Home For Some Swallowtails


We are a lot like little kids when we head out to the garden.  We get such a kick out of watching the butterflies, and their beautiful psychedelic ‘teenaged’ caterpillar families.

The family portrait here shows you a female Black Swallowtail butterfly feeding on fennel flowers.  I believe the caterpillars are also Black Swallowtail larvae.



While the adult butterflies float around from flower to flower, the caterpillars largely stay put as they slowly move along the branches of our fennel, eating as they go.  Not to worry… the fennel grows back very quickly, shooting out lots of new stems, leaves and flowers.

I was fortunate to find four beautiful pots of bronze fennel on a clearance sale today at The Great Big Greenhouse in Richmond.  I’ll be adding these new fennel plants to the garden in the morning, knowing they will come back even bigger and stronger in the spring.



These caterpillars may seem a little brazen in their conspicuous gnoshing.  They love fennel, carrots, parsley and parsnips.  Whatever substances they ingest from these leaves, it leaves them tasting foul.  The birds show little interest in them.


Black eyed Susans, Rudbeckia hirta, attract many different butterflies.  Goldenrod, Solidago, (top right corner) will soon bloom, attracting many hungry pollinators.


There are plenty of wildly safe places in our garden for them to withdraw when ready to form their chrysalis.  We rarely notice one, anyway.  But oh, the gorgeous butterflies which fill our garden in late summer!

“Feed them, and they will come.”  No need to run to Pet Smart for a big expensive bag of something.  No, just plant nectar rich flowers.  If you fill your garden with the flowers they love, and have a few herbs around to receive their eggs and feed their larvae, then you, too can create a haven and home for the swallowtails.


Garlic chives and Rudbeckia have both naturalized in our garden. These clumps seeded themselves as neighbors, forming a little  ‘food court’ for pollinators.


But if you choose to attract and support pollinators, please do so consciously and responsibly.  What do I mean?

Find a way to garden without using herbicides or insecticides which will poison these fragile, and often endangered creatures.  Yes, you will have some leaves chewed by insects.  Yes, you will have to weed by hand.


Why is the Columbine blooming in August??? We are grateful for the blessing. The nibbled leaves hardly detract from the lovely flowers.


Yes, you may have some unsightly foliage here and there. 

But it is well worth it to enjoy a garden filled with life.  Not only do we enjoy the spectacle of summer butterflies, but we also have many pairs of nesting birds, sustained by the rich insect life in our garden.


Basil is a one of my favorite annuals in our garden. Not only is it beautiful and up to our muggy climate, it also attracts many pollinators. Goldfinches love its seeds. It works beautifully in flower arrangements, and can still be harvested for summer cooking.


Every garden has a purpose.  Every gardener has to have a purpose in mind when building her garden.

Ultimately, we expect the garden to bring us pleasure as it entertains us, gives us purpose each day, helps us stay fit, and gives us another reason to go shopping.


Echinacea and Basil have proven a stunning combination this summer.  The Echinacea’s seeds will feed lots of happy birds this autumn.


We decided early on that this garden would do all of those things, but also provide a home for pollinators and birds.

Home means safety and food; a place to rest; a place to lay eggs and raise young; clean water to drink.  A puddle, birdbath, or even a wet dish of sand will suffice.

Little did we know that the birds would help us plant.  We never expected the lizards, turtles and birds to help control the insects.  We have bees to pollinate the fruit, and butterflies to watch on summer afternoons.


Tiger swallowtail feasting on Aralia spinosa, a tree brought to us by the birds.  This is its first season of bloom in our garden; but oh, what a show!


And little did we realize how much happiness flows from creating a home for some swallowtails.


Crape myrtle

Woodland Gnome 2017




Sunday Dinner: Turning In Circles


“Everything turns in circles and spirals

with the cosmic heart until infinity.

Everything has a vibration that spirals inward or outward —

and everything turns together in the same direction

at the same time.

This vibration keeps going: it becomes born and expands

or closes and destructs —

only to repeat the cycle again in opposite current.

Like a lotus, it opens or closes, dies and is born again.

Such is also the story of the sun and moon,

of me and you.

Nothing truly dies.

All energy simply transforms.”


Suzy Kassem



“The life of man is a self-evolving circle,

which, from a ring imperceptibly small,

rushes on all sides outwards

to new and larger circles, and that without end.

The extent to which this generation of circles,

wheel without wheel, will go,

depends on the force or truth of the individual soul.”


Ralph Waldo Emerson



Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

With wishes for happiness at Eostre



“If patterns exist in our seemingly patternless lives —

and they do —

then the law of harmony insists

that the most harmonious of all patterns, circles within circles,

will most often assert itself.”


Dean Koontz




Return of the Butterflies

July 20, 2014 butterflies 048

Our garden is alive with butterflies once again.   

We spotted at least five different individual butterflies enjoying their Sunday dinner in the garden today.

July 20, 2014 butterflies 017

We have been watching for them for several weeks now, and are so happy to find our garden animated with their bright fluttering wings this morning.

Zebra Swallowtail butterflies prefer to lay their eggs on Paw Paw Trees.  We have several in the ravine at the back of our property, and so are blessed with these beautiful butterflies in the garden.

Zebra Swallowtail butterflies prefer to lay their eggs on Paw Paw Trees. We have several in the ravine at the back of our property, and so are blessed with these beautiful butterflies in the garden.

The banquet is spread from shrub to pot to bed to border.

The garden blossoms anew each morning with fresh nectar filled flowers, awaiting their visit.

And now we watch them enjoy it all, and hope they choose this garden as an adequate nursery for their next generation.


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Butterfly Garden Plants

July 20, 2014 butterflies 021

Hungry Caterpillars; What’s For Lunch?

Bronze Fennel is a favorite of Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars I counted nine caterpillars on just one fennel plant this morning Hungry as the caterpillars might be, fennel grows quickly and will survive their munching.  This Osmanthus goshiki shrub doesn’t look like a good host plant, but is on the menu for this gigantic beast. … Continue reading

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