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Monday, April 19, 2010

Butterfly and Banana

 I try to focus quickly on a butterfly alighting for a moment on the lavender phlox, for quickly it will flutter off while I am still trying to find it in my lense.  In the spring garden, a few seconds is all the swallowtail will offer a bloom before setting off across the yard for another plant. Do the cool short days of spring effect nectar so that the butterfly is not encouraged to linger?  It just seems to me that they tarry a bit longer further into summer before moving on to another bloom, giving me more time to catch a photograph. If it is true then the combination may allow for a stronger chance at survival during spring when there are less food choices for birds. Moving right along gives birds less chance to swoop down and gobble up a brightly painted morsel.

I've really been looking forward to butterfly season this year.  For Christmas my brother gave me a wonderful little butterfly book, A World of Butterflies by Brian Cassie with photographs by Kjell Sandved.  Each two-page opening is dedicated to a particular butterfly with the name and description on the left page and a gorgeous photgraph on the right-hand page. I am now anxious for someone to offer me a free trip trip to Brazil so that I can witness a morpho portis butterfly in flight. It just won't happen for me here in West Virginia.
On the strong chance that I don't make it to Brazil for a Morpho visit, I am very satisfied with the swallowtails and monarchs that do pass through my yard.

Last week it was white dogwoods and this week it is the pink.  My Arbor Day Foundation tree is blooming.  One of ten received with a subscription to the Arbor Day magazine over twenty years ago, I am lucky to have this tree at all.  It struggled to survive its first couple years as a tiny sprig planted in clay soil during a particularly dry period.  It finally seemed like the tree would make it when the 17-year locust attack came. The small limbs were riddled with tunnels drilled for locust eggs, causing them to break off right where they should have been the strongest.  Jeff was ready to mow right over the tree when I pleaded its case.  I have a weak spot for crippled plants that show any sign of life.  I convinced him to give it another year.  The next year showed a few leaves and the next year one -yes ONE bloom.  Today it is a focal point of my spring garden having survived yet another once-every-seventeen-year attack.

This week, also finds my garden graced with pale blue blooms from wild phlox transplanted from a nearby hillside.
A year ago I found myself amid a dozen bright yellow calandine poppies growing in a damp woodland area. Nearby I found another group. Two plants were moved into my shady periwinkle bed where they have flourished beside the wild ginger, rewarding visitors with new plants and glowing golden blooms.

The banana trees are still trying to grow, despite several frosts which have nipped their leaves.  They are almost a month ahead of schedule. Last fall, as you may see, we mulched the banana trees heavily with raked leaves. This may have worked together with this year's uncommonly hot spring days to convince the trees to come up early.  last year a man who claimed to know such things told me that if I would cut down some of the trunks, limiting the trees to just one or two, the bananas would likely bloom.  Our season is too short for any chance of fruit, but with fewer trunks to support we might get lucky with some blooms.  Maybe I'll try it this year.  I have some friends who would probably like a plant.  That would be much better than just cutting it off and tossing it out.

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