Amaranthus caudatus – Love Lies Bleeding, is a beautiful annual plant. Mine self seeds and comes back every year in the same spot. It is a heavy plant, bending over in summer storms when laden with flowers.
The flower heads droop down, in a deep magenta/crimson shade. Often the strands will touch the ground.
My Love Lies Bleeding grows in full sun. When the flowers reach a good length I often cut them where they join the stem, rubber band them together, and hang them in a dark closet. Harvesting and drying them is that easy…but wait…I should have put something beneath them to capture the seeds that fall out as they dry.
I have also dried the flowers in my dehydrator.
One drawback is the inevitable chewed leaves on the plant. The lush foliage is attractive to bugs, and is also a green that can be eaten by people. The leaves can be used like spinach and sauteed. The seeds are a type of grain and can be dried, cooked, and eaten like porridge. They can be ground into flour. Amaranth is gluten free.
I love this unique, old-fashioned cottage garden annual. Love Lies Bleeding is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.
Osprey Nest in Fortescue, New Jersey.
I was delighted when I bicycled past this beautiful home built alongside the Delaware Bay. I wonder if the ospreys and their chicks are noisy. I saw at least one chick, and most likely there is another inside the protective barrier of sticks. We also saw a Bald Eagle flying over the bay on the day I took the photograph.
Althought I’m a bit late, this post is part of the Skywatch Friday Challenge.
I had the finest of dreams, or was it a vision of sorts? One recent afternoon, while I was about my daily routines, a tiredness fell over me, and I laid down for just a moment, a catnap perhaps, a moment of rest. In that in-between time of sleep and wakefulness, I suddenly saw/dreamt of a woman, a beautiful, lovely woman, wrapped up in gossamer folds of some type, her body covered, but her face and hair fully exposed. Her hair was long, dark and luxurious, it was stirring, as if touched by a breeze. Her eyes were glowing and captivating, and I realized she was familiar to me. Love, pure love, suddenly crossed her face. I have only seen this pure, face-altering love in children, my sons, my grandchildren. They would catch sight of me, sometimes from afar, and love would alter their expression, in a way that is hard to describe, but once you’ve experienced it, you never forget the gift of that moment. I suddenly realized the beautiful woman was my grandmother who ‘fell asleep in the Lord’ several years ago at age ninety-three. She was altered, transformed, but recognizable too. I suddenly realized the perfect reality of the verse in the Bible—
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. I Thessalonians 4:15-18
When those who have ‘fallen asleep’ rise again, when the Lord wakens them, when the trumpet of God sounds, they shall rise first. We who are alive will then be caught up with them and meet our Lord in the air…we shall be with the Lord through eternity.
Did I dream of my grandmother transformed because of watching the butterflies transforming? I think it factored into it. I was concentrating on what was admirable and lovely by watching caterpillars transform and fly away with the beautiful blue of sky as a backdrop. God gives us a clue, I think, of how perfect his transforming power is in the metamorphosis of a caterpillar. I feel blessed to have witnessed these beautiful moments, the transforming of the butterflies, and a blessed reminder of the Rapture in a dream
As in all aspects of life sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Now and then, a problem arises, and I’ve had a few with this latest batch of butterflies. I related a bad choice a caterpillar made in Part III of Raising Black Swallowtail Butterflies, a chrysalis on a screen door spring is a terrible place to go through a metamorphosis. Sure enough, my prediction proved true, and after a storm shook the door, after several slams, the girdle of the chrysalis broke loose.
I knew that if left alone, further shaking, wind, and door slams would shake loose the silken pad too. I knew I needed to attach it in an unobtrusive way so that when the butterfly emerged, the surroundings would be as lifelike as possible. I had garden string at hand, and knowing it is six strands twisted together, unwound a few inches, and used one strand to tie the chrysalis back to the door spring. It worked. I was relieved and elated when a perfect butterfly emerged.
