Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia

Posts tagged ‘Butterflies’

The Monarchs have emerged!

Yes, the fully formed butterflies have ‘arrived’ in the Gippygarden!

Butterfly No.1 letting her wings dry and stretch.

Yes, two beautiful Monarch/Wanderer butterflies have emerged. The first appeared the very next day after the last post. The slightly transparent chrysalis became increasingly transparent over the next 12 hours and suddenly a new butterfly was here. The second butterfly made her appearance today. They are both female.

Butterfly No2 moving outdoors

I’d love to know where they will go from here. The weather has started to cool a fair bit and it only just scraped over the 16 degrees suggested before letting the second butterfly free today. Will they overwinter near by? Will they head back to New South Wales or Queensland? I wish I had a crystal ball and could follow their journey!

Have a great weekend,



Who is this exotic visitor?

Do you recognise me?

here, have a better look…you can click on any of my photos to see me better.

Many American gardener’s – and those living further north in Australia – probably know this visitor well, but it is a real delight in my part of Australia to actually find a Danaus plexippus (known to us as a Wanderer and to others as a Monarch) caterpillar in the garden. They do come here, but are certainly not common.

Originally these butterflies came from much further afield as they are introduced from the Americas. I’ve only just started reading up on this, but there does not seem to be consensus about how they came to appear in Sydney in the mid 1800’s.  Some think they came here under their own steam and some think that they were intentionally introduced. There is an interesting article discussing thoughts on early migration here.

We had planted a Milkweed/Swan Plant in the hope that we might attract some Wanderers but didn’t actually expect to see any. In the end we transferred a couple from a friend’s nearby garden who has had Milkweeds (and Wanders) before, so we guess they knew to come looking. They settled in very well to the task of chewing up our plant and we have been absolutely captivated by watching a couple of  the beautiful (and surprisingly tiny) gold spotted chrysalis developing and becoming increasingly transparent.

They are now at the point where we can actually see the colour and shape of the butterfly’s new wings developing and from what I’ve read, its emergence is not far off now, so time to transfer it to safe lodgings for its emergence before releasing it back outside.

While ours have not emerged just yet, we were stopped in our tracks out walking a couple of days ago when an adult male  Wanderer butterfly hovered in front of us for a few moments before landing on a nearby tree.

If you are interested in reading more about the Wander butterfly in Australia try here and here.



Autumn Embracing the Garden

The nights are turning quite chilly in the Gippy Garden now and the days are a much cooler 14 to 16 degrees celsius. The evenings are drawing in quickly and the time between getting home from work and dusk falling is getting ever shorter.

The good news is that we are getting the occasional clear cool blue day amongst days of lovely soaking rain.

There is a little autumn colour in the garden, but not a big show…just glimpses here and there…

Oak leaves changing... I'm not sure which type of oak it is.

The last of the golden autumn leaves of the river birch.

The only problem now is that my lack of planning for some colour in the garden beyond the brief autumn show is becoming quickly apparent. There are only a few spots of brightness to be found here and there. But bright and cheerful they are and I delight in visiting them whenever I can.

'Hocus Pocus' Pansy catching the last rays of the setting sun.

I’m growing a few pansies and violas from seed, but as they are still tiny, I  haven’t been able to resist buying some older seedlings to brighten the place up a bit. ‘Hocus Pocus’ is a new variety (here at least) this year and so is ‘Pink Fizz’ which I will show you soon when the buds open a bit more.

Bright and cheery little 'Yellow Buttons'

I’m very proud of my Yellow Buttons plant (Helichrysum ramosissimum). It’s as ‘common as muck’ and said to thrive on neglect. The seedling was all but dead when I bought it, so clearly I have been able to provide it with just the right measure of neglect 😉

It is a larval food plant for the Australian Painted Lady (Vanessa kershawi) and a few of our skippers, as is the Golden Everlasting below. I haven’t spotted any eggs or caterpillars on either yet, but as there have been a few butterflies fluttering about both plants I think I should probably look a little harder.

Greenish Grass Darts (Ocybadistes walkeri) on the Golden Everlasting (Bracteantha bracteata).

I keep thinking that I’ve seen just about the last of the butterflies for the year, but then we get another sunny day and there are a few more fluttering about the butterfly garden making the most of the remaining blooms. I’ll be enjoying both blooms and butterflies for as long as they last!

Feeling Seedy

‘Feeling Seedy’ is probably not quite the right expression for how I’m feeling, as in my part of the world when you say ‘I’m feeling a bit seedy’ it usually means you’ve had too much to drink the night before. Or, if you are referring to something as ‘A bit seedy’ you might mean something is of ill repute. I haven’t been out drinking and my repute is intact, I think. But I do feel yuck.

Tiny little Spring Onions getting underway.

I’m referring to seeds only because I’m grasping for a gardening link to feeling run down so I can feel ok about moaning about feeling miserable on a gardening blog. After all, I haven’t been doing much in the garden lately apart from the occasional bit of mooching around and sneezing at the ladybirds. I’ve also sat and stared at a Cabbage White butterfly (Pieris rapae) that came and laid eggs on my rocket seedlings that are barely as big as she is. Cheeky, but intriguing.

The first time I get to see a butterfly laying eggs and it's on my poor little rocket seedlings! Figures!

Just when I thought I was getting over a run of coughs and colds I’ve ended up with a sinus infection that has blown up one side of my face to the point where I look like I’ve been punched in the eye. My face is even slightly bruised. It is every bit as attractive as you are imagining!

The expression ‘I’m feeling under the weather’ is probably more  appropriate to how I feel. But that’s another weird expression, considering we’re all under the weather wherever we are and however we feel. You never hear anyone saying they feel ‘On top of the weather’ do you?

OK, so I am a little feverish and slightly delirious. Sorry.

