Saturday, July 9, 2011


This past fall I achieved one of my life goals, which is to see a Painted Bunting.  Not only was it fulfilled, but the bird and a few friends lived in my back yard for the winter, until mid May.  It was magic.

In the butterfly world, I've wanted to get Atala butterflies to my yard for a few years.  We purchased Coontie cycads 2 years ago for this purpose.  Only 2 plants because they are expensive.  I tried planting seed one time, but you have to peel the orange flesh from around the seed and after I buried them, animals and birds dug them up and finished off the rest of the pulpy flesh and the seed.  Besides, they take a LONG time to grow.  This type of plant is supposed to be prehistoric, as in dinosaur times, so they are used to lots of time.

I've also seen Atala butterflies in my yard on different occasions - one at a time.  A single Atala might be resting on a bush in my yard - I think I even got pictures of one before, but none laid eggs and the Coonties remained untouched.

Finally, this past week, I spied an Atala butterfly hanging around my yard.  Not only was she hanging around, she was laying eggs on the larger Coontie plant we have.  Most butterflies lay one egg at a time and don't take much time doing it, but Atalas take minutes, not seconds, to lay eggs, and they don't necessarily lay one at a time.  I was thrilled to see several tiny round spheres on the underside of one of the Coontie leaves after Mrs. Atala left.

This morning, either the same or another female Atala returned to my yard and laid more eggs on the other Coontie plant.

My husband immediately looked at me and said, "We have to buy more Coontie." He promptly went inside and looked up local nurseries that might have the plants - believe it or not, for a Florida native, they are very hard to find.

We located some at a large commercial nursery where I never would have expected to find them.  We tried the local ones, owned by individuals, but no luck.  My favorite nurseries are family owned, sell home grown veggies and sometimes chicken eggs, too.  They often have native plants and they aren't employees - they own the joint.  

But, anyway, we found what we needed at the Big Box Nursery.  We bought 2 more plants at $30.00 each, which, on a limited budget (which stretched to allow the purchase of an extra unplanned plant, as well as 2 smoothies) was enough for this weekend.

I'm looking forward to the Atala eggs hatching and tiny caterpillars devouring the Coonties, which will recover.  Besides, I only bought them for the butterflies - they don't exist in my yard for any other reason.

Here are some pictures. First - Mrs. Atala - isn't she beautiful?  

Here are the eggs she laid.

Next, a Julia butterfly, then a Polydamous and finally, an Oleander butterfly that looks like a wasp.

Some gratuitous flower photos - I LOVE them!!

Another weed favorite - a tiny brushy flower that comes in lavender, bright orange-red and yellow.  I often let them be if they are in amongst other flowers and not on mowable territory.  Some of those "weeds", like "Frog Fruit" and the green "Shrimp Plant" grow all over the place and are larval plants for butterflies.   White Peacock butterflies lay eggs on the frog fruit and Malachite butterflies - another butterfly I want to get into this yard somehow, along with Ruddy Daggerwings - lay eggs on the green Shrimp Plant weeds.  I have to go to a local park once I let a bunch of green Shrimp Plant weeds grow, and try to find some Malachite caterpillars.  I've seen them at Tree Tops park, but not the caterpillars, but then I have to look in a book to see what their caterpillars look like.

A Mexican Daisy (or Sunflower, can't remember which) that hasn't opened up yet.  Very modest.

Mexican Petunias are beautiful, hardy and self seeding - they will spread through your entire yard if you let them, and they are beautiful.  Below is one that hasn't opened yet.  Every day new flowers come out in the morning, and by afternoon they have fluttered to the ground.  By late evening, you can see tomorrow's buds getting ready.

 A species of Milkweed with ants on it.  We didn't have as much luck with Monarchs this year.  We had plenty of Milkweed and plenty of caterpillars, but some didn't live to make their chrysallis and we found them dangling from where they had begun to shed their skin.  Some, I fear, were eaten.  I know Milkweed is supposed to make them unpalatable to critters, but perhaps some of them get used to it and eat them anyway. I have seen Assassin bugs around - they kill caterpillars and they've taken a toll on the Monarchs and the Yellow Sulphurs.

A Spanish Needle that hasn't opened yet.  I think we have a lot of ants - maybe I should do something about them?

Don't see many honey bees these days, sadly.  Below is one fellow on the Spanish Needles.  I wish I could do something to keep bees from getting diseases that kill them, like put medicine on their flowers, but I'm afraid that's probably not feasible.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

WHAT?? 2 Days In A Row???

Remember how I said I had lots of plans yesterday? husband and I found the horse farm (thanks to him) and got the manure ("if my baby wants horse sh...., then I have to get horse sh.....for her").

The manure was in a semi-enclosed area and there were empty horse feed bags to fill.  My husband did the shoveling and I did the bag holding.  We took 2 partially filled bags (so we could lift them).  There's more where that came from!!!  

