of the woods. It was a fun afternoon project even without young kids to help!

By spreading the seeds in the fall, I didn’t need to worry about artificial seed stratification, the process of simulating the cold winter and warm, wet spring, that you need to go through to get milkweed seeds to germinate efficiently. Then I waited to see what would come up, and where, since the downside of my method was the wind blowing things in unexpected directions.

I was happy to see this spring that the number of milkweed had really multiplied all over the loop and the edges of the driveway and forest. Then this past weekend I found them! Two big, fat healthy monarch caterpillars munching away.

I can’t remember the last time I saw big monarch caterpillars like these. I’m hoping when we’re there next time, I’ll find monarch chrysalis. But they can be tricky to find since they will attach to almost any hard surface in the area, not necessarily near the milkweed.

What else is enjoying my milkweed?  The bees of course.

Hummingbirds will also enjoy milkweed occasionally, but mine tend to prefer my feeder by far.

As a hummingbird bonus, I recently added a little window feeder and they love it! This day a female came to visit. The male is a little more camera shy.

Need help making hummingbird nectar? See my previous post on an easy how-to.

 

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Fall Seed Gathering Means Beautiful Summer Zinnias

 

zinnia

Zinnias are a great splash of color in the dog days of summer.

My friend Susan has a fabulous hedgerows of zinnias and she shared her secret as to how it looks great year after year.

zinnia

Every fall she gathers the dead seed heads, dries them and stores them in a bag over the winter in a cool, dry location. I kept mine on my unheated porch.

When the temperature is warm enough in the spring, generally not for a couple weeks after the last frost date, she coarsely separates the seeds from the rest of the dead flower heads.   Then in a shallow trench, she thickly spreads the coarse seed mixture, covers lightly with dirt and once the seedlings begin to come up, does not thin them.  Zinnias thrive best in full sun and are quite drought resistant.

zinnia seeds

I had to try it!  We collected seeds last fall from our gardens, and anywhere we could find lovely zinnia beds in need of dead-heading, including from the golf course we play at.  This spring, when the soil temperature was warm enough (usually not until after Mother’s Day here at my zone 5 home) we planted our overwintered seeds by spreading the coarse seed mixture into shallow rows.

Zinnias everywhere!  I need to find more places to plant them to enjoy all the color, but it worked.  Not as nicely as Susan’s, but I’ll get there.

Susan was kind enough to send me some more photos of her yard.  Enjoy!

zinnia

zinnia

zinnia

zinnia

I’m not the only loving the colors!

zinnia and monarch

zinnia and monarch

Soon she’ll be harvesting next year’s seed head before the first frost sets in.

zinnias

zinnias

zinnias

All ready for another year of gorgeous color!

Many thanks to Susan for sharing her photos with me. And for enticing me to make my zinnia garden even bigger next year. 

Hummingbirds and Monarchs

While I’ve planted a lot of flowers and plants that attract pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies at home, my WI garden is much more natural, but equally full of attractive plants.

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This wild columbine at the woods’ edge is a natural attractant, while other native and cultivated flowering plants can be found in the garden.

Ruby-throated hummingbird

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A Yard Full of Snow

Chicago snow

Since I moved to Chicago about 20 years ago, I can’t remember having this much snow on the ground for this long.  It would snow, be pretty for a few days, and then melt leaving everything covered in a layer of depressing gray and brown.  So for as much as this winter has been a struggle, I do find it much prettier and cheerful than a normal winter.  One caveat though; it would be easier to enjoy if it weren’t so constantly frigidly cold.

After the last snowfall earlier this week, we are now over 60 inches of snow this year so far, making it the 7th snowiest winter ever.  For the true weather nerds out there, by my measurements this is equivalent to 5.5 inches of rain since December 1, and has average around 7-8% water content.   That’s very fluffy snow–great for all of us snowblowing and shoveling, but not very good for snowmen.

Chicago snow

We have not seen our road since Christmas.  The main roads are clear, but we’re a little lower on the village plowing totem pole.  I’ve never used my 4 wheel drive as much as I have this year, and on the plus side, my two relatively new drivers have become great snow drivers.

Chicago snow

The plants and shrubs are hopefully surviving the snowpack.  I wasn’t really prepared for so much snow, so the evergreens are on their own to battle the weight of the snow.  The yews and boxwoods seem to be doing pretty well, but some of the Arborvitae are not fairing quite as well and pretty large branches are falling over.   We’ll have to do some more tying up of the branches in the spring.  I’d hate to lose the privacy screen they provide.

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Chicago snow

Another casualty of the snow is the Christmas decorations.  Santa is apparently still welcome at our house, and will be until he ground thaws.

Chicago snow

The lights are also going to be up for a while.  As much as I love Christmas lights, we have at least unplugged them so as to not annoy the neighbors.

snowy chicago

Our shed has been snowed in also since December.  And not just snowed in, but the frozen ground heaved the stones in front of the door and we haven’t been in since before Christmas.  Thankfully, the snowblower had already been brought up to the garage, but inside is still all the sleds, snowshoes and a few more bird feeders.  Bummer for such a snowy winter!

Chicago snow

Then there’s the ice.  As the sun has become higher in the sky finally, the snow-covered roof is beginning to drip.  Many of the shrubs have become encased in ice.   This Alpine Currant reminded me of an icy jellyfish.

snow alpine currant

While the icy shrubs are one thing, icicles on the roof are much scarier.  There are inches of ice on the roof and in the gutter.  This is not going to be good as the temperatures begin to rise this week 🙁

eave icicles

And I’m sure this pretty monarch wishes it had found a way to migrate south instead of spending the winter on my fence.  But, on the flip-side, it’s located right out the side door and reminds me that one day, the real butterflies will return

Chicago snow