Sweet Pea and Hollyhocks. Thanks to Barbara at her blog 'Gardening in Mannheim, Germany' for the transplantable toilet roll tip!

I’m not sure how seeds came to be linked with poor health or reputation at all, given they are such a symbol of potential. But maybe my reference to seeds is not so far off track on this occasion. One thing I have managed to do over the last few weeks is sow a few autumn/winter/I hope it will grow regardless seeds.

When the sun comes out I go and sit next to them to marvel at new life as the seedings emerge and mentally note their daily changes. Watching them grow makes me feel content and that all will be well again soon.

That’s assuming that I don’t wake up tomorrow looking like someone has punched me it the other eye.

Beautiful little Beets went in a little on the late side, but I'm still hoping all will be well

A New Butterfly Visitor!

Possible eastern Iris-Skipper posing on a tap for perspective!

A couple of days ago this little skipper fluttered past me in my butterfly garden at high-speed. It caught my eye as it was quite different to the many orange-brown shaded skippers that visit. It was also a little bigger. I didn’t think I’d get a good look at it, but it was kind enough to pose on the garden tap for me for a few moments.

I’m not exactly sure which skipper it is, my best guest from having a look at my trusty ‘Field Guide to the Butterflies of Australia’ (M.F. Braby) is an Eastern Iris-Skipper Mesodina halyzia. I’ll have to see if I can confirm.

I also forgot to mention last time how wonderful the online resource that Bernie from My Dry Tropics Garden put me on to has turned out to be. It is Flora for Fauna if you missed her comment earlier. As the name suggests, it is not just about planting for butterflies.

For someone who is just starting to get their head around botanic names having something that can give you suggestions for the right larval plants at a click of a button is wonderful, so thanks again Bernie!

Having said that, I’m still going to persevere with teaching myself at least a few botanic names!

The Butterfly and Bee garden starting to buzz!

A slightly ragged Common Brown (Heteronympha merope merope) visiting the garden today.

The space down the side of the house is gradually starting transformation into the butterfly and bee garden. There’s not too much to see plant wise yet, as I have to discipline myself to focus on cleaning up not only this area, but the rest of the garden too.

However, once I’ve put in a few hours wrangling Couch grass and Ivy I let myself off the hook to spend a little time to work on setting up the butterfly and bee garden.

The butterfly and bee 'garden to be'

Here’s my progress report, please feel free to point out mistakes with Botanical names, I’m just starting to get the hang of these and realise that I’m probably making many mistakes!

Nectar Plantings


The fact we already have a well established mauve Buddleia (in foreground of photo above) is what started attracting Butterflies to our garden in the first place. The bees love it too.

Lavandula Multifida – ‘Spanish Eyes’ or ‘Canary Island’ Lavender.

Lavender planted next to a shallow water dish and some resting rocks for butterflies

I found this beautiful little soft ferny Lavender which has very dainty little tube shaped flowers and couldn’t resist it. I’m thinking the butterflies and bees will love it too.

Monarda didyma – Bergamot

Said to be a favourite herb for bees that I’m hoping will flower soon. I’ll post a picture when it does.

Larval Plantings

I’ve been following up my research on the food plant preferences of the caterpillar of Vanessa kershawi – The Australian Painted Lady by planting:

Bracteantha Bracteata – Golden Everlasting Daisy

Golden Everlasting

For anyone unfamiliar with an everlasting daisy it is a low growing plant that loves the sun. The apparent petals are actually bracts and you can find a lot more information about them here. I hope to grow a few more colourful  varieties from seed next spring.

Chrysocephalum apiculatum – Yellow Buttons.

Sad little Yellow Buttons

A Native plant commonly grown as a low maintenance and drought tolerant ground-cover. It’s meant to be as common as muck but I had a bit of trouble finding it and bought quite a sad looking little seedling just because I was so happy to have finally found it! It is meant to have a mass of small cheerful yellow flowers. We’ll see if it cheers up!

A Simple Plan…

Scentimental Rose in bud (close up!)

I admit it;  I’ve been looking at other gardening blogs and have been caught up in dreams of a beautiful garden with ‘just so’ garden beds and spectacular plantings.  The green eyes have come out! Is it blog envy? I don’t know, but I do know that I take photos of my flowers close up so no one can see the horror that surrounds them!

Today I realised I need a plan. A very simple plan. My garden is never going to be a show piece, but it could be my haven.

The reality is that if I look at my garden as a whole I quickly become demoralised. Think of a garden thug that could grow in the area my garden is in and I’ve got it in spades. Ivy, I’ve got it. Blackberry, the very bane of my existence. Running bamboo, check. Couch grass growing in plentiful supply, yup (but the good news is the Common Brown butterfly is said to love it!)

So, I am now thinking about it in manageable chunks. The Butterfly Garden is my first ‘chunk’ and on the hit list, apart from an awful lot of weeding, is the Ivy.

The before shot. Is the fence holding the ivy up or is the ivy holding the fence up?

Part way through, starting to see the extent of the damage.

Just in case anyone else was as silly as me to doubt the damage done by ivy

90% complete, fence still holding on, just.

After a long days hacking at the ivy and wrangling the couch grass I did allow myself the pleasure of the putting in the first planting toward the butterfly garden. My butterfly book tells me that apart from a whole range of nettles (please no, no more weeds!) the Australian Admiral butterfly is fond of ‘Baby Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii) as a food plant, so in it went in a shady spot today.

'Baby tears' in a shady, but possibly too dry position under a Buddliea

Last of all is a photo of a pest I’d like to identify. I’m sure it’s demonstrating my ignorance,  but I have no idea what it is. There are hundereds of these in my garden and we call them ‘flick moths’. Nothing comes up in a search for that nick name and my searches for moths have not revealed anything yet.