August 5th – Butterflies in the garden.

This morning I had the chance to visit the garden with my cousin Lee from Bucks County. I have been talking up the Bournelyf Butterfly Garden to family and friends and it was fun to share it today. Here are some of the things that we saw on our visit.

First Monarch (Danaus plexippus) sighting on Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)! Photo by Ron Lidondici

Monarch Chrysalis

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) on Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). Photo by Ron Lidondici

We have never seen the larva or caterpillar of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (ETS) in our garden but we have seen it frequently in its butterfly form. The ETS goes through five  stages or instars before it is ready to pupate. It molts or sheds its skin to accommodate its growing size between instars. Before it molts it forms a new skin under the old. The coloring of the ETS larva changes between its developmental stages as well. A pupa is the life stage in a butterfly’s metamorphosis that occurs between the larval and the adult stage. The caterpillar forms a chrysalis to protect it during this stage.

Forth Instar

Fifth instar of the Eastern Swallowtail, shortly before pupating.

I think this is a dark form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Photo by Ron Lidondici

Chrysalis of the ETS

While the Silver Spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) was too quick to photograph this is what it looked like.

Silver Spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

This is one of the larger skippers and its body is thicker than most butterflies but is active during the day as butterflies are. Its antennae are hooked. The larvae are up to two inches long with a brownish-red head with two orange spots and a yellow green body.

Chrysallis of Silver-Spotted Skipper Photo by Brenda Dziedzic

Larva of Silver-spotted Skipper (Photo from Purdue Cooperative Extension)

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Early Morning Visit to the Garden

It’s another warm day here in West Chester but I wanted to go see if I could spot the caterpillars. I also wanted to see how the campers’ grass heads were faring. It seems to me that the best time to find the caterpillars is earlier in the day and that held true today! Here are some pictures.

Asclepias tuberosa pods

Our Monarch is growing!

If you look closely you can see the tentacles.These function as sense organs.

The caterpillar or larva  is the second stage of a butterflies life cycle. During this stage they primarily  eat and grow. Their exoskeleton (skin) can not stretch or grow, so the monarch larvae molt or shed their outer skin five times so that it can continue to grow. It increases in size 3000 times from the time it hatches from its egg to the time it is ready to pupate and become a chrysalis.

Meanwhile our black swallowtail continues to enjoy the Foeniculum vulgare or bronze fennel.

I am thinking this is the eastern tiger swallowtail?

And here is our grass head sprouting some hair!

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Session Five: Propagation

On July 25 we had our fifth session of our Bournelyf Butterfly Garden and Special Camp training. I conducted this session on Propagation along with Nick Russo. Although  I had assisted with a few of the other sessions, this time I was responsible for providing the campers with both an educational and enjoyable experience. Needless to say, a lot of effort has gone into every session that we are teaching and our class wasn’t an exception. But, judging from the wonderful note we received from one of our enthusiastic campers, it was well worth all the preparation.

Thank You for gardening from Cynthia

We were finally blessed with a sunny, humidity free day. Most of the sessions have taken place in hot, hot, hot and humid conditions so we were grateful. Before camp started for the day Nick and I, along with Barb Rinehart and Marian Post (our MG helpers for the session) were able to take a few minutes to survey the garden. Considering the heat wave we have been having and the fact that all the plants were put in later than they normally would have been, the garden looks fantastic! A twice a day watering and a good layer of mulch have certainly helped the plants to survive and flourish. We have only had one casualty, and even that plant seems to be making an effort to come back!

While looking around the garden our eagle eyed Barb Rinehart discovered a Monarch Butterfly caterpillar chomping its way through the Asclepias curassavica (Mexican Milkweed), and a Black Swallowtail hanging out in the Foeniculum vulgare (Bronze Fennel) and the Anethum graveolens (Dill). Yes the curassavica attracts aphids but the aphids attract ladybugs. And as we discussed in our previous post on ladybugs they just love to dine on aphids!

Ladybug to the rescue!


Black Swallowtail

Our goal for this session was to help the campers to understand where all these plants that they have been helping to put into the garden came from. We talked about seeds and what it takes for them to grow: Soil, Sun, Water/Rain and Air.

