On Monarchs, Blueberries and Birthdays

| October 23, 2012 | 7 Replies

Today, October 22nd, is the 22nd birthday of my son, Walker. He’s a senior at Stanford, and I’d hoped to be up there, but the life of a college athlete is very busy, and he didn’t think he would even have time to dine with me. So, I am not going to see him in person on this special day, a day that only happens once in a lifetime.


Walker & Kaye, at the Getty Center 2012

My birthday is on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, and I remember well my 14th birthday. I was learning to sew in 4-H and made a heart shaped (top and bottom) apron out of red-checked cotton, and trimmed it with red rick-rack. I also baked a heart-shaped cake, and my mother got the town paper to photograph me for the weekly paper. I have that article in one of the many scrapbooks my mother made me.

Anyway, after a long day in the garden yesterday, I wasn’t too energetic today and felt my energy was supposed to be in Palo Alto, not Los Angeles, so I didn’t get off to a great start. In the afternoon, I forced myself to go out and check on caterpillar C (A & B have left the building, ha), and spent an hour trying to relocate him or her to a safe place for cocoon-building. As it was exploring what I considered to be the Ritz Carlton for Monarch cocoons (underneath the overhang of my pop-out kitchen window), it FELL about four feet into a bucket of bamboo sticks! I gasped and picked it up by the piece of straw it was grasping. Talk about grasping for straws!


Monarch Caterpillar 5th Instar Stage Grasping Straw

Stunned, it lay in my hand for a couple of minutes. I decided that I was violating the “Prime Directive” (any “Star Trek” fans out there?) and I put it back on the milkweed bush. When I looked again 20 minutes later, it was nowhere to be found. Luckily, I have another caterpillar coming along.


Monarch Caterpillar 4th Instar Stage

And I found several eggs.


Monarch Egg

And fluttering around my head was a female Monarch butterfly feasting on the pollen of the Mexican Sunflower. It’s amazing how the stripes on the caterpillar turn into polka dots!


Female Monarch Butterfly on Mexican Sunflower

I have limited space in my garden. Some parts gets more sun than others. Some soil is more amended, but most of it is compacted clay. So, when I buy new plants, it takes me awhile to figure out where to put them. Almost every spot that gets maximum sun will be used to plant edibles. Today, I made a hard choice. I had bought two California native blueberry bushes from Grow Native Nursery last week, but hadn’t figured out where to plant them. I kind of wanted to keep them together. They grow in light shade, which is a plus, but, I just couldn’t figure it out, till it hit me to turn my Flower Island (see My Flower Island episode of Late Bloomer) into a California Native plot. I just planted two Asclepias speciosa milkweed in there yesterday, and after my caterpillar adventure, I planted three Phyda nodiflora Frogfruit ground cover there. Then, it hit me. I’m over roses.

I had an Iceberg Rose bush out there that was high maintenance and rarely bloomed, got lots of rust, and of course every time you tend to it, you somehow get pricked by a thorn. I’m over it. I dug up that rose bush, and planted two Vaccinium “Indians Wanderer” California native blueberries under the newly pruned Princess flower bush, which I trimmed to grow up more like a tree than a sprawling bush, giving more light underneath.

Vaccinium - California Native Blueberry

Vaccinium “Indians Wanderer” California Native Blueberry

Well, it’s technically not a native garden, yet. That’s an African daisy bottom left, and Mexican feather grass top left, which I happen to love, but the other seven plants are natives. And they all will bloom and attract bees and butterflies.


California Native Garden

So the day wasn’t a complete wash. And I am Skyping my son tonight! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by! – Kaye

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Category: California Native Plants, Curbside Gardening, Monarch Butterfly

Comments (7)

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  1. oceannah says:

    Not a complete wash….Kaye, you slay me….Do you have any idea how much you do in a day?!?! I love the idea of your island going native. It will probably be less work for you in the long run once everyone is well established. And the natives will be more adapted to the water/weather 🙂 A rose by any other name in your case will be a blueberry 😉

    • Yes, as neighbor C.L. (who walks over a few times a day to see what I’m up to) said, “You can’t eat a rose.” I can’t hold a candle to you, missy weight lifter! How you have time and energy to run a farm, family, make pottery, and transform your body is beyond me! I couldn’t sleep last night (did not get the Skype call from my son), so got up at 1AM and recorded my voiceovers for my new, long-overdue tomatoes episode. It’s very quiet at 2AM! I just finished recording when the heater clicked on, good timing. Anyway, I was dead tired this AM and went back to bed after getting my son to the bus at 7. I’m sure YOU would have gone straight to the gym! 🙂 – Kaye

  2. We visited the Monarchs at Natural Bridges State Beach over the weekend (a post will follow) but we didn’t see any eggs or caterpillars. I don’t think they go there to reproduce.

    I’m a Cal man but even so, I wish your son a happy birthday. And just wait until next year…

  3. Currie Rose says:

    Happy Belated Birthday to your son!

    I love your love of gardening and critters….. I am reminded of the incredibly large slug I found sitting next to me this morning. They are given such a bad rap, but I thought it to be so beautiful and graceful.

    Anyway… thanks for sharing,

    • Currie, thanks for writing! I’ll pass along your birthday wishes to Walker. Slugs are graceful and beautiful (in a slimy sort of way :), but unfortunately, they do real damage to cole crops, so they have to go. 🙁 – Kaye

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