One problem I can’t fix is a butterfly that emerges with a twisted wing. In this case the best thing I can do is place it on some nectar flowers and hope for the best.
Another problem is vacationing and raising butterflies in the same span of time. When vacation is two weeks off I stop collecting the caterpillars and concentrate on finding a way to get them to attach to something I can move outside. I found two solutions, one quite by accident.
On Father’s Day this year we had quite a few people over, and I knew that the vase of fennel and caterpillars would be a problem. The caterpillars had been dropping off and creating their chrysalis for several days, but there were quite a few that would most likely drop off on the day we had company. I placed the caterpillars in a tall box and shut the lid, keeping them safe from the many feet that would pass through the porch to the backyard. The next day I found the caterpillars had indeed dropped off the fennel. Finding nowhere to go, two of them had attached themselves to the side of the corrugated cardboard box. I was pleased, and also elated, I was able to cut off a square of this and share it with a friend who needed a magical moment. If you want to share the magic with a child or friend, this is the way to achieve it.
Vacation time arrived, I knew several mature caterpillars would be ready to drop and form their chrysalis, and most likely would emerge while we were gone. Not wanting them to starve on the screened in porch, or be eaten before they had a chance to develop if I set them free outdoors, I crafted an enclosure out of a tomato cage. I used wide crafting mesh I had left over from Halloween, and a few clothespins. It was easy to do, and I expected to find all the caterpillars forming chrysalis on the mesh. I was surprised when most chose the steel of the tomato cage instead. After metamorphosis had begun I removed the mesh and placed the cage outdoors.
While on vacation the butterflies did hatch. I was so happy when I arrived home to find all had emerged from the chrysalis and flown away, leaving just the empty shell behind.
Why do I do this you might ask. Because every time the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly I am amazed…and…if I chose to just walk away and leave them where they first hatch most get eaten by predators. Also…
If I hadn’t hatched the butterflies this year I would have missed this extra special moment…my father holding a Black Swallowtail butterfly as it was getting ready to fly. Priceless!
When the caterpillars reach their final size they tend to slow down and rest a bit. At this point they need to get rid of any food left in their bodies, and to do so means a purge. After the discharge of stomach contents, the caterpillars will be ready for the next step in life, what I call a walkabout.
The caterpillar will drop off the host plant after purging, (be prepared for a gooey mess beneath the plant) and then travel the area to find a suitable place to form a chrysalis. Don’t worry if the caterpillar climbs several feet up a wall or other tall object. Also, don’t be alarmed if they drop all the way down to the floor from their high perch. My porch is cement, and this terrible drop never seems to even stun the caterpillar. They just go on walking, searching, climbing, and exploring any object in their way.
Finally, they find a spot to transform. They spin a silken pad to secure their tail, and then spin a silken thread called a girdle to hold them steady. The Black Swallowtail caterpillars I raise harden up at this point, forming a strange, striped comma-like appearance. This stage usually lasts several hours or overnight. Suddenly, without warning, a slight thrashing motion will begin and the outer skin will be sluffed off. I’ve only managed to see this happen once or twice. Underneath the skin is a beautiful green or tan chrysalis. The color will depend on what the caterpillar has formed its chrysalis upon. I usually find the butterflies emerge within two weeks of forming the chrysalis unless they are late Autumn butterflies, in that case they will winter over and emerge in the late Spring.
Most of the caterpillars choose the window/screen area of the back porch to form a chrysalis upon. Sometimes, I lose track of their whereabouts, and then I will be surprised to suddenly find a chrysalis in a very strange place, or one outside the porch door, (there is a small opening beneath the door where they can exit if they choose) or they will completely disappear in a hidden spot and suddenly I will have an unexpected butterfly flying on the porch. I’ve included a few photos below of this year’s strange resting spots for the metamorphosis.
This one was a music lover and chose the spot to form a chrysalis beneath a window chime. When the time came, he left his melodious resting place, climbed out, dried off, and spread his wings before he flew away.
