Here’s another close up of a plant I mentioned in the post about my roof garden’s back wall, Oxalis squamata.
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.
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.
Nina Simone belts, “Save me, somebody save me” through my headphones and even though I know she is singing about a love gone wrong, not gardening, for just a moment I think she is singing about me. This could be my current theme song.
You see, I might be drowning. In plants. And gardening. And plants that must be planted. And gardens that must be gardened. And a spring that is more like a dry, hot summer, and tomatoes that are making fruit faster than I can get them in the ground.
In a word, this gardening season is manic. SOS.
I’m not sleeping well these days and I seem to be grinding my teeth at night. And yet I am enjoying myself. The ship feels like it is sinking but I am going down smiling. I don’t really want to be saved, although some time off from work, life, cooking, cleaning, and basic daily hygiene would provide the extra time I require to really get caught up.
The other day a friend emailed about all of the plants she just acquired, lamenting where she was gonna put them all. I nodded in agreement but didn’t return her email. Who has time for email when there are trays of seedlings waiting in cue that need to get in the soil?
I’ve come to the conclusion that we gardeners (some of us anyways) enjoy the chaos, just a little bit. We love the frenzied, manic pace of the spring planting. We love that it gives us something to bitch about. “The chaos“, we moan, “I shall never be freed from this chaos!” And we aren’t, until the winter when the gardens are finally put to bed (or as good as) and we find ourselves twiddling our thumbs and lamenting the boredom and suffering of the off season. “It’s too cold,” we cry, “When will this persecution end?”
Yet somehow, all of this begins with a desire to create a calm, tranquil green space — a mania that leads to a serenity of sorts. Not that I ever stop and sit still in my garden spaces long enough to reach that kind of inner calm. There is always something to do; I enjoy the doing. Like photography, gardening is meditation in motion for me. And it achieves what sitting still meditation, tai chi (which actually made me very angry), and yoga have never been able to achieve.
There is a logic in here that I can’t quite get to. Perhaps it will come to me later today while I’m potting up the tray of new herbs I brought home yesterday or planting the bean seeds that are over-soaking as I write this. Do not forget the beans!
p.s. The photo (above) is of a bunch of pots I have sitting in the partial shade side of my roof garden. That space against the wall is reserved for plants that can’t stand the punishing heat of full sun portions of the roof, or that are being hardened off. I’ve posted a larger photo with notes over here.