Sunday, March 16, 2014

"We kill all the caterpillars, then complain there are no butterflies.”
-John Marsden

The container garden is kicking into high gear and about to go into overdrive. As far as host plants go, the Dill, Fennel, and Common Rue are large enough to receive swallowtail caterpillars at this point. I don't expect to start seeing Anise, Black, and Giant swallowtails until mid May the earliest, unless the almost nonexistent winter coupled with an early spring bring them in sooner . By then, their host plants will be big enough to support a "plethora" of plump and plucky cats.

Monarchs will most likely not show up until around May/June, but that's O.K., as I have no milkweed plants to speak of. They are all in seedling or germination stages, with plant maturity not expected until well into June for the faster growing species.

The passion vine is growing nicely! It's trailing up the trellis at a good rate, and should be able to host many Gulf Fritillary caterpillars by the time adults arrive in June/July sometime.

The cassia (host plant for Cloudless Sulfur butterflies) is small, but will be sufficient in size by July when they start flitting in.

Many of the plants are already blooming, all are prospering, and American Painted Ladies are beginning to make their presence known. If not actually overwintering in your area, it is one of the earliest butterflies to show itself in So Cal. A recent online blip remarked that the American Painted Lady butterfly is currently migrating from desert areas up towards northern destinations. Also what looks to be a female Fiery Skipper have been visiting the garden, along with a few honeybees.

Still early, I imagine other visitors will start to trickle in by the beginning of April. From past experience with lepidopterans, the early birds such as Painted Lady and some skippers become active and are seen in gardens by mid March. Slowly as the season progresses, more and more butterflies and species of butterflies increases.

Added a couple of more pots in the front.

Staging area. Almost ready to place these where they will go in the garden.

Here's a short little video on butterfly garden basics that does a ducky job on the subject. Take into account that it was made in Pennsylvania, and that some of the plants mentioned may not grow well in Southern California.

As the season progresses at the container garden, I'll be able to collect information on how the unfamiliar new plants I'm testing rate here as butterfly enticers and and the degree of garden care needed. This will enable putting together a more extensive plant list suited to Southern California gardens besides those that were showcased in the previous blog: "What's a garden without butterflies?" 

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