The Hedychium coccineums, otherwise known as Disney Gingers, are dazzling this year.
The Gingers are blooming a little earlier this season, due to rain and an early Spring.
The Disney Gingers have really multiplied this year and have very robust flowers. Quite a few haven’t bloomed yet, so the show will be extended for weeks.
A different Shrimp plant bloomed in the garden this year. It has fuller flowers than the others and different coloration.
Growing nearby is this Shrimp Cocktail variety
and this typical one that is shrimp-like in color.
In an adjacent bed is a red Shrimp plant.
Is the new one a result of cross-pollination, a virus that causes variegation or one I just forgot I planted?
I did search and haven’t found a Shrimp plant that looked like this. Let me know if anyone has seen a similar one.
Shades of orange seem to be popping out in the garden. Somehow more than usual were planted this year.
The orange plants can easily be seen from across the yard or inside the house.
Orange is a blend of red and yellow. The color orange evokes joy, creativity, healthy eating, sunshine, the freedom of expression and many other things according to the internet. Or it is simply a pretty, bright color.
This has been a disappointing year for Poppies in the Automatic Garden. Even after multiple sowing, no Poppies emerged. Did the seeds rots or did ants steal them? I just don’t know. Luckily, I have a great post from the past to remind me of what could have been.
Take a look at A Good Poppy Crop.
I spotted this Monarch caterpillar crawling on a large clay pot. It was far from the Butterfly Weed, so I thought I would keep an eye on it.
The caterpillar climbed up to the rim and attached itself. Look closely for the nearly invisible thread.
For some reason that did not seem right, so the caterpillar dropped to the ground.
It crawled around for quite awhile and headed up a stick for a better view.
Finally, it settled for this plastic net that is protecting a plant. And yes, I did spend quite a long time watching this caterpillar crawl around. It is their habit to leave the plant they feed on and form a chrysalis elsewhere and are usually hard to find.
And in no time the caterpillar was in its chrysalis. Sadly, I missed the process and when I checked hours later, it was done.
About the time it should have hatched, a beautiful Monarch Butterfly was hanging on a nearby brick wall drying its wings and the chrysalis was gone.
And the circle of life begins again with a female Monarch depositing her eggs. I like to think it was the same one that hatched, but there is no way to tell. She checked out all the plants and made sure the eggs were laid only on Butterfly Weed.
Apparently other Monarchs had stopped by and on the same day, I found a tiny caterpillar barely a half of an inch long starting on its journey.
This year has already started well for the butterfly population in my area and many more have been stopping by than in past few years.
There has been much concern about the dwindling numbers of Monarch Butterflies. An organization called Monarch Watch has been encouraging everyone to plant Milkweed, also know as Butterfly Weed.
I have been planting Butterfly Weed all over the yard. Unfortunately, a beetle has shown up the last few years and has eaten almost all the plants I grew. This year I am trying to collect the bugs daily for disposal, as any kind of spraying will also kill the Monarchs.
I was pleased to find many very fat and healthy Monarch Caterpillars on the Butterfly Weed. This one is eyeing his competition.
My main purpose for planting Butterfly Weed is to feed caterpillars. The plants tend to look pretty bad after awhile. Interestingly, the plants contain a chemical called cardiac glycoside that cause birds to vomit. By eating the leaves, the caterpillars are protected from birds.
I find that rabbits and deer also avoid the plant. The most common Butterfly Weed grown here is Asclepias tuberosa, which is tropical/Mexican Butterfly Weed.
The plants produce seed pods filled with seeds attached to fluffy floss that allows them to drift in the wind to a new location.
I recently found out that Milkweed floss had an important role in World War II. School children from all over the country were sent out to collect the seed pods to make life vests for Navy sailors. Milkweed in the northern U.S. is much larger than the ones that grow in the South and were found growing in fields and along the roads. The seeds were removed and the floss was used to stuff the vests.
I find it hard to imagine that these vest would stay afloat for long, but I guess that is what they had back then. While researching, I also found an article with instructions for making a down-like coat using the Milkweed floss for the insulation. As it turns out, this “weed” is not only necessary for Monarchs, but humans have also found uses for it.
The last time I was away from home, I came back to a killing freeze. Most of the plants had to be cut back. In this climate, many plants usually stay green for the winter. The Automatic Garden looked hopeless. I spent many hours cleaning up, reevaluating and moving plants around. I walked the garden several times a day checking on the plants’ progress and watching them grow inch by inch.
Recently, I had another trip and this time I came back to a much happier reunion. While I was away, it rained and the days heated up. The Automatic Garden did its job and not only filled in, but put out blooms.
The faithful perennials of Black and Blue Salvia and Shrimp Plant came back bigger and better.
Butterfly Weed wasted no time and quickly bloomed, allowing a passing Monarch to leave her eggs for the next generation.
I had seeded a few annuals, along side the reliable garden staples, for some early color. Spring is an anticipated a time of renewal and the Automatic Garden did not disappoint.