Milkweed and Monarchs

Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) are the required host plants for caterpillars of the monarch butterfly and thus play a critical role in the monarch’s life cycle. The loss of milkweed plants in the monarch’s spring and summer breeding areas across the United States is believed to be a significant factor contributing to the reduced number of monarchs recorded in overwintering sites in California and Mexico. Agricultural intensification, development of rural lands, and the use of mowing and herbicides to control roadside vegetation have all reduced the abundance of milkweeds in the landscape.

Xerces Society, xerces.org

As we were choosing plants to add to Millie’s butterfly garden last year, we wanted to add milkweed, since it is essential to monarchs and also attracts other pollinators. We tried two different ways to add milkweed to our garden. We were given seeds of Asclepius tuberosa, which never took root, and we also transplanted milkweed roots, which were more successful.

The milkweed that we transplanted last year has multiplied in some places, and originally I had thought it grew and spread through its root system. However, we transplanted in two different areas. The area where there are more milkweed plants this year is the area where we had our one milkweed flower of the year. It seems that Mother Nature, again, has proven the best gardener, and that these new plants are from the seeds from last year’s milkweed pod. Once established milkweed will come back again, and it is mentioned online that Common Milkweed spreads easily and takes over garden spaces. I am not sure which milkweed we have – time and patience will tell.

We first noticed milkweed emerging about a month ago, and now every day we are out, looking in the garden to see if we have any new sprouts. We’ve recently even seen buds forming, and are hoping for more flowers this year.

We’ve transplanted a few more plants this season, and ever since watching the video below, we’ve been looking for monarch eggs. If you have seven minutes, this is such an amazing video clip to watch and helped us learn more about Monarchs and their life cycle.

We think we’ve seen a couple, and we also found milkweed beetle eggs (red). Mon Cœur (MC) enjoys looking for eggs, and splaying “I Spy” in the milkweed.

As we have been working with milkweed, I have found the websites below to provide great insight about the plant and its importance within the monarch butterflies’ lifecycle.

All about milkweed

Xerces Society

Seven Helpful Tips to Buy Milkweed

Have you spotted any monarchs or milkweed yet this season?


On a side note, I was recently featured in a series “What is Motherhood After Loss,” on the blog The Morning. This has been a great community for me, and Ashlee’s thoughtfully curated blog posts and podcasts not only bring me comfort, and hope, they also remind me that I am not alone.


For previous garden updates, check out the links below:

  • You can read about four new perennials in the garden here;
  • Our butterfly bush propagation experiment here;
  • Maintenance projects in the garden here;
  • Three early spring addition to Millie’s garden here;
  • Early spring updates here;
  • Summer updates here;
  • Spring and summer additions here;
  • Our nursery haul here;
  • December additions here;
  • Fall additions here;
  • The end of week one progress here;
  • Check out the grotto in progress here;
  • Read about the chopping of our cherry tree here;
  • and see what we started with in our before pictures here.

Garden updates: four new perennials in the garden

[or why I should never buy chicken feed]

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased the chick feed for our flock, to save Chouchou a trip to our local Southern States.  Before I went to buy the feed, though, we had to go in and look at the plant selection – I was looking specifically for phlox.  I explained to Mon Cœur (MC), “We’re going to buy some food for the chicks. First I want to see if they have any phlox.”  

So we went over to the flowers and started looking around.  MC was very much on board with looking for phlox.  While I wandered around looking for the specific flower, MC would bring me various pots of various flowering specimens. And these weren’t tiny little pots, they were the six inch wide, half gallon (ish) pots.  The pride on her face in her smile as she brought each one to me and said, “Mommy, this is phlox!” made me melt.  

Once she brought me a boxwood, and I had to tell her there were no flowers on that one.  She promptly took it back to where she found it.  The others, though, were pretty, perennial, and deer-proof, which are the top three criteria when we are making a purchase.  We want to add beauty (yes, that’s obvious, I know), we want to invest in flowers that will return the following year, and we need flowers that are not attractive to deer. After I grabbed a nearby wagon (um, it was to put Mon Amour, the baby, in – he was getting heavy), MC started filling it up with her choice flowers.