We also did a lima bean  exercise that let the campers see the beginnings of a baby lima bean inside when we opened up softened dried lima beans. This was a way of helping our campers understand the connection between a seed and the plant it develops into. To see how to do this click here.

Looking inside a lima bean

Our next activity was making a grass head. This exercise was a lot of fun for the campers and they were excited about being able to keep their individual grass heads. The idea is to connect putting a seed into the soil, providing it with water, air and sunshine, and seeing it sprout into a plant – in this case grass. Below is what our grass heads will look like when they sprout. For some information on making your own grass head click here.

Next Nick took over leading an exercise in root division.  Clumps of Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susan) were divided by the campers and then repotted. The campers will  water the potted plants for the remainder  of camp and then take them home if they choose to do so. Extras may make there way into the garden.

The next exercise was to use a cutting and root it in water. Cuttings of various kinds of mint were used. One camper related that she had mint growing at home and we also talked about how mint is used in tea and summer drinks. They wanted to know if the chocolate mint tasted like chocolate. This simple activity requires fresh plant cuttings and a container for water (we used small plastic bottles with a hole drilled in the cap), The lower leaves are removed from the cutting and it is inserted into the hole in the cap until it can make contact with water. The campers were able to see an example of what their cutting would look like when it developed roots and we were able to again stress the importance of roots to the development of a plant.

Our final exercise was centered around a spider plant and the little baby spiders it produces. After viewing the mother plant with all its babies and identifying a blossom on the plant that will become a new baby, we clipped enough little plants for each camper to plant. We emphasized the need to water sparingly so that the plants got just enough water to thrive. We learned that too much water is as bad as not enough. I had rooted two plantlets in water to show the campers how their plants will make roots in the soil. We also examined the babies  to find the beginnings of roots before planting them. Campers loved the idea that someday their baby spider could grow as big as the mother plant we used for our activity.

Mother Spider Plant

Here you can see both a baby spider plant and a flower.

There are so many activities that can be done to teach young people about plants and propagation but our day was drawing to an end. (Check out this resource to get some ideas.)

We finished up with a tour of the garden, looking at the newly discovered caterpillars and admiring what has been achieved. There is even a new garden bench where all the garden activity can be viewed. The bees were buzzing and the butterflies flitting and campers were enjoying it all as we finished up our day. Here are a few more pictures…

Enjoying our Butterfly Sugar Cookies

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Exciting News

Barb Rinehart just got the news that our garden has been certified as Pollinator Friendly! Thanks to Barb for taking care of submitting the application. So what exactly is a Pollinator Friendly Garden and what is pollination?

According to the PSU Master Gardener site “Pollination, the transfer of pollen from the anthers of a flower to the stigma of the same flower or of another flower, is vital to our food supply. Insects and other animals are a key element in facilitating this transfer. In fact, one of every three bites of food comes to us by pollinators!”

Throughout the world pollinators are in trouble.  Both native bees and domestic bee populations are declining, affected by habitat loss, disease and contact with pesticides.  Penn State Extension Master Gardeners have started an initiative to protect pollinators by planting pollinator friendly gardens and providing education for the gardening public.

Certified gardens provide the foods and habitats needed to support native insects and animals. Pollinators will, in turn, provide the pollination needed to protect our plant diversity and food sources.  By growing a pollinator friendly garden we are supporting a healthy ecosystem which is critical.

In order to meet the criteria for the pollinator certification our garden had to:

Provide Food, Nectar and Pollen Sources, and Caterpillar Food Sources (host plants) by planting at least four native trees and/or shrubs, six native perennials and at least two native host plants. Additionally it has to provide a water source and places for the pollinators to shelter. Without these things pollinators cannot thrive or survive.

Since we planned our garden so that it would have as many native plants as possible as well as to meet the stated requirements for certification it was expected that we would qualify. Still it is wonderful to get the approval.

If you would like to have your garden certified read more here and fill out the application here


For More information on this topic check this link out.

Pollinator Garden Certification

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Butterflies in the Garden

Even before we planted our perennials we have started to see the butterflies flitting through the garden. The above picture was taken by Tom Bare when he was watering one hot, hot day!

