I have been trying for three years to get milkweed to grow in my yard. I want to give my monarchs something to eat and a nursery for their offspring. I have been trying to grow them from seed.This year I started the seeds inside and when the sprouts were about four inches tall, I planted them outside – – where they promptly withered and died under what I did not think was such a wicked sun. I guess I was wrong.
So next I took what was left of the seeds and planted them directly in the ground in a shadier spot. Three days after a late winter rain storm swept through and that part of my yard turned into a giant mud puddle. So much for that.
It was then that I realized some things:a poppy plant was growing from a crack in my patio. A coriander in my neighbor’s yard had sent a shoot under the fence that separates us bursting with blossoms. Mint was growing behind my garage under the water spigot. Two kale plants leftover from last year have popped up between the tomato plants that had survived the winter.All of these I’ve had very little to do with this year in terms of propagation, and they are doing just fine.
Then an idea came to mind. I went to the garden center and bought another package of milkweed seeds. I brought it home, ripped it open and just flung the seeds all over the garden. I gave them a squirt of water and called it a day.
A few days later and just a week after that freakish rain storm, we had record heat: ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit in early April. I kept the yard moist, but I did not fret. I had come to realize that I cannot control the weather. I cannot control what grows in my yard or where.So I will sit back and watch my feral plants do as they please. If I am meant to have milkweeds and monarchs in my garden, I will.
My original goal when I gained access to a garden of my own was to grow my own vegetables. That did not work out so well. It is simply more cost effective to buy my own. However, I discovered that with a little work to rehabilitate the soil and a strategic use of water flowers have taken hold. So I shifted my goal to that of creating a bee sanctuary. While I do have bees visit the the flowers, I also have hummingbirds, moths, wasps and hornets, and butterflies. All of these are pollinators too. Okay, let’s shift the intention again: my goal is to create a pollinators’ oasis.
This weekend while visiting a local nature center, I coincidentally came across a lecture by the center’s curator on the monarch butterfly. (If you want to know more about the monarch, see here: ) The center plants a variety of milkweed types, the monarchs’ favorite food, in an attempt to boost their population in the area. The monarchs’ habitat, like for many species, is threatened by– guess who?– us. They also rear a few in captivity for educational purposes which they then release. I happened to be there when they released a newly emerged monarch. See the video below.
Now, I don’t intend to rear any at home, since there is some controversy to that (if you read the Wikipedia article), but I do happen to have two packages of pink milkweed seeds. It won’t hurt to sow them. I will wait to a waxing moon to do so.
Nevertheless, like it or not, I seem to have become drawn to the cause of saving this iconic pollinator.
I know I haven’t posted much in a very long time. It is the same old same old: working at home trying to get through this quarantine. My turn for the vaccine is not here yet so I keep waiting. That being said, I have not been idle. I’ve been slowly regenerating the soil in my garden.
There is a corner in my yard that gets almost no sun except for the very high days of summer. As a result, not much grows there. A curious thing happened a few days ago. Somebody, no doubt a neighbor who was moving, dumped a bunch of trash on my lawn. In the process of throwing out the trash, I discovered in the heap this terra-cotta sun face. I could not bring myself to throw him out so I put him in this corner. He seemed a little lonely so I moved this small cairn which I had built elsewhere in the yard. I followed up by going to a local garden center and getting a helleborus plant, also known as Lenten Rose, which they tell me does well in the shade.
Maybe this new guardian of the garden will smile on this little corner and things will start to grow and thrive. We’ll see.
I realized that I have not posted much in several weeks. I’ve been working—thank God—and doing a lot of reading, journaling, puttering in the kitchen and gardening. I find it very hard to drum and make art. These take a lot more creative energy that I simply do not have right now.
However, I was struck with a little green energy yesterday and I started working on a small container garden of succulents. I already had a bunch of baby aloe vera plants which a friend gave me and I added echeveria and tiny donkey tails. My mama aloe vera has a 3 foot blossom.
So I do what I can to stay grounded and focused during what remains of a hideous year. I am hoping that with 2021 things will start to get better. If I don’t post again this week, then everyone have a happy new year. Stay well.
