I’ve got several deadlines on tap, a chipped filling that has exposed something that should not be exposed, and a bad case of writer’s block, so today’s post will be nearly wordless. These photos were taken on a trip to Shelburne several weeks ago to visit Brian Bixley’s garden, Lilactree Farm.
Brian and his wife purchased the property, a former cattle farm I believe, in the late 1960′s. They’ve divided up the land nearest to the house into garden rooms that are surrounded by tall hedges and filled with trees. It was open and treeless originally. Many of the rooms radiate from this bird bath.
They’re waiting for me to stop taking pictures and catch up. We haven’t even entered the property by this point. I could have spent my life exploring the flora on that road!
Perennial sweet peas and geraniums have self-seeded alongside the road just off of the property.
Gorgeous and easy to maintain, but they don’t have that signature sweet pea scent.
When the country road was expanded, Brian tossed seeds of thyme and other drought tolerant plants into the ditch. That ditch is nicer than my street garden. If I had it to do all over again….
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.
Imagine one of these munching its way through your garden. I saw this one, and then I saw two others soon after!
Both terrifying (I was initially sure it must be poisonous and stepped back as if it might eat my face) and amazingly beautiful all at once.
Turns out it won’t eat your face or your entire garden, just the frangipani relatives if you have them.