An Orange Sulphur

Spicebush Butterfly on Agastache

Cabbage White

Angle Wing Skipper on Asclepias tuberosa. This little guy is difficult to see because it moves so quickly and erratically.

As we continue to see other butterflies I will update you on our sightings.

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Digging in the Dirt: Session One

On June 27, 2012 our first session opened at the Bournelyf Special camp. Our first day teachers were Diane Roberts, Craig Rybinski, and Tom Bare. Assisting were Marian Post and Lynn Markealli.

Campers spent the morning adding amendments to the soil so that it would be just right for our butterfly plants. With some assistance when it came to steering, using the wheelbarrows to haul things to the garden was a favorite activity! There was some really good effort put into working the soil as well. Campers got to try out all kinds of garden tools and learn about them as part of our first session.

Another highlight was giving the campers the garden bags that Lynn made for them (great job Lynn!) with gardening items that we gathered for them. The garden kits will be theirs when their time at camp is over.

As the pictures taken by Tanya Hopkins will show, everyone really had a great time and our butterfly garden is off to a great start!

Great Teamwork Campers!

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Laying Out the Garden

The New Path

Everything  Laid Out

Another Angle

It’s the 4th of July and it is moving day for the plants that Taryn, Gail and Barb have all been babysitting for several months. Next week we will hold the Session on Perennials and the following week we will do the Native Plants Session.

Even though we got there by 8, it was already quite warm. We decided to lay everything out to match up to the revised design. This way we would see if everything fit into the garden and how the overall design looked in reality. It will also make it easier on the instructors for the upcoming sessions to see where things will go when they get ready to plant.

We think it looks great and from a distance it is amazing how the garden appears to be already planted and thriving. Our annuals, which got planted  on the 2nd are adjusting well with the twice a day watering.

And best of all, the butterflies were flitting from plant to plant as we looked at our almost finished project!

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Session 2: Bournelyf Butterfly Garden – Planting Annuals

Finally the day arrived for us to actually put some plants in our garden. It was a hot and sunny day but very comfortable under the tent where campers, staff and Master Gardeners gathered. All the campers got to choose a name tag with a picture of the plants they would be planting today before we began our session. Counselors and M.G’s got one too! This was a great way to introduce the plants for the first time.

Once the regular camp startup activities were completed, it was time for Master Gardener Anne Oxenham and MG Apprentice Nancy Sage to start their session. As an introduction to planting our annuals, Anne handed out peas pods to each camper and explained how the peas in the pods could become seeds for new pea plants under the right conditions. Campers were helped to pop open the pods to discover the peas inside. This seemed like an  enjoyable activity for all.

Anne and Nancy also emphasized the need for plants to have water and sunshine in order to thrive. The campers will have this lesson reinforced with an experiment that they will do in the coming weeks. They will observe two pots of plants: one which will be watered on a regular basis and one which won’t be watered at all. This should help our campers to understand the importance of watering what you plant. We had fun demonstrating what a plant would look like if it didn’t get watered.

Once we finished up the under the tent activities, it was off to the garden with gloves and trowels. Because part of our planting area for today was compacted, campers also got to use shovels to give the soil a good dig and turn over. Additionally, every camper got a chance to dig holes for the plants, remove plants from pots, place them in their holes, and cover the roots. A lot of one on one support allowed campers to compete these activities successfully. Marian Post, Gail Warner-Lidondici and Barbara Rinehart were on hand from the MG group to lend a hand as well. In the process of digging, rocks were removed from the soil and placed in our rock pile, worms were found and examined, and one camper even discovered a slug. This last discovery was an opportunity to mention that there are some things that we don’t like to find in our garden.

Barb explained how the rock pile will be used for butterflies to sun themselves and gather warmth. I guess this could be considered a  very simplified application of solar heat! Campers enjoyed adding there rocks to the pile.

We planted quite a variety of annuals (mexican milkweed, sweet alyssum, zinnias, marigolds, lantana, stock, ageratum, pentas, cosmos, parsley, dill, violets, and cosmos) as well as the perennial herb bronze fennel (a favorite of the swallowtail butterfly) and even a weed: plantain! When we started planting today, we thought we would never fit all the plants we had in the allotted space. At the end of our day we had found a place for all of them.

