The Great Caterpillar Run

by Donna Lewis

On May 2, I went out to the pollinator garden to work, and all I saw was black Pipe-vine caterpillars on the march to find more pipe-vine plants. They ate all the ones I have in my garden right down to the ground and are even eating the stems right now.  It’s a feast going on….

The vines, before

I almost stepped on a bunch of them.

Off it goes!

I got my camera, took a few shots and then carefully walked out of the garden.

The vines, after

They will go out to the pasture and find their native vine until they are big enough to make a chrysalis  and then become a beautiful black swallowtail butterfly.

Nothing left but future butterflies.

In several weeks, my plants will completely grow back and the process begins again. Last year I had four complete cycles.

The caterpillars can be black or dark red.

That is amazing.

PS: Out near where Donna lives, Suna saw at least a dozen of the adults enjoying Indian blanket flowers. Sadly, she was unable to stop the vehicle fast enough for a photo, but it was a beautiful sight.

Donna’s Garden in December

by Donna Lewis

Hi everyone, this is the last photo essay of the year for my pollinator garden here in Milam County.

As you may know, we have had one overnight freeze to date. That’s pretty unusual, but we all know there is no normal for the climate lately. We just go with what happens today.  Always a surprise.

As you can see, the blanket of leaves is starting to cover my friend over. The winter blanket that Mother Earth provides her plant and animal creatures. Last year it looked sparser than it does this year. It was about 58 degrees today when I took these photos. That’s crispy for me.

I do not do cold well.

My garden is a living friend of mine.  She looks different every year, an amazing feat by any standard.  I have planted almost all native plants here in the 14 years or so before she was born. I am always anxious to see what she will look like in the next year.

Sometimes she has more yellow and orange highlights, or some years there is more purple and red. It depends on her mood.

The colors call to the butterflies and birds that come to it for everything they want: water, shelter, food, and nectar depending on their individual needs.

I do my best to learn as much as I can so I can provide what they come for. They also provide me with what I need.  Peace and beauty.

By the way, “Sly,” one of my neighbors’ horses, is always waiting near the corner of the garden on his side for his daily apple or carrots. He likes peace also.

Keep Those Leaves!

by Donna Lewis

Fall is slowly arriving, and the leaves are starting to fall into our gardens.

Some of you are thinking, “How messy! I’ll need to rake or mow them up.”

I used to think like that, too, especially when I lived in the city. Now that I live in the country, I have learned better. My bad back has also learned to take it easier.

Mother Nature also has made those leaves fall for a purpose, to protect the new plants that will emerge in the spring and to protect little critters that live and sleep away the winter among the fallen leaves. Those are two good reasons to just let them lie.

Today (October 24, 2021), I walked through my garden to catch one of the last monarchs heading south, lovely and gentle as she had a little sip from a milkweed in my garden.

After I left the garden, I went over to the Celeste fig tree that has frozen back every winter, and has just put out the first edible figs ever!  I was so happy.  A little snack for me.

Remember, leaves are the baby blankets for next year’s new plants. So leave them….

Donna’s Garden in August

by Donna Lewis

Here is what my garden looks like here in the hot month of August. Many wonderful things wait until it’s really hot to come out and look pretty.

Star jasmine vine

This year the weather has been a little crazy.  Something I think will be the norm going forward. We just need to be flexible in our expectations and go with the flow… and share our experiences.

Click on any of the photos to see an expanded view.

More Flowers from Donna

by Donna Lewis

Here is the next set of wildflowers and other things I saw on July 28, 2021. I will break the blog posts up to include a few each time. Look for more tomorrow!

There are so many amazing plants outside right now.

1. Cowpen Daisy.  This bad boy gets going and likes to spread everywhere. It does not need rain nor help in any way.
2. Coral Honeysuckle. This is the hummers’ favorite plant at our place. So easy to grow, and I have lots of babies to share.
 3. Zinnia. An old-time favorite that every species of butterfly likes, really worth having in your garden.
4. Fire Wheel, native plant that grows in the pastures.
5. Xemia. Sweet little yellow flower, looks great in the garden.
6. Sedum. The flowers attract lots of butterflies.

I bet all of you have these flowers either in the pasture or in your garden. If not, then plant some for the pollinators, and you will enjoy the beauty of butterflies, hummers, and many more beautiful little creatures.