Sunday, July 8, 2012

Monarch Of The Garden

I have been asked a lot, "why do you grow that plant?" That plant is bronze fennel. This picture doesn't do it justice. It has been a very hot and extremely dry summer and all the herbs in the garden are showing stress signs. It is a fernlike, lacy plant that has a licorice smell. It has seed heads on it like a dill plant. It resembles a dill plant with a bronze tint to the leaves. It grows more than 4 foot high and in clumps with several others can look like an exotic grass. It reseeds freely and I have them all over the yard. Some people do not like the free form seeding. The same people do not like hollyhocks for the same reason. I enjoy it. I design flowerbeds around them. Or should I say I move my flower beds each year to accommodate them. And I do it each year and each year I have some people ask me why.

And then I get this! Look closely. My fennel has been infiltrated by pests! No wonder it looks sparse and thin. These things are eating it down to the stalks. This is the only plant these things/worms are eating. My beautiful bronze fennel! Take a closer look at these worms:

They are about 2 inches long. But the color! These pictures do not do them justice. The lime green, dark black and the bright yellow. They are beautiful! And they are all over the fennel.

These caterpillars, engorging themselves on the fennel, are Monarchs. They will eat and eat, then spin themselves into cocoons (which they haven't done yet) and emerge as beautiful butterflies. They are the reason I let the fennel free seed. And I let them eat all they want. Soon, I will have a garden full of the most beautiful butterflies you have ever seen! I'll get pictures of them for you. The fennel grows back every year. They do not eat it until it is dead. And the more fennel I have, the more caterpillars I have and then more butterflies. I found out about them about 15 years ago when I tried to grow brussel sprouts. They love brussel sprouts, too. And I have been feeding them ever since.

Elle is still loving the hose. She is getting pretty good at  drinking from the hose. She is a sweetheart!

Talk to you soon,  Tammy

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