Garden Stories (#3)

Any of you who talked with me last summer know the great lengths I went to in order to establish milkweed in my backyard.

Since my groundhog always munches down the common milkweed, I had decided to bring in some other varieties. When my hole-digging was hampered by a monster slab of old foundation material buried about a foot below the surface, I built a retaining wall to raise the bed above it. My milkweed had to have good soil and room for its roots.

And, of course, there is no giving up on milkweed. That would be giving up on monarchs and I refuse to consider that.

(As I have written elsewhere, monarchs are to me much more than one more pretty butterfly. They are one of the proofs of the existence of God.)

So I was overjoyed this year when we had an early spring and the milkweed, all three varieties, emerged from the soil, healthy and anxious to reach skyward. Despite my best efforts, the common milkweed was, of course, eaten. But the swamp milkweed and the butterfly weed flourished.

It was a veritable banquet for the royal offspring, with plenty of nectar plants to nourish their hungry parents.

But then, something went wrong. No one showed up for the feast.

I shouldn’t say no one. The large milkweed bugs were early arrivals, not shy about consuming their share.

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Once the milkweed bloomed, our dear little cabbage whites stopped in for a sip of nectar.

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Though glad to feed the multitudes, I kept wondering: where are the monarchs? Checking other neighborhood gardens, I concluded that they just aren’t here.

Almost two weeks ago, I was visiting a rural nature preserve southeast of Cleveland and saw a single monarch, its wings tattered and worn.

Not only did he allow me to receive his image, he whispered a message to me, asking me to disseminate it for him.

Click here to see this brave monarch and his message. You’ll arrive at my little Zazzle store (which I’m afraid is much-neglected) and discover how his image and message have been made into a post card.

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