Is your garden ready for a royal visit?
My neighbour Monique had given me a little seedling once many years ago, saying she had no idea what it was called but that it had pretty pink flowers with a nice fragrance.
That was enough for me to find a place for it in my garden! When we moved soon after, it came with me to my new garden where it grew vigorously. The flowers were actually clusters of tiny blooms, and yes, they were pretty. Coincidentally, around the time it bloomed, I learnt it was called milkweed from a gardening column. And that it was the favourite food of Monarch butterfly caterpillars.
The milkweed has since spread and I have moved it to a few spots in the garden, hoping to provide food for the at-risk Monarchs. As I saw many of them flutter around my appropriately-named butterfly bush (Buddleia) this time of year, I was happy. The milkweed was doing its job!
But strangely, I never really noticed any caterpillars. Until a few weeks ago. While deadheading Maltese Cross – doing so encourages a second bloom – I noticed that the milkweed leaves were all chewed up. So much so that only stubs remained on some stems. I looked for the ravenous bugs or beetles that I thought were the culprits, but spotted many striped caterpillars, instead.
Done for the day, I came in and looked up Monarch caterpillars and found the exact same ones!
I have watched them gorge on the leaves and the chrysalis form. Watching the Monarchs emerge has been a special privilege.