Friday, September 2, 2011

Butterfly Dreams

Dancing through the fields at Summer's end...
imagining Fairies in the Castles of Queen Anne's Lace.

 Chasing Butterflies 
and discovering Caterpillars on the "milky" weeds.

This is what filled my days as a child. 

When I was a young girl I delighted in playing in the fields surrounding my home. I loved all of nature: the flowers, the bugs and especially the butterflies.  Milkweeds were abundant and it was easy to spy the yellow and black striped colors of the caterpillars crawling on them. We captured wiggly caterpillars and placed them carefully in glass jars with a stick or two to climb on and a long fat leaf from the "milky" weed to chew on. With the fat little caterpillars in the jar, we watched patiently for the transformation to take place... when the wiggly caterpillar would become a beautiful chrysalis and then magically become a butterfly.  

♦  ♦  ♦

Of course this whole magical event always seemed to occur at Summer's end, about the time school would begin. No matter, we packed our caterpillar jars off to school to share for Show and Tell.  Teacher always made a fuss over our treasures in a jar and invited us to place them on the Science table. This was always a big deal because that meant we could learn more about caterpillars and butterflies... and I could never learn enough.  My favorite was always the Monarch. The whole idea of a yellow and black striped caterpillar transforming into a green chrysalis and then becoming an orange and black butterfly fascinated me, and still does to this very day.

♦  ♦  ♦

Fast forward to now. I've lived in this home for eight years and I had never seen a Monarch in my garden. In fact, rarely do we see butterflies of any kind in our gardens.  

Once in a long while a Tigertail floats through my perennials  

and late Summer always seems to bring a Cabbage White or two

but never have I seen a Monarch Butterfly in my gardens.  

And oh how my heart has yearned to see one.

♦  ♦  ♦

Last Fall, my Honey and I walked the trails of our part of the kingdom looking for milkweeds. We were delighted to find several places where common milkweed grew freely within several miles. Carefully examining each leaf of each plant we encountered, there were never signs of caterpillars. You can imagine my disappointment. Not one to give up hope, I spent the Winter devising a plan to bring these beautiful creatures to my gardens. And this Spring I began to work the plan.

With loads of butterfly attracting flowering plants already in place, 
I determined that what my gardens needed was milkweed. 

So early last March I visited a website that offered  Butterflyweed plants for sale. After determining that they would grow in my garden, I purchased ten plants. I felt like a giddy school girl waiting for them to arrive. A muddy wet spring for the grower delayed my plants for weeks, but they finally arrived in mid June. The little two inch plants I found in the box did not raise my hopes for drawing butterflies to my gardens any time soon nor did our very wet Spring that brought the attack of the giant snails.  Three plants survived and are now about twelve inches tall with sweet little blossoms in yellow, orange and red. 

 They are growing little by little but I faced the realization weeks ago that this season they won't be much of a butterfly magnet.

But that's ok because Mother Nature is working her own plan.

Mother Nature planted common milkweed in my garden...
just a few feet from where I was nurturing my Butterfly Weed.
What are the odds of that? 

There is no milkweed anywhere in site of my gardens that could have spread seeds.

Common Milkweed growing in my Garden
I've been nurturing it right along with the Butterflyweed.
and it's growing like a WEED!

Several mornings ago, as I was taking pictures of the Milkweed,
a Monarch Butterfly floated through the scene.

Monarch floating into the picture


 She simply floated into the picture as I was snapping pics.

 She lingered long enough for me to capture several images...

and then she disappeared as quickly as she came.

 I am as surprised as I tell the story as I was when it happened.

"a personal and individualized blessing 
that does not occur randomly nor is it a coincidence."

"The simpleness and sweetness will lift your heavy heart."

and it has. 

Oh, but there is much more to this story...
in my next post!


  1. Lovely butterflies, Carolyn. Monarchs are few in my garden also. I rejoice when one visits. The Cabbage whites are here by the scores, front and back. They are not as interesting as the big colorful varieties, but always welcome. My large butterflies always come like your Monarch did. They float in while I am shooting something else. Serendipity.

  2. Carolyn how wonderful for you to have a blessing, a dream come true. Like you I found swamp milkweed and butterfly weed to plant and the monarchs have come more into the garden this year. I have scattered seed for more milkweed but never did I find common milkweed until this year. It is growing all over. The monarchs have been abundant but as of yet I have no caterpillars. I keep waiting and hoping...Perhaps next year. The monarchs seem to delight in the echinacea and obedient plant for food...I am hoping to attract many other butterflies to stay in the garden as well...

  3. What a beautiful moment. I love monarchs and here Milkweed is just that a weed that I tolerate because the monarchs will lay their eggs on the underneath of the milkweed leaf. Soon you will see the caterpillars munching on the leaves. Here, however, I don't think the monarchs have discovered my milkweed. Can't wait for the rest of the story.

  4. Carolyn that gave me shivers of delight as I read further down and I can't wait to read the rest of the story : )
    I too have been frustrated seeing Black Swallowtail caterpillars in my parsley and fennel (believe me I have almost every and any plant, native and cultivated to draw butterfluies in) in any case the caterpillars always "left home without forming their cocoon .. so this year I kept a caterpillar and it has transformed into the chrysalis .. I practically danced around the kitchen for a full 5 minutes .. now we wait, I have never gotten to see this magic happen so it is like waiting for Christmas .. even though Halloween is my favourite ? LOL
    Loved reading this ! and yes .. I have experienced those "gift moments" and they are truly profound ..
    Joy : )

  5. Great post! Isn't it wonderful that the milkweed appeared so mysteriously along with the butterfly weed. I too would like to have more butterflies in my garden. They don't usually appear until late summer here. I find sedum and echinacea also tends to be favourites.

  6. ooohhh, I love the anticipation... I savor those grace-filled moments. I remember a late-summer encounter with a hummingbird that was similar to this. What a beautiful post! I'd love to have you participate in the "Garden Lessons Learned" meme at Happy autumn!

  7. Sweet! What an engaging experience! Thanks for sharing... :D

  8. I think that we are given what we need at that moment. You were blessed, and how beautifully.

    Can't wait to hear the rest of the story.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  9. Oh I love, love, love this post. Your monarch came to pose for you.
    What a happy day.

  10. Hi, Enjoyed your 3 posts and look forward to the hatching. We've had monarch and black swallowtail caterpillars - I don't know where the chrysalis are, though. I'm hoping they all make it!
    Hugs, Beth


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