Once the planting was finished everyone grabbed their watering cans and began to water. With the heat we are experiencing here in SE PA, the plants will really need regular watering if they are to flourish. Some of the campers used wheel barrows to bring bags of mulch over to the garden. This seemed to be a favorite activity. While we didn’t have time for them to mulch today, a how to mulch demo was done and later in the week campers will get to finish this up. They will also be giving the garden a good watering every day that camp is in session unless we get a good rainfall for the day.

We finished up the day with a water fight which our campers seemed to thoroughly enjoy! A bonus for we Master Gardeners was seeing a swallowtail butterfly  flitting among the newly planted annuals! It must have heard we planted some bronze fennel. Unfortunately the campers had gone off to swim in the pool so they missed this. I am sure there will be other opportunities though.

Here are some pictures to give you a look at our day.


I thought we were supposed to water the plants!!

This wheelbarrow is great!!

Hard at work putting plants in the ground.

Staff and Campers at the end of the sessionA

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The Grass is Dead!

It took six weeks, but the grass is dead and ready to for the rototiller! We were a bit worried for a while because the grass seemed to be continuing to grow. Perhaps the last week of warm sunshine did the trick.

It is starting to look like the makings of a garden!

To look back at how we did this click here.

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Our Final Plant List , Perennials Part One

As the time draws near for planting our butterfly garden we are busy gathering the plants that we have chosen to put in beginning the first week of July. While this is not the ideal time to be planting we have to work within the dates that the Bournelyf Special Camp operates. Our plant list and design was done by Master Gardener Apprentice Taryn Giunta and the emphasis has been put on using Natives or Native Cultivars. We have received donations from other Master Gardeners, local nurseries, and also have been growing some plants from seed. We are buying the majority of our plants from nurseries however. I have discussed some of these plants in detail in previous posts and others I will discuss in more detail here.

1. Achillea millefollium: Commonly known as Yarrow, a cultivar of this plant ‘Terra cotta’  was covered in this previous post. We will be planting approximately 10 of this species although it is not this specific cultivar. We were lucky enough to receive these as a donation. Yarrow is a hardy and versatile perennial with fernlike leaves and it blooms in various colors including red, pink, salmon, yellow, and white. Because it is easy to grow, tolerates dry conditions, and attracts butterflies it will work well in our garden.

2. Asclepias tuberosa : Butterfly Milkweed was covered in this post. It is a must for the Monarch Butterfly. An interesting fact about this species, sometimes called Orange Milkweed,  is that it does not have the milky sap that we associate with Milkweeds. It has a tough root which Native Americas often chewed for pleurisy and other respiratory problems and so it is also commonly referred to as Pleurisy Root.  We will be planting five of this species.

3. Agastache foeniculumCommonly known as anise hyssop, we have had a donation of four of these plants and we will be adding one of the cultivar ‘Blue Fortune’. The leaves and the  tiny blue flowers of this plant smell and taste of anise. It actually is from the mint family or Lamiaceae. This is a herbaceous perennial that grows from 1-4′ high by one foot wide in zones 4-9. It is propagated easily by seed or root division and does self seed. The two lipped spiked flowers are attractive to butterflies, bees and birds. The cultivar ‘Blue Fortune‘  is long flowering, heat and drought tolerant, and insect and disease resistant. It is a hybrid of a species native to the US and Korea.

4. Baptista australis ‘Blueberry Sundae’: Commonly known as False Indigo, we will be using the ‘Blueberry Sundae’ cultivar. You can click to read more here. This is a deer resistant plant which is helpful since our garden’s location is in an area where deer are prevalent.  We are planting five of the false indigo.

