What Happened to Winter?

| January 15, 2014 | 5 Replies

What happened to winter? The Late Bloomer Garden is feeling the effects of a Santa Ana heat wave: broccoli is bolting and cocoons are eclosing! While I was seeding twelve varieties of heirloom tomato seed for summer out back, my one-of-two Monarch chrysalises eclosed in the front yard.

What Happened to Winter-empty chrysalis

Empty Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis

I didn’t know it until I went out to spray a little water on my parkway brassicas, to cool them from the heat, and a beautiful Monarch flew past me. I’d like to think the fly-by was a thank you for taking such good care of it through it’s metamorphosis. It lingered for a time in front of my neighbor’s yard (she currently has more flowers in bloom) and then disappeared on its journey. Where an endangered Western Monarch goes on January 15th, is unknown. This is not exactly the time for chrysalises to be erupting with gorgeous butterflies.

I ran to the first chrysalis and took a peak where it was dangling from a wire of Christmas lights wrapped around the redwood fence. Sure enough, that was my Monarch that flew away. Since I had several Monarchs emerge with the deadly, contagious OE* disease last year, I was delighted to see this one healthy and flying. I was not able to get a closer look and determine if it was male or female.

Next, I ran to the other chrysalis. You can just see the color of orange and black through the green, which means this afternoon or tomorrow it will emerge. Monarchs will not fly unless temperatures are 54° or above, so this hot weather sped up their process. I need to keep a sharp eye on this chrysalis today. It takes an hour (maybe less in 80° heat!) for the wings to dry, so, hopefully I can get some good photos.

What Happened to Winter-Chrysalis

Monarch Chrysalis – Wings are Barely Visible

I nurtured 27 caterpillars from the egg stage, three got stepped on (a risk of growing milkweed near the sidewalk), and the rest disappeared to places unknown to make their cocoons. What I’ve learned from last year’s experience, is that they have a mind of their own, and won’t necessary find appealing the safe spots you might try to relocate them to.

The heat wave has brought crazy hot weather, yesterday 75° F and today will be a high of 84° F! In January! What happened to winter? My cool season crops are bolting, especially my organicHeirloom Broccoli Raab Rapini (commonly known as broccolini). Since it has such a short growing season of 45 days, I seeded some more today, for surely cool weather will return. I harvested cool season crops in March and April last year! See the “Late Bloomer” episode I shot last Easter, with all the bolted broccolini behind me. Bees LOVE broccoli flowers. However, I’ve hardly seen a bee in the last month, as December was unseasonably cold.

What Happened to Winter-Broccoli

Heirloom Broccoli Raab Rapini Bolted with Blooms

Also, my sweet peas bloomed early and are forming pods and some varieties, including this Sugar Magnolia Purple Pea stopped growing up and is forming pods. I had hoped the vines would reach six feet! That’s how tall I hung the trellis netting. But, they are only two feet. Let’s hope those short vines are abundant!

What happened to Winter-Peas

Sugar Magnolia Purple Peas

Lots of seedlings to look forward to, and I have a few more pepper varieties to plant. I don’t have near enough space to accommodate all the seedlings that hopefully will germinate (seeded in DE), so I will be sharing them with neighbors and the local school garden. As I’m a newbie gardener, germination is VERY exciting, and I tend to plant more seeds than my little garden can hold.

What Happened to Winter-seed trays

Trays Seeded with Tomato and Pepper Seeds for Summer

With the weather this warm, I think I’ll go ahead and plant my marigolds and free up the tray for another batch of summer seeds!

What Happened to Winter-marigolds

Tray of Sparky MIx Marigolds

Thanks for reading and I hope you will share with friends! Your comments are welcome! Happy gardening! – Kaye

*Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OEis an obligate, protozoan parasite that infects monarch and queen butterflies. Read more about Monarchs here. The best thing you can do for Monarchs is to grow milkweed, preferably varieties that are native to your area. See my episode “Monarchs and Milkweed.”

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Category: Beneficials, Cool Season, Monarch Butterfly, Seeds, Urban Gardening

Comments (5)

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  1. In my experience, seed germination never ceases to be exciting. The Monarchs in your neighborhood are very lucky to have you! Thanks for taking care of them. I hope you got some of the recent (and rare) California rain.

  2. John says:

    I really enjoy your posts and especially your photos. I am so envious of your chrysalises. I have some beautiful milkweed that volunteered in the front of my house by the road, and I keep hoping to find some monarch caterpillars on them. We saw a monarch flying around today so maybe this year.

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