Friday, July 24, 2015

Wings -n- Things

Greetings Wild Indigo readers! Its a gorgeous day here in the 'Ville with sunshine and less humidity. Although the sun is getting lazier these days produce is plentiful and dare I say at it's peak! The local farmers markets are overflowing with seasonal offerings many of which are at their height of plenty so be sure to scope out a farmers market near you and indulge in the goodness!

So once again as the post title gives it away, we've got more garden insects in store this week.  As promised I nabbed a photo of the cocoon of a Eastern Black Swallowtail but first things first.

While at a local family owned nursery I spied this little one hovering shamelessly on a stand of fuchsia petunias.  This is not a hummingbird but one of sorts.  This is a hummingbird moth, commonly mistaken for a hummingbird for obvious reasons.  But if you looked closely you'd see why it resembles a hummingbird and also why it certainly does not. It does hover and drink nectar in the same fashion as hummingbirds do but with close inspection one can see the marked differences, namely just that - the markings.  Plus the body size differs as these guys are - excuse me for saying - a bit "chubbier."

So its hard to believe that a creature that looks like this .....

..... Morphs into this! Yep I found an Eastern Black Swallowtail cocoon on my fennel! Now I remember doing a "book report" 'cause back in the day BEFORE the internets reference materials were published in book/encyclopedia format detailing the life cycle of butterflies. To this day they still fascinate me, as you can see.  I love how it suspends itself by the silky parachute chysalis which in basic terms is its dead skin.  Still a marvel to look at, I must say.

Now this is a yellow swallowtail who graced its presence a few days ago and was quite willing to let me photograph its beauty. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. 


I hope you enjoyed this all be it short yet fluttery blog this week but now I must sciddaddle outta here!

As always may happiness be a ray of sunshine in your mind, body and soul.  : )

Friday, July 17, 2015

Critters, Creepers and Crawlers

Greetings Wild Indigo readers! Its FRIDAY!!! Whooo Hooo!! I'm so excited to share this weeks blog with you. After serious deliberation on this week's content these garden friends made the final cut so hold on to your seat as we explore the critters, creepers and crawling inhabitants of Celtic Garden!

First up is this squirrely  individual.  With all of the rain we've had this summer you'd think that I had a mushroom farm here at the Celtic Gardens! We have these ginormous white mushrooms out front that garden fairies would fight over. Well I snapped this shot of this little guy munching away at one.  Heck, I didn't even know squirrels ate such vegetation.

Dragonflies are a common sight in the garden.  According to Smithsonian, there's over 5,000 species all belonging to the Odonata order which means "toothed one" in Greek, referring to the serrated teeth of dragonflies.  Now the following information reads much like a cheap low-budget film in the making, so here we go. There's two stages in the life of a dragonfly.  In their larval stage which can last over two years dragonflies are aquatic beings. They eat tadpoles, mosquitoes, fish other insect larvae and even other dragonfly larvae.  At the end of its larval stage the dragonfly crawls out of the water. Its exoskeleton cracks open and releases the insect's abdomen that's been packed into the shell much like a telescope.  Its four wings are released and dry off. (Cue the epic music and fog machine please and roll the cameras!) The head of a dragonfly is pretty much its eye so their vision is nearly panoramic.  Adult dragonflies are beneficial in the garden for mosquito control which is their mainstay.  

The first individual - Goldie - was hastily shot from the deck as it calmly perched on the Japanese Persimmon. See it on the left?

The second individual kept me company whilst picking blueberries out in the countryside of Stedman. This one had it's own zip code, I do believe.  What really interests me about animals as well as insects is their ability to engage you with their eyes.  I mean they look you eye to eye.  Really amazing, me thinks.

So in the next series we're featuring the life cycle of the Eastern Black Swallowtail.   Butterflies invoke a certain joy and happiness reminiscent of my girlhood days of old. Although I have yet to see a Monarch butterfly this year Eastern Black Swallowtails repeatedly make their presence and home at Celtic Gardens.  

The story begins with a single female. She hovered at the fennel and laid her eggs in the newly formed bloom.  

In a few days the eggs hatched.  The larvae had an instant food source and they found nourishment from the tender growth of newly formed sprigs.

When the eggs hatch the larvae are very small.  These pictures were from larvae from earlier this summer. The female also chooses dill and carrot leaves as suitable homes for her eggs.

This is what the actual caterpillar looks like in a few weeks. As the plant is consumed its growth is rapidly gained. 