Once in a while a caterpillar will choose poorly, such as this terrible resting spot on a screen door spring. A bad choice can mean big problems, and that is a bit of a tease for Part IV.
A better title for this post would be “EATING, EATING, EATING!” The caterpillars don’t lose their appetites after they are moved into the shelter of the porch. Voracious eaters, they will take large bunches of fennel down to the stem in one day.
Before trying to save every caterpillar you see, consider if you have enough host plant for them to feed on. A few year’s ago I found some late caterpillars in Autumn. I ran out of the host plant quickly, so I went to the store and bought an organic dill plant. Little did I know that organic herb plants are often treated with organic control products. The caterpillars did not thrive. Although, these treatments will not harm humans, and are considered organic, they are deadly to caterpillars.
The black cloth beneath the vases is there to capture the frass, or in easy to understand terms, the caterpillar poop. You will be completely amazed at how much they excrete. It is hard, and bounces, so be prepared to find it in unexpected places. I put a piece of garden cloth beneath the vases and that seems to help keep it in control, and also is easy to shake out into the garden beds.
The caterpillars shed their skins several times as they grow. You can see the shedding behind the top caterpillar along the stem. They also rest for periods of time, then wake up and begin again, “Eating, eating and more eating!
As soon as I see the first Black Swallowtail butterfly flitting around the yard I begin to check the fennel plant for eggs.
Without my reading glasses on, I would never spy the rounded yellow eggs on the thin fronds of fennel. Dill, Parsley, Rue, and Fennel are a few of my garden plants that are host plants for Black Swallowtails.
When the eggs hatch, and I find small caterpillars on the plants, I bring them onto the back porch for safekeeping. You might wonder why I don’t leave them on the plant and let nature take its course. The answer is the predator bugs that share the same leafy fennel plant. Ladybug larva coexist and quickly eat anything else they find on the plant. Praying mantis babies also roam the leafy green fronds. Small spiders are a threat to newly hatched caterpillars. I know from experience, if I don’t remove the caterpillars when I first see them, the next day the numbers will be greatly diminished, even to the point of none to be found.
Before I gather the caterpillars, I always have vases of water ready to hold the host plant of fennel. Most importantly, I cover the top of the vase with some sort of barrier to keep the small cats from drowning, Unfortunately, I know from experience, they often wander into the water if the opening is left uncovered. I use garden cloth and a single rubber band. A small hole snipped in the center allows me to insert the fennel. At the start of their feeding, one frond of fennel will be enough. They will soon need several stems a day as they progress through their instars: a period of time between the caterpillar molting.
To water the fennel without removing the covering, I use a spouted water bottle that easily adds a few inches of water. The fennel is a very thirsty plant. It will stay fresh for days if the water level in the vase is kept near the top.
I never pick the small caterpillars up with my fingers when transporting them to the vased fennel. They are extremely small and easily crushed. Instead, I pull the strand of fennel they are munching on away from the plant and place it amongst the fronds of vased fennel on the porch. I check back several times a day to make sure the caterpillar has transferred to the fresher fronds.
The caterpillars will go through several instar phases on this first piece of fennel. When the fennel begins to get dry or is eaten away by the caterpillars, I fill a second, sometimes also a third vase, and place it close beside the first so that the fennel mixes into the first bunch. As they eat, and the first fennel dries up, the caterpillars move onto the fresher plants.
A great resource for Black Swallowtail Butterflies can be found on the site: Butterfly Fun Facts.
I decided it was time to create a new avatar. The unfiltered, natural photograph was too lifelike; I looked all of my 60+ years. BooHoo! I was hoping for miracles. Smile! I decided it would be fun to use Lunapic-Free Online Photo Editor and tweak the photo into something a little younger. To be honest – too much fun! I had to make myself stop or I would have played around all day. Here’s a couple of my creations with Lunapic.
Which one do you like best? If you have a chance, and a good block of time free, take a few moments to play around with these filters. It’s so much fun. My choice: I think I like the two cartoons best. I guess it brings out the child in me. I can just see the last photo as a character in an episode of The Flintstones.
