Butterfly At The Pool

The thing about gardening is that you have a lot of visitors.

Through the years, I’ve been visited by various reptiles, more lizards than I can count, insects, and other neighbors.

Both two and four legged.

This morning, going out to inspect my nursery pots and see how my bougainvillea cuttings are doing, I noticed that there were literally dozens of monarch butterfly caterpillars happily eating my milkweed down to pegs.

As a gardener it is at once frustrating and pleasurable.  I would love some seeds from those milkweeds, but courtesy of a neighbor and friend here, I have a cage that I could put the plants inside so they would go to seed.

As one who enjoys nature, that is why I plant the milkweed.  It’s there so the butterflies come to my yard.   It is a rare day that I don’t see a number of those Monarchs on the wing, floating around, coming to a landing somewhere.

To paraphrase:  If I build it, they will come.

Home (plate) I guess is in my backyard.

I don’t wander around aimlessly back there, there’s a purpose.  Usually I’m being herded back to the back door by my boy Rack the McNab SuperDog(TM) after only a few minutes, so standing at the back door and taking one last look means I am trying to think if there is anything that needs to be cared for.

I let him back inside because I realized I needed to deal with a visitor.   This Butterfly was perched, resting, on my sad little Hibiscus that so often is ravaged by Iguanas.

Yes, we have herds of those beasts running around.  The Iguanas turn the neighborhood into something reminiscent of Jurassic Park, and usually result in my thinking “I hope there will be a solid cold snap this winter”.

Their muscles can’t function below 45F, and if it gets into the 30s it will kill them.


But this Butterfly seemed to be enjoying the rest and watching me go about my own stupidity.

Good.   They’re welcome here.    One of at least five different daily visitor species here.

If you’re seeing Butterflies in the yard and want more, the next step is to leave a little fruit out there for them to find.  The Fairchild Gardens in South Miami does exactly that in their butterfly house.  A little banana or orange goes a long way to help these beautiful creatures survive.

As for the Iguanas?  I hear they’re good in a Curry Sauce.  Chicken of the Trees!

Missing Vanda Found – Picture

This year, I think my second Vanda Orchid is taking a rest.

The yellow one opened a while back, bloomed beautifully for the better part of February, then wilted.  It’s now resting.

I have a second one.  The plant is larger than the yellow bloomer.  You’d think that since size matters, the larger plant would be more happy.  Orchids are a finicky thing, even here in South Florida.  The conditions have to be “Just So” for them to thrive, and I guess things weren’t quite optimal.

So missing my morning flower fix while looking out the window and eating my Yogurt, I thought about that plant.  It may open still, but without a flower stalk, that is doubtful.  It’s late in the season for the plant where it is at.  Semi sheltered under the bougainvillea, it is also close to the house near the Lanai.  That gives it a warmer climate by a few degrees.  Since it has grown into the wood of the fence, it won’t be moved.

Thinking of those flowers, I started looking through my camera’s chip and found this picture.  It’s going to satisfy my need for blue blossoms today.  The particular plant was found inside the butterfly house at Fairchild Botanical Gardens, a great place for beauty if ever there was one.

Gardening with Butterflies – Picture

The picture here is another one of the Doris Longwing Butterfly that I found when in the Butterfly House at Fairchild Tropical Gardens. 

But the story isn’t.

On the other hand, when did I need an excuse to post a picture of a butterfly?

It’s a Butterfly and your argument is invalid.

What brought it to mind was when I was out puttering in the garden.  Early the other morning, I was out with my coffee.  Something didn’t sound quite right.  It was Irrigation Day and the backyard zone was running happily.

It was a very rural sound to the place because all the sudden I had a babbling brook in the yard.

Yes, the cement had come loose on the PVC pipe that runs along the Western side of the property and I had a gusher.  Luckily this was the hedge and the day after a massive rain.  I probably shouldn’t have been watering that zone that day but wanted to make sure it all worked.

Clearly the rain sensor did work because the front yard didn’t get watered.  Oooh!  New Toy!  Flip the switch and I am the Guardian of all Waters!

Walking to the Jasmine hedge, I found the break in the pipe and forced them close enough that the water wasn’t getting wasted.

