Shady Way Gardens Bits and Briefs October 2003
BUGS & BUTTERFLIES

OCTOBER

They’re back!!  No, not the winter visitors, but the fall visitors.  BUGS! BUGS! BUGS! Namely, whiteflies (clouds of white fluttery things on backs of leaves), leaf miners (squiggly things in leaves), flea beetles (millions of tiny holes in leaves), worms (chewed up leaves), grasshoppers (big holes in leaves).  All these big and little nasties seem to make their debut just as we’re gearing up for fall and winter veggies.  They really love cole crops (Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Brussel Sprouts, Bok Choy, Cauliflower, etc.).  Whiteflies are particularly fond of Lantana and Hibiscus.  What to do?  Well, you can just live with them until the weather cools down or resort to any number of chemical means.  Blasting off leaves with water in the early morning will disrupt whiteflies and flea beetles but won’t get rid of them.

ON GOSSAMER WINGS

Bugs that many people do like and desire to encourage are butterflies, those creatures on gossamer wings(…or is that something else??…).  Watching them drifting and flittering quietly from colorful flower to colorful flower brings us back to nature and seems to soften our worldly woes.   

Creation of a legitimate garden for butterflies requires two types of plants:   those that produce flowers whose nectar the butterflies feed on, and those that produce foliage that the butterfly larvae (WORMS!) feed on.  We all love the former, but to many people the latter plants are the dark side of the butterfly garden.  They are quite unnerved watching voracious hordes of caterpillars chowing down their plants into naked stems.  Just try to remember that all those disgusting worms have to eat in order to become beautiful butterflies for your viewing pleasure.  Today’s disgusting sight becomes tomorrow’s beautiful delight!

There is a wealth of butterfly and caterpillar attracting plants.  WE have lists available at the nursery.  Also, the Arizona Native Plant Society booklet DESERT BUTTERFLY GARDENING is super and packed with information and photos.  In addition we’ve set up a special table for some of these plants.  It seems that just about any flower will attract some type of butterfly, but they have their favorites.  Lantana, though agonizingly common, is a butterfly plant par excellence.  One of its many visitors for nectar is the Giant Swallowtail whose larvae feed exclusively on Citrus leaves.  They look like fresh bird droppings and are called Orange Dogs.  Any type of Milkweed (Asclepias sp.) is an excellent nectar and larval plant.  Something we did not know is that Monarch Butterflies, who love Milkweeds, are not common here.  Instead we have a smaller version, the Queen Butterfly, a year round resident.  Both native and non native Passion Vines (Passiflora sp.) provide food for the Gulf Fritillary, a large orange and black butterfly.  The adults are not interested in the flowers, just the leaves for laying their eggs.  Several years ago we had a large Passion Vine completely decimated by their caterpillars but the leaves grew right back.  Since that year nothing has ever eaten the leaves again.  Guess the Fritillaries didn’t make it here.  Another plant for larvae only is Frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora). We don’t think there’s a prince hiding in this plant so you won’t mind if the worms eat it.  Anyway, for more inspiration come check out the plants on the butterfly table.

HOT POTS?

Got a pot in a hot spot?  Want to spruce up the base bases of those boring boulders in  your desert landscape?  Plant some Rain Lilies (Zephyranthes sp.  i.e. ‘flowers of the western wind’)  These charming clumps of little bulbs are reminiscent of something back east, except that they bloom on and off throughout our hot summer and fall and will survive and forgive you for lots of missed waterings.  There are quite a few kinds and the crocus-like flowers come in white, pink, rose, yellow and peach shades.  Try ‘em.  You’ll like ‘em.

OCTOBER SEEDS

Plant these seeds in October

Beets, Carrots, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Mustard Greens, Peas, Radish, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Fava Beans, Turnips, Wild Flowers

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Web Comments george@mswn.com September 13, 2004 © Shady Way Nursery 2004