At the end of April, we were very busy unloading part of the greenhouse in order to attend the annual native plant sale at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton. There were many larval (caterpillar) plants in crates to be carried out to the back of the trailer and truck.
Floating through all this chaos were 2 painted lady butterflies. How on earth they came out of hibernation and found our greenhouse through the cold and rainy weather of April was a mystery to me. They immediately found their larval plant, pearly everlasting, to lay eggs all over.
In May, we saw the familiar webbing of caterpillars all over the pearly everlasting and knew we were in luck. Today, all 50 plants are spent and we had to transplant 20 + caterpillars to new plants. This will be their last big feeding and then they will crawl off into the garden and hang. Later they will emerge as our beautiful painted ladies.
How wonderful we were able to share a life’s moment with them. And so the cycle of life continues.
Yesterday, while hurricane winds were blowing, I was out collecting seeds. No one told me of the dangers of this job. The high force winds were literally ripping the female catkins from the trembling aspen trees. There were severe thunderstorms watches issued, but I had to collect the catkins. Aspens, poplars and cottonwoods are unique in that the seeds will immediately germinate if they land on the right surface – warm and wet soil.
Of course, the winds were carrying the seeds across the road and depositing them all over the road shoulders. I really did have to remind myself that there was traffic to pay attention to and that the dog, my assistant nursery manager, was utterly unaware of any cars.
With our newly collected prizes in hand, we immediately laid the seeds on fresh, wet soil and left them to steam in the greenhouse. If all goes well, within days there should be little trembling aspen sprouting.
I have sadly overlooked this species considering them a weed and junk tree. In my ignorance I did not realize their contribution to the environment, especially along eroding rivers. I think this tree will become highly prized in the future as we see more heavy rain events like we saw this spring.
So listen up to this incredible story. Last year, just as the orioles were fledging, we had 3 days where the weather got super cold and we had torrential rain. One baby oriole had just fledged from her nest and had been taught by her parents to come to our oriole feeder for grape jelly. We gave her the unimaginative name of Baby. Through those 3 days we kept her alive, though she was soaked and chilled to the bone, by always having one well in the feeder filled with jelly though the rain washed it away, almost immediately. Baby got into the habit of landing on the cement window sill and peer inside. Sometimes she would have to tap the window with her beak to get our attention. She would wait miserably for us to come out with the grape jelly and fill the feeder.
Baby made it and matured into a beautiful female oriole with a tell tale brown smudge between her eyes. She migrated in the fall with all our blessings. We were sad to see her go but ever so glad our lives had intertwined with her’s.
Well, today I was having coffee and Baby came to the window sill and peered in. Yes, there was that tell tale brown smudge between her eyes. Rick brought the grape jelly out and filled the feeder. She gobbled up the grape jelly and flew off.
It is going to be a great birding year! If you, too, want to attract and feed orioles check out the orioles article. Good luck.
Wow, what a day! We were very proud to be at the 3rd annual RBG Native plant sale. This year was the biggest – well attended. We sold out of all the larval butterfly plants. It is wonderful to see the growing enthusiasm of the public towards protecting our pollinators. An added new feature to the sale this year was the free lectures being offered at the Rock Gardens center. We were very happy to present a slide show on local butterflies and their larval plants. I know not everyone fell asleep, some people actually took notes!
1,000 American Elms still remain in our Ontario landscape, over 100 years old, standing resistant to Dutch Elm disease (DED). We, at Puslinch Naturally Native Trees Nursery, have progeny from these parent trees and are now offering them for reintroduction into the environment.
In 10 years, super resistant DED elm progeny will be available from the University of Guelph elm recovery program. It is our hope that both natural and super DED elms will be planted together. Why? Even though emphasis is on DED we must also consider climate change. The naturals have a vast genetic base that may offer adaptive abilities to our changing weather.
Even though there was a nip in the air, I was still amazed to see a Red Admiral butterfly float by as we were planting bitternut hickory acorns. It is hard to believe that these migratory butterflies are on the same migration wave as birds. Though everyone flocks to see the birds at Point Peele in the spring, no one seems to see these bright butterflies. Next to the Mourning Cloak, these are one of our earliest butterflies. If you want these beauties in your garden you will have to plant stinging nettle. Yes, this is their larval plant. And please, do not spray – be pollinator friendly.
We wrote this article in response to the launch of the Ontario Bee Health plan. Hopefully, everyone gets on board and tries to garden, farm and keep bees in a pollinator friendly manner. Please be sure to check out all our suggestions and enjoy your pollinator visitors.
When it is damp and cold outside it does not seem possible that spring migration is ocuring all around us. Already, we had our first Turkey Vulture arrive 2 weeks ago and the ponds are filling up with hooded mergansers and bufflehead ducks. Believe it or not, we are avid birders, not just tree huggers, and this time of year finds us scrambling to clean and repair our bluebird nesting boxes. Just in time, our first male bluebird arrived yesterday. To find out about the possibility of having bluebirds in your neighborhood check out the article on bluebirds. Happy birding.
We have been busy laying fresh wood shavings in all the nesting duck boxes at Valens and Christie Lakes conservation areas. It has been a challenging year to get to all the water accessible boxes since the ice has been unpredictable. Hate to go for a polar swim! Regardless of whether we are ready or not, the first pair of hooded mergansers have already arrived. This year, we will be relocating existing boxes to encourage better nesting results.
We are very proud to be sponsors of the upcoming Guelph Pollination Symposium. As lifelong beekeepers, we are keen to learn about the circumstances of decline for all pollinators, especially bumblebees. It will be awesome to be able to participate in the launching of the Ontario Pollinator Health action plan. I feel an article coming on since we will want to share all these recommendations with everyone. Check out our bee and butterfly articles for more information.