I have yet to find a cocoon but as I'm hunting for them when i find one I'll post the picture.  Some gardners like me purposely plant herbs like fennel, parsley and dill to support butterfly habitat.  Again carrot greens are another favorite so consider including a few extra plants dedicated to supporting their needs.  You'll be rewarded with their presence and company in your garden. 

That concludes this weeks creepy crawly installation.  Bug spray not included but will be sold at this weeks City Farmers Market. (shameless plug? You betcha!)

And as always may happiness be a ray of sunshine in your mind, body and soul!

Baby Mantis blog bomb!

Friday, July 10, 2015

In the PINK!

Greetings Wild Indigo readers! The dog days of summer have officially begun although we were feelin the heat long before July rolled in. Rain may be on the way but so far this week we've had less than an inch to speak of.  So hand watering has begun as well as utilizing the irrigation system installed back in May. Despite a few fainting zinnias out front the Celtic Garden remains green and vibrant.  In fact, we're in the PINK!  : )

Cypress Vines grow perennially in our area. Its a species of Ipomoea Quamoclit morning glory - say THAT ten times fast, I dare ya! - which is native in tropical regions to include South America, North Mexico and even Bangladesh. This herbaceous plant is a fast growing twining vine reaching up to 10 feet in a season so it can be invasive unless controlled. I planted mine in a 1 gallon pot with a tomato cage for its trellis.  As you can see the bright red trumpet flowers, though small, pack a punch of color against the feathery foliage. (lower left) This one survived last year's frosty winter in a 3" pot outside.  When growth began a month or so ago I transplanted it as well as another seedling which had sprouted in another pot out on the deck. To the right of the Cypress Vine a cheerful cluster of Coral Honeysuckle Vine (Lonicera Sempervirens sp.) continues the whimsical pink theme.  The color of the Coral Honeysuckle starts pink at the stem then gradually changes into its name's sake. The inside is a true coral hue reminiscent of conch shells found at the beach.

 Both plants are hummingbird magnets as documented in the following photos.


Ain't this a Sweetheart of a hummer! Now this little one is a very young looking at the size of it compared to other hummingbirds which come and visit the same coral honeysuckle vine.  Its tiny but not a baby since baby hummingbirds can't fly.  Most hummingbirds in my area are of the Ruby-Red Throat variety. Identifying the sex of this bird is a quilled quandary query!  Young males masquerade as females up until a year after birth when their red feathers around the front of their necks begin growing in. So for now I'll name this one the neutral gendered name Sweetheart since that's precisely what it is.

I've seen hummingbirds zone in for the Lantana for nectar, too.  This pink and yellow one lives in the back edges of the property near the Dogwood tree.  Lantana falls within the verbena family which covers over 150 species, of which at least four varieties that call the Celtic Garden their home. Australians consider this plant a noxious weed but here in the Carolina's they grow as shrubs four to five feet tall in full sun with well drained soil.  When trimming back this shrub in the spring it smells of mint but nevertheless Lantana is not in the Lamiaceae family.

Zinnias are a favorite flower of Celtic Gardens since they are crazy easy to grow and love the sun. Not only that but they come in such a wide variety of colors from neon green to peppermint candy speckled flowers as well as the traditional orange, white and pink varieties.  Every winter while drooling through seed catalogs new varieties are always added to the "must have" list. Most varieties are "cut and come again" so frequent pruning ensures healthy plants and bountiful flowers.  If you're lucky you might catch me selling fresh cut bouquets at the farmers market.If you don't get a chance to cut back the flowers don't fret - the birds love the seeds which is a win-win since they sow next year's flower bed for free!

Dianthus are also a low maintance flowering plant that come in a multitude of colors.  These magenta ones brighten up the serpentine shade garden, off setting the white and greenery backdrop quite nicely.
Dianthus is a genus of over 300 species.  Maybe you've heard of Carnation or Sweet William varieties. They grow best in part shade but do enjoy a few hours of direct sunlight. Their fringed petals add yet more garden whimsy and texture especially strewn amongst inpatients. 


That does it for this weeks entry.  For note: in a few weeks Sunshine Soaps will have three batches of cured Patchouli, Chocolate Mint and Lavender Vanilla soap available for sale at the City Market. Depending on today's product delivery another batch of organic bug spray will also be available sooner rather than later.

Thanks for reading and as always may happiness be rays of sunshine in your mind, body and soul!