The Amazing Flight of the Monarch Butterfly

The Amazing Flight of the Monarch Butterfly

Humans are a fickle bunch, and try as I might, they are hard to figure.  Say one thing, mean another.  Say one thing, find out it wasn’t true.  Commit to one thing, then change courses.  Not saying I’m any different, but the dependability of nature (well maybe not weather) is something that brings me a lot of comfort.  Cycles that repeat;  you sort of come to depend on them.  Geese come south, geese go north.  Jenny wrens nesting in the same clay pots they used the year before.  My mother in law’s daffodils emerging in late February, as they have been since she planted 30+ years ago.  Even the sturgeon have decided the river is clean enough to make a comeback.  We brought them to the brink of extinction, then we decided to bring them back.  See what I mean?  Fickle.

Well there is one cycle that is truly a wonder:  the migration of the monarch.  Their life cycle is equally awe inspiring but let’s focus on this trip!  There are so many wondrous aspects of this flight, described as ‘epic’, so let’s start with this:

The monarch migration is the longest known insect migration on earth.

Chew on this:  a monarch can leave Nova Scotia, Canada and travel to the mountains west of Mexico City, which works out to somewhere around 3,000 miles.  A butterfly, mind you.  Miracle? (more…)

Plant for the Bees, Please

Plant for the Bees, Please

No doubt, you are somewhat familiar with the plight of the pollinators.  If you listen carefully, it feels as if so much of our natural world is facing a challenge, and it is, but there is something that all gardeners can do to help.  Plant a garden packed with the right plants for these pollinators.

We are placing our focus on bees right now, as bees are the most critical pollinator we have.  To refresh your memory, the issues facing bees are simple:

  • Loss of flowering plants
  • Loss of habitats
  • Pests and diseases
  • Climate change

We want to think that all of us can affect change, and make a difference, and in this case you can.  If we focus on the loss of flowering plants, we can definitely be of service to bees in our world.  If the problem is the loss of flower-rich habitats, the solution is to plant the best varieties of plants that provide both pollen and nectar.  We grow herbs, and over 60 of our herbs are considered bee friendly. (more…)

No Milkweed, No Monarchs: Why Asclepias Plants Are So Very Important!

No Milkweed, No Monarchs: Why Asclepias Plants Are So Very Important!

Although it won’t be official until mid-March, when the Mexican government releases the winter’s population count, ‘unofficial’ reports are anticipating a rather small migrating population. These unofficial reports are coming from the El Rosario Sanctuary in Mexico (see video example from 2016 at the end of this post); a site that can sometimes be the winter home for over 50% of the entire monarch population in Mexico. Reports and photos show butterflies densely covering approximately 18 trees. That’s good news, but last year, reports were that 50 trees were covered.

That’s not good news, but it is a call to action: PLANT MORE MILKWEED!

We’ve written a lot about pollinators, monarchs, and natives. We think that they are really important, so forgive any redundancy! A few things to keep in mind:

  • All Milkweed plants are Asclepias
  • Milkweed is the required host plant for monarch butterflies
  • Any loss in the population of milkweed means the loss of the monarch population
  • We are losing both at an alarming rate
  • The biggest threats come from urban development and agricultural intensification

(more…)

Maui: 4,000 Miles Away, but Still Feels Like Home

Maui: 4,000 Miles Away, but Still Feels Like Home

Just got back from a ‘Bucket List’ trip to Maui – 10 nights, 11 days exploring paradise with my family.  Did I mention that we totally skipped the whole holiday thing?  No tree, no lights, no stockings and no annual Christmas Party!  Still got some of that in Hawaii, but honestly, I didn’t have to lift a finger, much less the 10’ Fraser Fir.

So, what they say is true:  Hawaii is paradise.  The Leis covered with orchid blooms, gorgeous purple/white dendrobium blooms hanging around your neck.  Water, water everywhere – and torrential downpours at night followed by awe-inspiring sunrises and garden awaking lush and flush from their soaking the night before.  No sprinklers needed at this time of year.  Green, green and more green with punches of color everywhere.  Fruits, flowers and herbs – passion fruit, star fruit, cherimoya, breadfruit, pineapple, bananas.  Farmer’s Markets bursting with so many wild and wonderful offerings – fresh cut coconuts complete with a straw. (more…)

Is Chamomile a Weed?

Chamomile a weed? One person’s weed is another person’s herb!

While on a trip to Prairie Canada, I was surprised to find find common chamomile blooming among the prairie plants. After first spotting this familiar herb, I began seeing it along the road shoulder, in fields of peas and beans, and even in the lawn where I was staying. From my host, I learned that on the prairie farmers consider chamomile a noxious weed and work hard trying to eliminate it from their crops fields.  This is a good example for comparing a desirable herb plant from a weed. And as the description for weeds explains; it all depends on where a plant is growing! So even though chamomile is a weed is some places, it is a welcome herb in my garden. I have plenty of other plants on my own weed list!

How To Create a Hummingbird Haven

 

Hummingbirds love sweet,tubular-shaped flowers like those of the Bee Balm herb plant.

We absolutely LOVE watching hummingbirds dart through our gardens on a warm Summer evening. Attracting hummingbirds to your garden is a wonderful way to enjoy seeing these fast-flying little birds’ aerial antics up close, and will provide you with hours of entertainment from Spring until Fall. Also a very beneficial garden companion, hummingbirds will eat bugs and help increase pollination in your garden be flitting from bloom to bloom.

Hummingbirds do not have a sense of smell, and are instead attracted to brightly colored (usually red), trumpet or tube shaped flowers which their long beaks are specially designed to drink from. Because hummingbirds fly so fast (up to 30 miles per hour!), they spend most of their time foraging to keep their energy levels high. Their need for fuel is so high that hummingbirds may drink up to eight times their body weight in nectar in a day!

Make sure to plant these hummingbird friendly herbs and flowers to make your garden a great place for hummingbirds to feed:

We also have a variety of hanging and staked feeders that are specially designed to attract hummingbirds. Made from recycled glass, the colors change from a lovely orange and yellow color to a vibrant flame red that hummingbirds are drawn to. Click here to view our video and watch the hummingbirds swarm these lovely, hand crafted feeders.

Other tips for creating a hummingbird haven in your yard:

  • Place hummingbird feeders near your garden to attract hummingbirds to your plants.
  • Place the feeders at different heights throughout your yard and garden, as some species prefer different feeding patterns. Placing feeders in different parts of your yard will help keep territorial males from dominating all of the nectar.
  • Make sure to keep your feeders clean and full of fresh nectar to ensure that the hummingbirds don’t get sick. Cleaning  the sugary substance from the feeder’s holes may also help prevent attracting bees or wasps, as they may convene to find leftovers.
  • Make sure to offer a good, clean water source for the hummingbirds to drink and bathe in, such as a bird bath which is shallow enough for them to play in.
  • Add strings that run the length of your garden, above your plants to give hummers something to perch and rest on while flitting from flower to flower.