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Aug 24

Raising Monarchs, routing aphids

It was a heart-stopping moment.

I was cleaning the Monarch caterpillar trays and Ami, the new puppy, grabbed a milkweed cutting from the container used by caterpillar #9 and proceeded to strip all the leaves off. I naturally was terribly upset – not only because of the apparent demise of #9, but also because I thought Ami might get sick; #9 was particularly large and juicy. Then I noticed #9 on another cutting in the same container. Relief! and a more careful separation of canine and cat.

My adventure with Monarch juveniles starts 10 days ago when I get back from a week away and notice that the Swamp Milkweed in the bog garden is in glorious flower, but also looking a little droopy. I take the hose over and started to trickle water in, thinking the area had dried out. It’s a busy spot. A Monarch butterfly hovers around me, landing on the flowers. Many bees and syrphid flies are feeding there too. Then, I see the aphids. Every stem right up and into the florets, is thickly coated with a layer of tiny orange insects.

I go to consult the internet and find that this species is Aphis nerii, the Oleander Aphid, aka the Milkweed Aphid. A helpful site called Monarch Butterfly Garden – the work of one Tony Gomez - has a whole page devoted to removal of these creatures. Not only do they weaken the plant, but they reduce the viability of any seed it produces – so immediate action was indicated. I start squirting jets of water at the pests, a method that a couple of years ago I found worked well to remove Milkweed Tussock Moth, which starts off looking a little like aphids. (When these guys got to the stage of looking like hairy caterpillars, I moved them from my potted Swamp Milkweed to patches of Common Milkweed in my field and they continued their lifecycle there.)
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Aug 24

September hours

The nursery is open in September on Saturdays 10-4 --- except for Saturday September 23, when we will be closed. Other times can be arranged to suit your convenience. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 705-322-2545 to arrange a time. On-site consultations can also be arranged.
Jul 27

Gifts from heaven – Bird feeders – New boss – August hours

It happens quite often. A seed gets deposited – from the air, or by a bird or passing chipmunk – in the centre of a pot and a plant starts to grow proudly, looking for all the world as if I had put it there… until it reveals itself to be an imposter and is yanked out and consigned to the compost heap. But while I couldn’t put a name to this particular plant, it wasn’t one of my familiar weeds and it was so perfectly centred and so healthy looking I decided to keep it until I figured out what it was.

A week or so ago, it flowered. A lovely lavender blue, and I recognized it immediately as the Monkey-flower. What excitement! I had seen it on occasion at Tiny Marsh and thought it quite charming. In fact, it charmed its way onto the flyer for the recent Tiny Marsh BioBlitz. The corolla (which is the name for all the petals of a flower) has an upper and lower lip and a yellowish centre that, apparently, looks like a monkey’s face – though I can’t see it. No offence to monkeys, but it’s much prettier than the image that conjures up.

Its genus, Mimulus, used to have 150 species, but DNA-driven reclassification reduced the number to seven, of which two are native to eastern North America, both quite common in wetland areas. The one that magically appeared in my nursery is the Square-stemmed Monkey-flower (M. ringens); the other is the Winged Monkey-flower (M. alatus), which looks very similar. Both have opposite leaves, but the leaves of the winged version have short stalks, whereas those on the square-stemmed one do not. And the winged’s flowers grow close to the central stem, while the square-stemmed’s flowers each have their own little stalk.
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