Friday, October 23, 2015

Autumn Flutterings

Greetings Wild Indigo readers! How are you? The seasons are changing here at the Celtic Gardens. Aside from the deluge of rain earlier in the month - to the tune of 24" over a ten day span - we've been seeing much cooler seasonal temperatures. Recently roof tops have glistened with a frosty sheen as well as some blades of grass depending on what part of town you reside. Our flowers and plants remain untouched but sensitive plants have been brought inside for safe measure.

In case you're a fellow star gazer the Orionids are active this time of the year, peaking on October 20, but still visible through November 7. Haley's Comet pretty much says "eat my dust" to the big blue marble so the Orionidic debris are the resulting meteor showers. The best times for viewing are just after midnight or just before dusk. I remember seeing Haley's Comet in the skies back in the early 90's. It was spell bounding to look up and see the fiery ball of light and long tail streaking through the sky. Haley's next Earthly appearance will be in 2061.

So whether we're catching rain droplets or falling stars the Celtic Gardens have officially entered the alluring Fall season. Leaves around the neighborhood are changing into glorious crimson, magenta, rusts and reds, particularly on dogwood trees. Maples are turning greenish yellow so against the pines they are a sweet display. The crisp morning air gives way to warm rays of afternoon sunshine permeating the air with the fragrance of Fall.

The myriad of summer birds, hummingbirds and butterflies have dwindled which is usual for this time of year. Sulfur butterflies abound and I happened to photograph this Fritillary butterfly the other day. I think it OD'd on passionflower nectar because catching a photographic moment was like herding cats! It fluttered any which way but loose all camera shy until my presence was acceptable. Then it was all like, "girl, hit me with your best shot."

Interestingly enough, at first glance, I mistook this beauty for a Monarch butterfly which was entirely plausible seeing the red milkweed is still blooming like gangbusters.  Fritillaries are commonly mistaken as such and it wasn't until I noticed the dorsal wings that I knew otherwise. As you can see the underside of the wings are strikingly similar to that of a monarch. Fritillus means chessboard or dice box and so Fritillaries are aptly named. This patterns serves as camouflage when at rest in shady spots.

Like fennel to swallowtails, violets are the caterpillar's preferred garden staple.  But the butterflies aren't so picky and enjoy my zinnia's nectar. Female butterflies of this species emit their own version of Love Potion #9 - a pheromone - to attract the opposite sex. They mate in the summer and afterwards  momma can lay up to the tune of two thousand eggs at a time - now that's a labor of love folks!

Back in September the fennel was teeming with eastern black swallowtail caterpillars who nearly ate every last frond! On that particular morning over fifty of the little guys happily munched away to their hearts content but later that afternoon every last one had vanished.  I mean    * P O O F *    Now in the past I've personally witnessed the obliteration of these docile creatures as wasps annihilated their bodies in a feeding frenzy. Knowing full well this is nature at work, still, its no less comforting. So I wondered what happened. Since food was getting pretty scarce, did they form a search party and skedaddle in search of bounty elsewhere? I may never really know but I am happy to say a lone ranger has been located!


As I was tidying up the deck I flipped over this willow basket whose location was turned upside down on the deck floor near the fennel plants. For some reason I turned it over and look! This little one latched onto a twig and has entered hibernation! Now I've seen chrysalis before but only during the summer months. Admittedly we've had a warm Fall so perhaps this one means to emerge sooner rather than later but hopefully the cool evening temperatures signal to remain safe inside until better days arrive.

And now for something completely different ................. the Sustainable Neighbor Fall Garden Tour will be on hiatus this year but be sure to look notices come Spring 2016. Stay tuned for more garden mayhem here at the Celtic Garden. Our beds are full of Fall/Winter offerings and updates will continue.

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