The entire time when I was bent double, getting a ground water shower, I was being pestered.  Yes, my friends the Monarch Butterflies came back.  They were hovering around me trying to land somewhere and I was worried that they were going to get harmed while I was banging around underneath the wall of green.

All was well, I became an Aircraft Carrier for a few of the little orange and black beauties and patched things up.

So why the music video?  The last two days, I had this song stuck in my head.  Chaka Khan.  Chanson Papillon… Hot! Butterflies!

You don’t need an excuse, enjoy the music and the picture. 

Happy Fluttery Friday!

Doris Longwing Butterfly at Fairchild Gardens – Picture

Insects are something that I generally find annoying.  I’m that guy who gets bit when nobody else sees mosquitoes around. 

It isn’t a fear, it’s annoyance.

On the other hand, Butterflies are something that  have a special place in my heart.

My Mexican Milkweed is there specifically because my Godmother, Kathie knew that I liked the Monarch Butterflies and gave me seeds.  The plants always look like sticks as a result, but that’s why they are there – food for the Monarchs.   As a result there are always some around.

When I got a chance to go to the butterfly house at Fairchild Tropical Gardens, I finally got to a place where I could stand around looking at these gentle creatures for as long as I liked.

It is an odd building.  A giant structure with windows and screens everywhere, but in order to go in, you have to enter an air lock.  Most of these species on display would establish themselves out in the wild here.  Since there are quite enough invasive species roaming South Florida, this minor inconvenience is well worth the effort.

Inside, there are plants specifically placed as food for the butterflies, a beautiful babbling brook of a  fountain, and posts with fruit sitting on top as a feeding station. 

All the time you are there, you are being circled by flocks of these exotic butterflies.  Creatures that you see sometimes out in your yard are mostly too common.  My beautiful orange and black Monarchs or the Swallowtails that lay eggs on my citrus trees are simply not housed in this habitat. 

For someone who says that “Butterflies lower my IQ 10 points”, a visit to a butterfly house was one of those wide-eyed moments of wonder.  A moment of beauty well worth the trip.

Needless to say, I’ve got plenty of pictures on the camera to share.

Fairchild Gardens End of the Day Tower – Picture

Have you ever gone somewhere, found something beautiful, and couldn’t tell someone else how to find it?

That’s the story with this particular sculpture.

It’s a rather famous one.  It’s the Dale Chihuli work called “The End Of The Day Tower”. 

Visiting Fairchild Tropical Gardens, you will stumble across quite a few pieces of public art.  In the case of this work, the entire piece is a collection of pieces of hand blown glass that were knitted or stacked together.   The resulting tower is mounted in a small pond with fish that were the same colors as the main parts of the work. 

The thing is that the building didn’t really have a clear place to enter.  No signs saying “Hey dummy, come on in here”, or something like that.   We found a door that looked plausible and walked through a couple different rooms until we found this particular display. 

Luckily, the sun was shining on the Tower and creating a display of colored light on the fish. 

So nice of a display that one of the volunteers there made it a point to have me look at it.  “You’re lucky you got to see it.  This morning it wasn’t sunny enough to look right”.

Nothing Fishy about that!

Fairchild Gardens Walkway Display – Picture

When you are in a garden, stop to smell the Orchids.

I had not seen a Rose all day at Fairchild Gardens, that isn’t their thing.  Not exotic enough. 

While I do have a Rose in the backyard, and it needs trimming, I have more orchids back there than that. Besides, Roses will grow in every State of the Union, Orchids are much more fussy than that.

The name I gave this picture is fairly bland, I don’t know the sort of flowers that were growing against the trunk of that tree, but that is part of the charm of the place I guess.   There’s so much going on that the Orchids are merely commonplace. 

By the way, most Orchids don’t have a scent.  The ones in my yard don’t, although I have my eyes open for a Vanilla Orchid and they do have a fragrance.  Beautiful white flowers on a Vanilla Orchid.

Definitely not native species, but still quite nice to see.

Fairchild Gardens Flowers in Bloom – Picture

When you’re walking around in a tropical garden stuffed full of exotics, you never know what you will discover around the corner.

