The idea of cleaning up all the dead plants out of the garden in the Fall has been so drilled into us that it is almost second nature. There are a certain amount of things to do in a garden in the Fall, but second-guessing nature’s usage of plants shouldn’t be one of them. Leaving seedheads standing provides birds with something to eat when scavenging becomes difficult – and for a perch. Not being so radical about cutting back or pulling out plants that don’t look as good as new may provide you with pleasant surprises. For instance, last month I saw that milkweed plants had been eaten down by Monarch butterfly larvae until there wasn’t a leaf on them. The caterpillers were gone and there were a couple of the beautiful Monarch butterflies landing on the lantana and butterfly bush for a drink. I left the plants, and sure enough, they produced more leaves. Then this week, the week before Thanksgiving – so late in the season – I happened to look at the milkweed and saw that it was bare again.
Then I took a closer look.
And then I stared.
One one milkweed plant there were well over fifty Monarch caterpillars, and on a smaller plant over twenty.
They were hurrying to eat what they could.
Many wouldn’t make it through metamorphosis this late in the season, but many will.
However I’ve since seen these beautiful creatures all over the yard looking for suitable places to fasten on to, to form their green and gold cases and try their luck at metamorphosing. Perhaps there will be Monarchs in the yard at Christmastime.
I’m glad that I’m a sloppy gardener.