Lunapic.com is a fun site to share with children.
Who would believe this gorgeous deluge of pink florets is atop the humble herb Oregano? I have quite a few Oregano plants in the front of my herb garden border. Not only flavorful, this member of the mint family is a healing herb. Oregano is a wonderful herb to use for its preventative/medicinal qualities. As with most foods and herbs, organically grown Oregano is the best choice.
Oregano florets draw pollinators by the dozens. Today, along with the honeybee, I also spotted wasps, bumblebees, cabbage white butterflies, hoverflies and sweat bees on the blossoms.
The Oregano blossoms are my entry into Cee’s Flower of the Day.
God Bless you on this Fourth of July. A terrific reminder of our heritage by one of my all-time favorites, Johnny Cash.
Are You Washed in the Blood (Elisha A. Hoffman 1878)
Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing pow’r?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you washed in the blood,
In the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you walking daily by the Savior’s side?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Do you rest each moment in the Crucified?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
When the Bridegroom cometh will your robes be white?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Will your soul be ready for the mansions bright,
And be washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Lay aside the garments that are stained with sin,
And be washed in the blood of the Lamb;
There’s a fountain flowing for the soul unclean,
Oh, be washed in the blood of the Lamb!
Charles Haddon Spurgeon/John’s Doxology
Then the apostle passes on to the second reason why he should thus magnify the Lord Jesus by saying, “And washed us from our sins in his own blood.” “Washed us.” Then we were foul; and he loved us though we were unclean. He washed us who had been more defiled than any. How could he condescend so far as to wash us? Would he have anything to do with such filthiness as ours? Would that sublime holiness of his come into contact with the abominable guilt of our nature and our practice? Yes, he loved us so much that he washed us from our sins, black as they were. He did it effectually, too: he did not try to wash us, but he actually and completely washed us from our sins.” The stains were deep and damnable; they seemed indelible, but he has “washed us from our sins.” No spot remains, though we were black as midnight. “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow,” has been realized by every believer here. But think of how he washed us— “with his own blood.” Men are chary of their own blood, for it is their life; yet will brave ones pour it out for their country or for some worthy object; but Jesus shed his blood for such unworthy ones as we are, that he might by his atonement for ever put away the iniquity of his people. At what a cost was this cleansing provided! Too great a cost I had almost said. Have you never felt at times as if, had you been there and seen the Lord of glory about to bleed to death for you, you would have said, “No, my Lord, the price is too great to pay for such a one as I am”? But he has done it; brethren, his sin-atoning work is finished for ever: Jesus has bled, and he has washed us, and we are clean beyond fear of future defilement. Shall he not have glory for this? Will we not wish him dominion for this?
Black-eyed Susans are a reliable flower in my gardens. They usually don’t last the whole summer, and often fall victim to downy mildew on the leaves, but the golden sunshine they display is worth growing them. I’ve never been able to eradicate the mildew once it starts, so my remedy is to plant a late-flowering annual nearby to take over when the Black-eyed Susan withers away. This Photograph is part of Skywatch Friday.
The plants are part of the sunflower family and will turn their faces to follow the sun. There are many varieties of this beautiful garden flower. The long stems make them a perfect choice for floral arrangements.
Black-eyed Susans are a reliable self-seeder. Let them go to seed and they will return every year.
Black-eyed Susans are part of Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.
Each year I delight in finding plant ‘volunteers’ in my garden beds. I often have unexpected bare spots in the early Summer due to the foliage of daffodils and other bulb plants dying back. These volunteers perfectly fill the empty spaces. I’m so grateful for my garden volunteers.
I’ve mentioned this tip before, but for newcomers to the blog it’s worth repeating. One of my favorite tools for transplanting volunteer plants is a putty knife. It slides right down between sidewalk cracks and lifts the small plantlets roots and all. It also digs deep and severs the roots of Dandelions, evening Primrose, and Plantain, all good weeds, but sometimes too exuberant in their growth.