When I went to Fairchild Tropical Gardens, I was walking with friends and madly taking pictures of everything I found remotely interesting.   There was a riot of color everywhere, beauty literally under each rock.

I was going through my camera’s chip looking for a picture to post and thought “Ooh, Pretty Purple Flowers”.   Sure, that’s a bit pedantic, but accurate.   Then I began to look at the picture itself.

This particular picture became a learning experience for me.  I’m learning how to use Photoshop instead of my Open Source programs like GIMP and Inkscape.   I could have made my little titles in those programs in just a few minutes, but Photoshop forced me to slow down and actually look at the play of the different colors and shading and appreciate the beauty in this clump of flowers.

Funny how Technology and my inexperience in this particular piece of software forced me to appreciate the natural.

Fairchild Gardens – A Bunch of Orchids Picture

Remember what I said about South Florida being a place you can just stick exotic plants just about anywhere and they’ll grow?

Walking around Fairchild Gardens taking pictures, and trust me I have quite a few of them, I happened to spot this little display.

Mind you, Fairchild is well planned and a large exhibit of tropical exotic beauty.  The thing is that to my New Jersey born and bred mind, the idea of having a cluster of Dendrobium Orchids tucked in the ground next to some sort of Philodendron plant is amazing to me.

Here, lets just put these plants in the ground in an unassuming spot and let them grow.  They’re common enough that they’ll do well here.  Oh those plants?  They’re just a cluster of orchids that would cost a couple hundred dollars in the stores. 

That’s just one more thing to love about South Florida.  Nothing’s particularly subtle here.   When you have an “Exotic” it’s going to be properly exotic.  Beauty is all around us, all you need to do is look. 

I suspect that is a metaphor for anywhere, after all.  Sun coming up over the tundra on the North Slope can be beautiful, if a bit forbidding to me personally.  Amber Waves of Grain in the Midwest.  Sand dunes in the Desert.  Moonrise over the lake, which ever lake you choose, can be spectacular.

Just stop and look.  Nature’s beauty is all around you.

Want Chocolate? Here’s A Cacao Bean

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for some good chocolate.

When we were wandering around the grounds at Fairchild Gardens, I was a bit surprised to find it in front of me, growing.

Now granted, that’s stretching the truth a bit, but it was a Cacao plant with beans on it.  Add sugar and milk and a lot of processing and you might be able to get a little snack out of this particular bean when it is ripe.

It was growing indoors so I am guessing it is one of those “Full Tropical” plants that will only grow under certain conditions in Miami.  Things like Cacao and Durian won’t grow if the temperature drops below 40 or 50 and while we don’t freeze here, we get close.

That freeze line is only 15 miles North, in Boca Raton.  They’re welcome to it.

Fairchild Gardens Random Orchid – Picture

Funny topic for this one right?

Random Orchid?

I’m calling it that simply because I’m not an expert in orchids.  This being South Florida, you can tack a box to an old tree, drop some leaf litter or bark into it and a seedling of an orchid and it could be happy there.   Assuming it gets watered correctly and isn’t attacked by Iguanas or some other critter, you can reasonably expect it to grow and bloom.

It isn’t that Orchids are unremarkable, they just do quite well here with minimal care.

I think that attitude was evident at Fairchild.  There were many trees there, all with little signs saying what the Linnean name was, where they were from, and a common name if they had them.  At least one in a group would be labeled.  If you didn’t have a sign, you had a helpful volunteer who usually knew.  

On the other hand most of these trees had an orchid on or near them.  You got to expect them like they were part of the background flora.  But they were not really the reason for this garden, the trees were.  Great stands of rare tropical trees, some highly endangered, were given pride of place and labeled so everyone could know what they were. 

Having visited botanical gardens before, they had a feeling of being a Tree Museum.  This one certainly was.  We were told that this stand of palms were Haitian Oil Palms, and that this was the only stand anywhere in the world and that efforts to bring back the species were being made.

After all extinction is forever.  Once gone, those trees won’t be there to support the random orchids whether they’re really random or not.
If we don’t protect the trees, they’ll go into a tree museum and paradise will get paved for that parking lot.