5. Clethra ainfolia ‘Hummingbird’: Commonly called sweet pepper bush or summer sweet, we previously discussed the cultivar ‘Sixteen Candles’ here.  ‘Hummingbird‘ is hardy in zones 3-9 and grows to a height of 2-4, spreading from 3-5’.  It has creamy white blooms that appear  on 3-5″ racemes (spikes) from July-August. Like ‘Sixteen Candles’ this cultivar is also compact and slow spreading and it likes to be in full sun to part shade. It prefers medium to wet soil. Plusses for use in our garden are its size, attractiveness to butterflies and bees, the fragrance of its flowers, and good fall color (yellow). It also offers winter interest with spikes of dark brown seed capsules. This plant is also recommended for Rain Gardens. We will plant two.

6. Coreopsis grandiflora/lanceolata ‘Baby Sun’ and  Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’: Tickseed ‘Creme Brûlée’ was discussed in this previous post. We were unable to locate this cultivar however. ‘Baby Sun‘ is a herbaceous perennial native cultivar hardy in zones 4-9. It requires full sun and grows quickly to 15-20″ tall by 1’ wide. It blooms from late spring through summer, but deadheading is highly recommended to encourage rebloom into fall. It needs to be watered in periods of really dry weather. Propagation is from seed and rootball division. We will be planting four. Zagreb‘ or whorled tickseed is a thread leaf coreopsis with bright yellow flowers and delicate green foliage. It is hardy in zones 5-8 and grows in dense clumps from 8″ to 1.5’ tall. They can bloom from late spring to late summer and sometime until first frost. Shearing them in mid summer encourages fall rebloom. This perennial spreads by rhizomes and self seeding but does not become annoyingly invasive. ‘Zagreb’ is a native cultivar in our area. Coreopsis are attractive to butterflies and deer and rabbit resistant. The name Tickseed comes from the appearance of the blooms when they go to seed.

7. Echinacea purpurea –  ‘Kim’s Knee High’ and ‘ Summer Sky’: The Eastern purple coneflower, sometimes called Hedge coneflower is a frequently seen perennial in our region. It is easy to grow, and heat and drought tolerant.

The flowers occur singly at the top of the stems and they have domed, purplish brown, spiny centers surrounded by drooping petals. The stems are smooth and 2-5′ with rough, scattered leaves.

It likes dry, well-drained soil and sunny to partially shaded conditions. It is attractive to pollinators including butterflies, native bees and hummingbirds.

The photo below  captured just one of the bees attracted to the ‘Summer Sky’ cultivar in the nursery I have on my deck where I am babysitting plants that will become part of our Bournelyf Butterfly Garden.

This cultivar is quite fragrant and heat and drought tolerant. I grows 3 to 3.5′ high and requires 18″ spacing. It is hardy in zones 4a to 9b. Propagation is through division.

The ‘Kim’s Knee High’ cultivar shown below is 1 to 2′ in height with a 1 to 2′ spread.. Bloom time is June through August and it enjoys the same conditions as other purple cone flowers, It will work well in our garden because it is shorter and more compact than many purple coneflower cultivars and like other cultivars it is adaptable to conditions like drought, heat, humidity and poor soil. Also deadheading is not required, although it improves it’s appearance.

We will be planting 5 of the ‘Kim’s Knee High’ and 3 of the ‘Summer Sky’.

Fun fact: The genus Echinacea is from the Greek echino which means hedgehog. This is a related to the spiny center of it’s flowers.

8. Eupatorium dubium Baby Joe’: Commonly called Joe Pye Weed this cultivar was discussed in the post Native Plants Part Four. We will be planting two of  ‘Baby Joe’ and two of an unknown cultivar although it is described as only grown to 2-4′ in height. Because the Joe Pye Weed can get quite tall in some cases, we wanted to go with the shorter version for our garden. Below is a photo of the cultivar ‘Little Joe’ which is another small cultivar.

I will cover the rest of our final plant list in future posts.

Anise Hyssop Fact Sheet

Asclepias tuberosa

Herb Profiles Anise Hyssop

Missouri Botanical Garden, Anise Hyssop

Missouri Botanical Garden,  Clethra alnifolia; ‘Hummingbird

Monrovia Baby Sun Tickseed

North Creek Nurseries Coreopsis ‘Zagreb’

OSU Clethra alnifolia Paghat’s Garden

USDA Anise Hyssop

Wildflower Organization

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