I love the words Spurgeon uses in this paragraph of ‘John’s Doxology.’ Infinite Love – Immeasurable – Immutable – Pure – Perfect – Divine Love! Just reading those words out loud makes me want to run outside, throw my arms up toward the sky, and shout, “I LOVE YOU!”
THE LOVE OF JESUS IS A…
Jesus asks us to come to him with the open arms of a child. He will give us rest. He loves us, he never leaves us. He is our Savior. He is our Friend. He is the only Way to Eternal Life with the Father. Let us all spread the Good News that Jesus Christ is Lord!
Charles Haddon Spurgeon – John’s Doxology
Remember, he loves you with his own love according to his own nature. Therefore he has for you an infinite love altogether immeasurable. It is also like himself, immutable; and can never know a change. The emperor Augustus was noted for his faithfulness to his friends, whom he was slow in choosing. He used to say, “Late ere I love, long ere I leave.” Our blessed Lord loved us early, but he never leaves us. Has he not said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee”? The love of Jesus is a pure, perfect, and divine love: a love whose heights and depths none can measure. His nature is eternal and undying, and such is his love. He could not love you more; he will never love you less. With all his heart and soul and mind and strength he loves you. Come; is not that a grand excuse, if excuse is wanted, for often lifting up our hearts and voices in hearty song unto the Lord? Why should we not seven times a day exult before him, saying, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen”? Oh for new crowns for his blessed brow! Oh for new songs for his love-gifts ever new! Praise him! Praise him, all earth and heaven!
I’ve experienced several summer ‘firsts’ this week.
My plum tomatoes, grown in dollar store buckets and organic soil, have just begun to bear ripe fruit. I’m thinking of ripening these a few more days before I heat them in olive oil and a little garlic powder. Ladled over a bit of pasta, they will be a summertime treat for lunch.
I bought a few of those bargain packages of lily mixes this Spring. Usually, when I buy these mixes, the first year flowers are smallish. Oh my! This year I feel blessed because my package yeilded this amazing yellow lily. Whoo-hoo! Every time I see it I want to sing. It’s gorgeous, but the one drawback is it doesn’t have the lily scent of Stargazers and other fragrant varieties. Still…the color more than makes up for the lack of fragrance. This lily is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.
Next week, I’m hoping to write a series on how I save and bring to maturity Black Swallowtail Butterflies. I’ve shared these steps in the past on the blog, but hope to be a bit more thorough this year. I’ve discovered a few new tips quite by accident. Today, the first chrysalis yielded the treasure developing within. This is one of the best early butterflies that has ever hatched on my porch. It was huge. The Swallowtail climbed out of the chrysalis around 9:00 a.m. I have found most of this species emerges at this time . He/She dried off for near three hours and then flew toward the doorway of the porch. I opened the door. The butterfly was very strong and fit. It flew up to about twenty feet and was over the neighbors house and out of sight in less than ten seconds. Hurrah! I hope it finds a mate and creates many more generations of Swallowtails this summer.
My African Daisy plants are blooming. I’m thrilled! In mid-Spring, I sprinkled them on lightly-troweled soil within the confines of my butterfly/wildflower garden, and they are coming into bloom.
The colors are lovely, and even the foliage is a pleasing blue-grey. The buds are fun to watch as they open; I love seeing the first glimmer of color within the tightly folded interior.
I’m hoping one of the plants opens up into the rosy pink color portrayed on the seed packet. These flowers are part of Cee’s Flower of the Day challenge.
I’ve kept the seed packet in my garden notebook. I grew quite a few seeds this year from the Botanical Interests line. Everything did well, and next year they will be my first choice for seeds. I found this brand of seeds at local nurseries. They are not carried in the big box stores. Botanical Interests is having a 40% off seed sale through June 17th.
The Spruce has a great how-to article on African Daisies: How to Grow the African Daisy