During my childhood, my mom grew roses. They were everywhere. She was particularly proud of her Silver Jubilee lavender-colored roses.
Fast-forward to adulthood: When I moved into my home, there was one sickly rose bush in the yard next to the garage door. It was covered in white paint from when careless painters sprayed they garage. I’ve tried to nurse it back to health, but I don’t think I will be successful.
In the meantime, I planted poppies, nasturtiums, lavender and rosemary in early spring. They all took hold, but the poppies have a short life span and have played out. I replaced them with sunflowers — both mammoth and miniature– as well as more lavender, borage, lantana, yarrow, delphinia, lots and lots of sweet allysum and more nasturtiums in different colors. My yard is an experiment this year to see what will thrive and what won’t.
Last year I bought myself a decent camera because I had this idea that I would be able to get back into photography. That did not come to pass because one thing after another came up to get in the way.
The shelter-in-place mandate by my county has been extended to the middle of May and my workplace will not allow us back until the end of May. So I have plenty of time on my hands. Instead of just standing by and waiting for the all-clear, I thought I would put my camera to use.
Since I cannot go anywhere, I will need to be satisfied with what I can shoot around my home and in my neighborhood. This morning I figured out how do use my long range lens. I sat on my patio for a while waiting for the hummingbirds to feed on my nasturtiums as well as house finches and Black Phoebes to splash in the birdbath. However, a murder of crows roosting in a Jacaranda tree on the property next door was creating havoc by terrorizing the mourning doves, cavorting mid-air with each other and hollering back-and-forth at full-volume. They managed to scare off all small birds in neighborhood, so all I managed were some shots of my flowers and bees. It’s gonna take a while to get that proverbial money shot.
That’s OK. It seems like I’m in this for the long-haul.
There is an expression that suggests when a person is being “lead down the garden path” that she is being deceived. I do not know who first postulated this idea, but I do know there was once a wizard who said, “all who wander are not lost”. I would rather wander down the garden path with Gandalf anytime.
Winter rains, cool nights
Green grass, red bark, orange boughs—
A compost pile looms
As much as I am gardening to do my small bit to repair the planet, the other reason is that I like to eat: and I like to eat healthfully as much as I can. Furthermore, I have found over the years that it is the Mediterranean diet that I enjoy the most: Italian, Greek, Provençal, Spanish, North African, Levantine, greens, beans, grains, olive oil, fish and wine. Admittedly, I can’t produce it all, but I can do a little.
I helped a friend yesterday sift through a compost pile to make two wheelbarrows of fresh compost to put on the garden where I volunteer. As a little compensation for this work, I was allowed to bring home a bucket of this precious black gold. In order to rebuild the depleted soil of my own yard I need to spread this mess of decomposed kitchen and plant waste to reintroduce life to the soil— all the way from one-celled organisms to insect life.
It is a lot of hard work to make compost— involving shovels and pitchforks and aching muscles and mud encrusted shoes. It is standing almost to your ankles in muck.
As we worked, I remarked to my colleague, “You’ve got to shovel a lot of *%*% before you can pick any flowers”. She agreed.
Isn’t that a metaphor applicable to all areas of our lives.
I sometimes feel overwhelmed at the enormity of what we must do to save this planet. As fires rage and oceans rise, as lands become barren and the path we walk along the edge of extinction crumbles away before us, I still feel hope. I am one simple woman. What can I do? I will take my one small corner of green that I am blessed to steward and plant flowers. Sounds silly and naive? Tell that to mourning doves who graze in my garden and the hummingbirds who hover about, and the bees who come looking for my lavender and rosemary. And when I plant milkweed and borage this spring, I hope the butterflies will come. That is what I am doing. Even if all I had was an apartment balcony, I would put out a pot of flowers to feed a passing pollinator. Before I start though, I need to show a little humility and perhaps, to use an old fashioned term, a little repentance for my part in damaging the planet. Then I will put on my gardening gloves and get to work– sowing one tiny seed at a time.