This is how we spent New Year’s Eve day last year: Some friends drove us to the east side of Dominica, to the village of Delices (how fitting) to meet an aunt and great aunt (who turned 100 this year!) and to see their amazing backyard food garden.
It was one of my most favourite days on the island. In Delices, the neighbouring backyards functioned like small farms, with fruit trees and spices and rabbits for manure. It felt just like a really large community garden, but everyone has their own yard and attached house rather than a small plot. There was a strong cooperative spirit, and everyone was very generous in sharing their gardens with us. Never mind that we were sent away with a big bag of fresh citrus, turmeric, cinnamon, and other produce.
I could have spent a week there and was sad to leave after only an hour or two. There was so much to see and discover. I was able to see several different types of tropical fruit growing on the tree for the first time ever, including this beautiful jackfruit. There was a mangosteen tree, too, but it was still very young. I hope to see a tree laden with that fruit one day!
I could have spent the rest of my life there: growing my own mangosteen tree, massive ginger plants, and chocolate, surrounded by tall mountains and lush forest until I grow tired of it all and begin to crave the smell of Autumn (as is inevitable because the grass is always greener). Perhaps I will one day.
Here’s another close up of a plant I mentioned in the post about my roof garden’s back wall, Oxalis squamata.
In it’s pot.
I don’t know what it is about this year, but not only am I branching out into plants I’ve always wanted but didn’t think I had the space to keep, but it seems I am also turning to plants I have never shown past interest in. In fact, I have previously held my nose up at some of these plants.
I am scaring myself just a little bit.
This spring, my eyes fell upon this double calibrachoa hidden among petunias and single calibrachoas at one of the garden centres I frequent. The next thing I know I have bought it and am growing it on the roof where I can visit it most often. I went back and bought one for a friend, too.
What is happening? Nearly halfway into 2010 and my Year of the ID, is devolving into the Year of WTF?
p.s. I was just about to hit post when I received an email from Derek Powazek about his newest piece about gardening: They Don’t Complain and They Die Quietly. Great story that made me tear up.
I’m still a little bit obsessed with the Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars, so please forgive the focus on a singular topic.
Pictured above is the second, larger caterpillar displaying his/her osmeterium, a self-protective scent gland that is released when the caterpillar feels threatened. This one released its osmeterium when Davin picked up the container the dill is growing in to get a closer look. Apparently they omit a foul smell the ward off predators but I haven’t noticed anything yet.
I look forward to locating them every morning when I go out to check the plants. So far they are always on the same stems but I suspect they will move soon since you can see this one is overeating the stem it is currently attached to. It’s growing larger with every passing day, too. Right now neither are eating enough to decimate a plant but we’ll see what happens as they grow.
Last year we had the mantids, this year its swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.
Over the weekend I discovered that we’ve been hosting a Black Swallowtail buttery caterpillar (Papilio polyxenes) on a patch of dill I have growing in a pot on the roof. We have so much dill, losing a plant or two to this little guy/gal is not a burden. I worried the caterpillar might transfer over to the ‘Red Malabar’ spinach growing nearby and start eating that, but thankfully this species only has eyes (or mouth parts) for Umbelliferae family plants such as dill, parsley, ‘Bronze’ fennel, and Queen Anne’s lace.
Maybe we’ll get lucky and see our caterpillar through to the chrysalis stage. We’ll play this song for it when it emerges.
I love these unexpected educations in nature that come from growing a garden. Even a pot on a roof can bring about these sorts of surprises.
UPDATE: Make that two! I just found a second, bigger caterpillar in another pot of dill. I think they need names.