my very own field of dreams

open the newspaper, surf the internet, read a magazine, it doesn’t matter which you do to stay informed. when you do, though, you will most likely hear another story of disappearing wildlife due to diminishing habitats.  as a gardener, i take the responsibility of providing a natural setting for all types of wildlife seriously.  we do not use synthetic pesticides and we purposely add native host plants to our landscape.  
as a child, i would see monarch butterflies all summer long.  while living in california, i went on a trail ride with my mother in law.  it was one of many trail rides through the headlands of marin, and as we came down the trail into a valley, we encountered migrating monarchs.  it was an amazing sight to be seen; everywhere you looked were monarchs fluttering by as they headed south.  luckily, the horses didn’t mind them and we were able to just take in the view.  twenty years later, i can still recall the excitement of watching them and knowing that they were headed to mexico powered only by their delicate wings.
these days, so few monarchs come through my yard because their numbers have declined drastically.   one factor is the disappearing environment that they need.  mainly they need a specific host plant, milkweed, for the larvae to feed on.  with the need for housing and all that goes with it, lots of open fields of wild flowers and plants like milkweed have disappeared.  it is with this knowledge that my husband and i have planted milkweed, asclepias syriaca, in our yard.  

we started out with a few plants from seeds that i purchased from easy wildflowers.  it took a couple of years for the plants to mature but when they did, they began blooming.  it never ceases to amaze me just how wonderful “weeds” can be.  a close up view of the flowers is surprising; they are beautiful.

they look like little shooting stars from the side view.  but even more surprising is the scent.  milkweed has one of the most potent scents in my garden.  i snipped a few of the clusters off and put them in water in my living room and within a short time, the entire room was heavy with the perfume of milkweed.  then my husband came home and quickly learned that he is allergic to them.  out went the blooms…

the plants spread quickly by sending out runners underground.  if you do not want them popping up in your landscape, i suggest you plant them in pots.  we want them to fill this otherwise useless strip of property between our yard and the house next door so we have let them run all over.

we see many butterflies coming to the plants but we are still waiting for monarchs.

another type of milkweed is common butterfly weed.  this is asclepias turberosa and the seeds can also be found on easy wildflowers website.

the foliage is very different but we have had monarchs on them in the past, just not the last several years.

one visitor we have had in abundance is the milkweed bug.  they do not do much damage to the plants but make a nuisance of themselves around the yard.  they are often confused with box elder bugs but they are not nearly as pesky.

the story goes, if you build it, they will come.  the plants are in the garden and i will wait, with fingers crossed for the monarchs to come…

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