Once we ran a few other errands and got home, I donned my garden apparel - men's boxer shorts, a baggy shirt, socks and sneakers, along with my trusty new sun protecting hat from the Army/Navy store.  I raked.  I weed wacked.  I raked some more.  It was 90 degrees.  I drank a lot of water.  I rested.  I raked some more.  Finally, the piece de resistance.  I got out the lawn mower and mowed what was left.  Hubby then took over and mowed the area behind our fence (we should have built our fence farther back, but we thought we had to leave a "right of way" for the power folks - turns out we didn't.)  God only knows what the heck was growing out there.....then he mowed the front yard and we were finished.

I immediately took my bougainvillea scratched, very dirty, sweaty and hot body into the shower and washed every square inch.  After this, I drank copious amounts of seltzer water, grapefruit juice and powdered vitamin mix and crashed in my easy chair in front of my computer.

In between all this activity I found time to take my camera outside and photograph a few more flowers and growing things.  

Without further ado, here they are.  In my anti-Morning Glory choking Stephen King vine war, I noticed that the old tree trunks all the way in the back were sprouting mushrooms galore.  A few days ago we were in drought territory - not a mushroom in sight.  Today - after a few days of lots of rain.....a veritable cornucopia of mushroominess.  I couldn't get over how some of them looked like high rise condos for bugs.  I liked the color of them, too - too bad they're most likely dead poisonous. 

Next - YES - Blogger is letting me type in between photos today!!!  More flowers:

These are very very tiny pink flowers that appear for about 2 hours a day in the morning and then disappear.  I have no idea what this plant is, but I saw it growing in the grass this spring and fell in love with it.  I pulled some up and put them in a pot with good soil, and there they grow.  I want to transplant them in the same area where I have the Sensitive Plant growing - they can jockey for position.

Last - another lavender like annual and another view of my Sensitive Plant flower with it's leaves underneath it, so you can see what the leaves look like, too.

Next job - spreading some of that horsey gold around the plants that look a little lackluster. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

It's A New Year, Fiscal-Wise

Actually, it feels like more of a new year in this season than after Christmas.  The rainy season has just begun after a belated start during which I had to water my flowers every day to keep them from burning in the scorching sun.  Now I can relax as by the afternoon each day, it becomes overcast and thunderstormy.

I've got lots of plans on my plate - plans for improvement food wise and budget wise.  We're trying to save money as quickly as possible, barring a few necessary purchases, "just in case".  I want to spend less on food in these days of inflation, and I need to be more creative, not to mention I actually need to cook more often......a task I do not enjoy after working all day.  I think I'm going to befriend my crock pot a lot more closely since that appliance offers a lot more carefree cooking.

Meanwhile, I went out yesterday morning and took some pictures of some of my favorite flowers.  Without further ado, for those poor souls who still peek in here to see if I have posted at all, here they are:

First a few shots of a bee on my lavender Crape Myrtle (Mirtle?)

I can't seem to write in between the photos, so I'll just describe them all from here.  After the 3 bee pics is a close up of Black and Blue Salvia.
Next, my purple Buddleia, which does well, and then seems to fade.  Maybe it's not meant to hang around all year.  Sigh.  

After the Buddleia is a pretty Caladium leaf.

Then a close up of a Chenille flower, which dies back at the first major cold front in the winter - and comes back in the spring.

Next - I'm not sure if this is a coral vine, since I have another vine that looks nothing like this that is supposed to be a coral vine.  Whatever - it is for the butterflies and in the winter, when it blooms profusely, it has lavender flowers and then a more mature reddish flower, in two stages.

Of course, my favorite color of Lantana - the brilliant orange and red native species.

Brand new milk weed bulblets that are waiting to burst into red flowers.

Porterweed, which is a favorite with bees and butterflies every morning.  By afternoon, most of the little flowers have fallen off and the stalk is getting ready for next morning's blooms.  If you look carefully above the purple flower on this stalk, you can see little purple dots where flowers will grow next.

A miscellaneous purple annual - some sort of lavender, I think. Can you tell I like purple?

My pretty little Sensitive Vine flowers - they are like little bright lolly pops.

Two pictures - one close and one farther away - of a shrimp flower.

And finally, a Sunflower tree or Tithonia Diversifolia, which basically grows if you break off a stick of it and throw it into the ground.  It has grown so large that I have to move it to another spot if I can.  It was an experiment that went all too well.

And that's it for my flower photos update.  Tomorrow - rake the back yard from all the trimmings I've done (and will continue to do all summer as everything grows like a Stephen King monster) - and then mow the parts that are still roughly considered "lawn" - very roughly.    This will be followed by a trip to a local horse farm where I can pick up 50 lb bags (call 911!!!) of horse manure FREE!!!  And my hubby thinks this will be fun.....thank God.  I'm going to have fabulous butterfly plants all summer - and then, watch out come September, when our veggie growing time begins.

I have to build another 8' by 12' raised bed and fill it with dirt and  -  FREE!!!! (not the dirt) horse manure.  Then I'm going to grow lots of veggies this favorites?  Green beans and tomatoes - my two great successes this past year.  My heavens, did we have spaghetti sauce or WHAT?  The green beans didn't grow very well, so the few green beans that popped out every few days went immediately into my mouth raw before even making it into the house.  They tasted SO GOOD I long for one now - but not one from the store or - one of those fresh from the no-pesticide veggie garden ones that were looked after by my own greedy, loving eyes........