For the last few months we’ve been housing monarch caterpillars inside our home. We find them in our small butterfly garden out front – where the milkweed wildly blooms. We watch them grow and transform over time (two to three weeks), until a butterfly finally emerges from its chrysalis, unfolding it’s wings, drying them out until it’s ready to re-join nature.
The California Natives
After removing the front lawn, we planted several California natives: A Western Redbud tree (cercis occidentalis), yellow and orange Kangaroo paws (anigozanthos), Sea Lavender (limonium), Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima), Lion’s Tail (leonotis), sunflowers, California Poppies (from seed) and several milkweeds (asclepias curassavica) in scarlet, silky gold and “balloon”. Because we also wanted it to be a functional garden, there is lavender, parsley, oregano, basil, purple basil, fennel, te de burro, lemon verbena, mint, rosemary, thyme, lemon balm, a few hot peppers.
Within a few days, the butterflies began visiting.
Seeing monarchs swirl around was beautiful. A friend showed us how to find the eggs and caterpillars and how to care for them indoors. It was a fun project to share with my 5yr-old son (who also loves observing and releasing them), but over time, it’s been me who has become fascinated with their movements, patterns, and extreme body changes, following the development of each and every one (unfortunately not all make it, for different natural reasons.)
As I work on my next book project, I find myself relocating to the living room table everyday, close to the tall backyard window where we keep their little habitat. It’s become a source of mindful entertainment, relaxing, ever changing, and allowing me to gather my thoughts when looking at the dialogue on the screen gets tiresome.
Who knows what more will come of this experience, but so far, it’s incredibly rewarding.
Plant the natives, and they will come.