I was surprised by a beautiful Green Darner (Anax junius) the other day while moving some pots on the roof. I must have been out there puttering around for two hours before I noticed it quietly resting on a white sage (Salvia apiana) plant. I hope it caught some mosquitoes.
This isn’t our first dragonfly visit of the year. It’s always surprising who and what will find our little oasis in the sky. More of these and less raccoons please.
On the white sage: It’s not hardy here in Toronto, but I’ve managed to overwinter this one successfully over several seasons now by simply cutting it back hard and forgetting about it. You know, I’m not really much of a fan at this size — they are much more beautiful when they are grown as bushes, but alas I can’t really achieve that here without a bigger pot and more space. I’ve kept it in a sunny window giving it water here and there through the winter and I’ve set it in the hallway where it is cold, the windows are north-facing, and it received almost no attention. We even went away for a month last winter and friends were not instructed to water it. This plant lives on no matter what.
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’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.