Again…the pride in her face.  Her great big beaming smile.  The, “Mommy, these are beautiful!” as she placed each flower pot in the wagon.  I could not say no.  I justified the purchase based on the criteria – pretty, perennial, and deer proof.  We were also buying local, and I do appreciate the nursery sales woman there.  

We purchased four deer-proof, beautiful perennials: pulmonary, dianthus, columbine and yarrow, and were able to fill in a few more spots in Millie’s garden.

Pulmonaria – “Shrimp on the barbie”

These flowers prefer partial to full shade, and can be used as a cover if planted close together.  Since we are filling in the garden slow and steady, we grabbed three and mirrored them with the azaleas in the central flower bed.  These beauties can grow up to 24 inches wide and 10 inches tall! 

gardenia.net offers information about the “Shrimp on the Barbie” – mature size, how to propagate, and to remove stems immediately after bloom.  The sales associate also informed me about removing the flowers post-bloom, and there is a notable difference in the leaf size for the plants she had cared while at the store.

I am looking forward to watching this plant flower and spread. According to atozflowers.com, pulmonary says, “You are my life,” and represents devotion.

Dianthus – “Romance”

Since we’ve planted this dianthus, it has bloomed non-stop.  They are beautiful for cut flowers, and Mon Cœur even chose a few blooms to cut and prepare a bouquet for Mother’s Day!

The flowers reminded me of a carnation. No surprise as to why – they are carnations!  Oh, the gardening education I am receiving throughout this journey.  I love the color of this particular carnation – it’s a salmon-pink.

I hope that this plant continues to bloom and that as we cut the flowers back, that will continue to encourage more blooms. Pink carnations symbolize gratitude according to ftd.com.

Columbine – “Winky Double Red/White”

I had never heard of this flower before, although I was instantly drawn to it’s clover-like petals and I liked the picture of the flowers that should appear starting late spring. As I researched this flower, I discovered at thespruce.com that the plant is toxic to humans, although the flowers will attract hummingbirds.

This flower reseeds very easily, I’ve heard from friends as well as read online. It will be interesting to see how it establishes its own little area in the garden. I hope that it will spread fairly easily and establish itself in that section of the garden.

According to florgeous.com, Columbine has always been a symbol of love.

Yarrow – Milly Rock™ Rose

Do you ever buy something based on its name? Me, too. I first saw this flower and thought, “Pretty!’ Then I saw the name, and that it

ThePractialHerbalist declares yarrow a symbol of everlasting love. As I continued to read on thepracticalherbalist.com, I read:

Intentional restraint, one of yarrow’s lessons and skills, is about recognizing that wounds, especially deep ones, benefit from slow and carefully protected healing. Yarrow reminds us to give energy to our healing process but not to allow the energy to overwhelm us. Likewise, yarrow reminds us to protect ourselves and our vulnerable places so they can heal.

The Practical Herbalist

And while some of the information may be a little hippy-dippy or a little too magical…The part above spoke to my heart so deeply. We poured a lot of energy into the garden last year, and then even more so keeping the new flowers watered in the summer heat. We are pouring a lot of energy in this year too, although in a different way. We are adding features, mulching and choosing a few flowers to add here and there to bring in more cohesiveness, and really make it look like a butterfly and flower garden.

Liatris and Canna

Last year, we planted canna lilies and liatris, although they never did break ground. I was impressed by Netherland Bulb’s customer service – they had replacements sent out mid-April. They are already planted and breaking ground, and I can’t wait to see the liatris in bloom, since they are supposed to attract hummingbirds and butterflies.


Just an ending thought…I really enjoy learning about the symbolism of flowers, and I believe floral bouquets could communicate their own message between sender and recipient based on the flowers chosen. Perhaps more so a long time ago. As I continue to research the various meanings behind the petals, I wonder…is it like a horoscope – generic enough to fit anyone and make them feel like it was meant for them?

Do you believe the symbolism behind the flower?

For previous garden updates, check out the links below:

  • You can read about our butterfly bush propagation experiment here;
  • Maintenance projects in the garden here;
  • Three early spring addition to Millie’s garden here;
  • Early spring updates here;
  • Summer updates here;
  • Spring and summer additions here;
  • Our nursery haul here;
  • December additions here;
  • Fall additions here;
  • The end of week one progress here;
  • Check out the grotto in progress here;
  • Read about the chopping of our cherry tree here;
  • and see what we started with in our before pictures here.

