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Jul 15

If the Giant Swallowtail visits, are you ready?

They said she was on her way, and on June 12, there she was - the Giant Swallowtail, floating through the flower beds, the largest butterfly I have ever seen in these parts. I hadn’t heard she was coming so I grabbed a camera to document the find, and a day later a naturalist friend identified her, telling me there had been recent media reports about how this species is moving north.

I didn’t think, when I saw her a few more times, whether she might have special needs, this creature forced northwards by global warming, even though the question of assisted migration is one of my preoccupations. Then today, I was moving some potted Hop Trees out of a sheltered location close to the potted Northern Catalpas, thinking they all need a bit more space, a bit more sun, so they’re ready to be planted out at some stage.

That’s when I saw it. The poo on the leaf. And then I noticed that the poo, at first glance the poo of a very large bird, in fact had a structure, markings, and evidence of activity: the Hop Tree leaf that supported it was half gone.Read more
Jul 7

Wonderful, glorious, stunning Catalpa

There is no more glorious sight in these parts than a Northern Catalpa in full bloom.

This week was the peak of flowering for this tropical tree that has adapted to our northern climate. The first clue is the fragrance wafting over the sidewalk. Like a bee seeking nectar, you follow the trail and come across a wonderful show - dense panicles of huge white frilly orchid-like blooms, their centres delicately highlighted with purple stripes and splashes of orange. A pollinator’s delight.

If you have a lawn, in full sun, in need of a “specimen” shade tree, this is the one. Its elegant form, its large heart-shaped leaves, the long bean pods that develop in fall, all ensure season-long interest after the dropped petals have carpeted the grass below in white.Read more
Jun 29

Weeding speaks to the human spirit

I have been weeding, weeding, weeding. That’s the downside of eliminating lawn and making new beds. It’s not as much work as mowing, if you consider the total time spent over the whole season, but it’s intense at this time of year. Do it now or face a 100-fold increase if the weeds are allowed to flower and go to seed.

I started last weekend and hope to have my main beds finished this weekend. Of course this is work that’s never finished. The strawberry bed that was kitchen-table-top clean a week ago has sprouted many unwanted seedlings after yesterday’s plentiful rain – but some quick work with a hoe should take care of them. The best thing would be to find some straw for mulching.

The hoe is good for the small stuff, the growth of a few days. If you let things go any longer, especially if the weeds are in around desirable plants, you have to get a low stool, crouch close to the ground and actually pull the weeds. Lay them down in place, they will wilt and turn to mulch, returning nutrients to the soil, preserving moisture and deterring germination of more unwanted vegetation.Read more