This beautiful dragonfly would hawk an insect out of the air and then return to rest on the peach.
I looked around and thought, this is my version of a peaceable kingdom. Sure, I have days when I think that the aphids and the gophers are conspiring to defeat me, but mostly I am in awe of how everything seems to work together to keep the garden (and me) healthy.
Let me introduce you to some of my friends. They're not flashy like butterflies, and maybe they're not your favorite garden dwellers, but if you get to know them, you'll realize how much they help to keep your garden thriving. I'd love to share their stories with you and would love it if YOU would share their stories with a child in your life. Gardens and children belong together. They make our lives richer in every way.
Frogs serenade us on warm spring evenings, but they're not just songsters; they also rid the garden of pests.
I'm always cautious about washing aphids off my plants. When I look closely, I often find these aphid wolves feasting on the culprits. These look like little crocodiles with orange spots. They're the young of lady bird beetles (aka ladybugs). The aphid wolves are voracious, and they can out eat their parents (but isn't that true of lots of kids?).
Green Lacewings are gorgeous, but they're not predators; they feed on nectar and pollen. When you see one out in the garden at night, be sure to shine a flashlight on it. The large eyes will glow golden-orange. Lacewing eggs, which are small, pale, oblongs, are attached to leaves by long "stalks." I always think they look like some sort of undersea coral dweller. The eggs hatch and the young of the lacewings, which look like an alligator with pincers, will feed endlessly on mites, aphids, eggs, and more.
My granddaughter Sara May and I watched this elegant caterpillar, which looks like a fine piece of enameled jewelry, turn into a gorgeous chrysalis, then an Anise Swallowtail butterfly. What a lesson of the circle of life.
I taught Sara to gently (GENTLY is the key word) touch the top of the caterpillars head. See the little orange spots on top? They are osmeterium (also called stink glands). They pop up (a great scare tactic and threat) and emit a strong odor, which discourages predators.
A Monarch caterpillar. Oh, what a life this little beauty has ahead. Imagine being a fragile butterfly and migrating thousands of miles during your life.
Thousands of miles on paper-thin wings. How can we overlook such miracles?
Bumblebees make me happy. Look at this woolly bumble sipping nectar from a Echeveria bloom. Look closely at those legs. Can you see the golden pollen basket on the rear leg?, The bumble will pack the basket with nutritious pollen and carry it back to her nest. Can you see the long tongue (really a proboscis, which is a sucking tube). You can close your eyes in the garden and hear the deep rumble of a bumble bee. These native pollinators wear a soft, hairy jacket. They're able to get out into the garden on a cold day, long before honeybees are up and about.
This beautiful alligator lizard patrols my garden and gobbles pests, larvae, and eggs. I love him (or her) and have seen this lizard dip into a tiny pond and swim.
My garden abounds with fence lizards. I love watching them hunt, do their push-ups in the sunshine, and bask like sunbathers. Yesterday, as I watered, this guy ran into the spray from the hose and took a long shower.
I don't have a great photo of a toad, but I do have this little painting I did of one in my herb garden. These plumpy-bumpy critters are some of the best pest patrollers you can have in your garden, eating dozens of bugs, centipedes, and slugs a day. And who can resist that wise old face and gorgeous golden eyes? I sure can't. Having a toad as a neighbor is a blessing.
Well friends, this is a short posting, but I have assignments to finish today and must get back to work.
Thank you for all your support, your e-mails, Facebook ramblings, Pinterest input, etc. Phew, it is tough to keep up with you all.
One of my favorite mail order companies, Imagine Childhood, did a wonderful interview with me and posted it on their blog. If you visit Imagine Childhood and leave a comment before Thursday, you will be eligible to win one of my books AND a pottery toad house.
Sending love across the miles, OH, and come hear me talk about organic gardening, nature, and publishing on Saturday, June 2nd at 2 P.M. at the Curious Cup Bookstore at 925 Linden, Carpinteria (near Santa Barbara). California! Y'all come!
P.S. Please drop by my recent Lowe's blog and leave a comment!