Butterfly bush propagation updates:

Almost two months ago, we trimmed up our butterfly bush as part of our spring prep routine.  We were advised to cut it to about knee height at the beginning of spring, so Chouchou and Mon Cœur did that as Mon Amour and I supervised.  

I saved a few of the cuttings – we would like more butterfly bushes for the butterflies, and I didn’t see any sense in buying a new one if we could propagate more for free. 

Chouchou and I have been conducting an experiment to see: (one) if we can propagate butterfly bush, and (two) to see whose method is most efficient.  I was pretty confident that these would propagate easily, as the words “invasive species” were popular words across many websites describing butterfly bush.  

We discovered (one) yes, we have been bale to propagate butterfly bush, and (two) they both work, however, Chouchou’s seem to have quicker growing, healthy new growth.

The two methods: simple versus not so simple:

I was also super confident in my simple, no hassle method of dipping a (large, 8-10 inch) cutting in some rootstock, then sticking it into a pot of soil.  Chouchou went to the trouble of trimming the cutting to only 2-3 inches high, dipping the ends in rootstock and then starting them in rock wool.

I left mine outside, except when the temps dipped below freezing, when I would bring them inside.  Chouchou kept his babies inside under a grow light on a tray, sitting on a heating mat, and briefly under a cover. After a few days, we noticed the cover was not helping to grow the cuttings, and it was creating an environment for mold, so he took it off.  

The results:

There is no denying the superior roots that were achieved through the whole approach Chouchou used.  Although tedious, the results were magnificent.  We were all amazed at the roots that grew through the bottom of the rock wool. It was also the first time we had used it.

We potted his propagated trimmings about a month ago, and just yesterday I noticed how much they have grown.  Notably, the height of his trimmings seemed to jump from 3 inches to 8 inches overnight.  The new leaf growth is long and healthy.  

If I would change one thing for next time:

I would try smaller clippings for me, instead of the larger ones. Chouchou’s clippings were much smaller than mine originally when we began the experiment. However, looking at them side by side, now, there isn’t much difference in height between the two methods.

We still wonder:

Chouchou and I still wonder how long it will take until they are ready.  We will probably wait at least until fall so that they have a chance to establish roots within the pots, then we will gift them or plant them.  

For previous garden updates, check out the links below:

  • You can read about our maintenance projects in the garden here;
  • Three early spring addition to Millie’s garden here;
  • Early spring updates here;
  • Summer updates here;
  • Spring and summer additions here;
  • Our nursery haul here;
  • December additions here;
  • Fall additions here;
  • The end of week one progress here;
  • Check out the grotto in progress here;
  • Read about the chopping of our cherry tree here;
  • and see what we started with in our before pictures here.

My Go-to Summer salmon recipe

Ok. I know it’s not summer yet, although we keep having these beautiful mid, upper 70s days and gosh…I am so ready for warmer weather! I can’t wait for the longer days and dinners outside.

I am loving this time of year, too, when Spring whispers calm and mild, encouraging the first bulbs to awake and flower. When the daffodils and tulips and hyacinths are in bloom, and the phlox seems to bloom overnight and profusely. Butterflies first reappear, flitting through the air, here and there. And the sun shines bright promising warmer days to come.

With summer in sight, I thought I’d make our favorite salmon dish. I’ve been making this dish for about four years now. It is a summer favorite, and one that is requested most often to be made- by Chou Chou, by friends, and by family.

I made it *a lot* the summer I was pregnant with Mon Cœur. It is THE dish that I made and only nibbled on the night I went into labor with her. This is a dish that MC loves, too.

It is my favorite dish to make and to eat because it’s easy, low prep, and has simple ingredients. It’s so low maintenance and plays well with so many different sides…rice, baked potatoes, salad, asparagus. Plus it’s light and healthy.

It’s a blogger fave, too

A while ago a blogger who I follow asked readers for salmon recipe suggestions, and I shared with her my recipe. I was so glad to see that she tried it and loved it! I am also digging the sides she made and will have to try the spinach and shallots next time.

Brittany has some amazing recipes at her blog, A Healthy Slice. If you are ever looking for recipe inspiration, she’s got amazing, healthy meals to try.

Salmon, tomatoes, and capers

The original recipe comes from Wegman’s, and we love to splurge on the family pack of salmon – it’s huge, so it actually makes two dinners for us.

Last night we had this dish paired with rice and our first harvest of asparagus.

I simply trimmed the asparagus, placed in a layer on a foil lined baking sheet and drizzled some basting oil on top, baked at 400 in the top rack for about 10 minutes!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pt grape tomatoes
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 1.5 oz capers (½ of a three ounce bottle) 
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup parsley
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 salmon filets
  • salt & pepper
  • Lemon (if desired)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, combine first six ingredients (tomatoes —>parsley) with 1 Tbs olive oil.  Set aside.

Line a deep baking sheet/pan with foil (or use a cast iron) and drizzle some olive oil.  Season salmon filets with salt & pepper and add to baking sheet.  Surround the salmon with the tomato mixture. Place lemon slices (optional) on top of salmon.

Place in the oven and bake +/- for 45 minutes until tomatoes start to split, and salmon forks easily. 

Bon appetit!

What is your favorite way to prepare salmon?

Maintenance projects in Millie’s garden

Oh what a difference a year can make.  Last year was a year full of planting, planting, and more planting.  Which meant watering, watering, and more watering.  

This year, we have resolved to make a couple of strategic plantings and invest our time in maintaining and observing the garden before making any additions.  We want to be intentional in what we add.  We want to pay attention to the details in order to help us inform future plantings.

It has been so wonderful to watch the spring bulbs emerge and bloom, and to watch in anticipation to see other plants reemerge after a winter’s hibernation.  On our daily walks, there’s always something new to find and discover.  Some new things haven’t sprouted, but have been surprise maintenance projects that Chou Chou has done while we’ve been out.  It started with a planting of about 20 hydrangea bulbs and “cookies” around the beds.

“Cookies”

For at least the first ten times Chou Chou or Mon Cœur mentioned cookies, I headed for the kitchen. I thought, “Great idea!  I would love a glass of milk and cookies!” only to remember that they were referring to wooden discs.

For the next few days, Chou Chou would cut the cookies and we would all arrange them around the raised beds. We moved on to the other beds of the garden and are still working on surrounding each rose, tree, or plant that is in the garden.

I love the definition it gives to the beds and that it marks other flowers throughout the garden so that they do not get mowed over by any well meaning helpers.

Mulch

After the cookies were in, Chou Chou got a truck load of mulch. Between weather and work schedules, MC and I were the first to get to the mulch and begin spreading. I have never been so excited to spread mulch.

I really didn’t want to spend the money on mulch, but it was so cheap, and…did you see the before and after?… This was definitely a worthwhile investment. One could argue it does or doesn’t look professional, but I think we can all agree that with mulch looks so much better than without!

Decorative additions

A work in progress

Above are some other photos from the garden – tulips, bugle carpet, and narcissus in bloom right now.  

Sometimes I look at the images I take in the garden and wonder, “Should I post these? Do I need to retake this? Maybe I just shouldn’t share? Look at all those rocks and dirt…”

I’m no professional photographer or stylist. This isn’t a professional blog.  This is me and my family, living our lives.  And these are raw pictures depicting the same.  They show the progress and growth of a garden which symbolizes both our daughter/sister that we won’t meet until God knows when and the abundance of love we have for her.

I’ll leave you with this image that Chou Chou shared with me a couple of days ago – a moment he captured while working out in the garden…Millie, enjoying the phlox.  We have seen many of these Tiger swallowtail butterflies, as well as smaller butterflies, and we have greeted each with the same greeting, “Hello, Millie!”  In fact, as I was preparing this post, MC said, “Mommy may I see Millie again?” She was talking about this picture…

What butterflies have you spotted this spring?

For previous garden updates, check out the links below:

  • You can read about three early spring addition to Millie’s garden here;
  • Early spring updates here;
  • Summer updates here;
  • Spring and summer additions here;
  • Our nursery haul here;
  • December additions here;
  • Fall additions here;
  • The end of week one progress here;
  • Check out the grotto in progress here;
  • Read about the chopping of our cherry tree here;
  • and see what we started with in our before pictures here.