I've been gone this week, attending the 2010 Independent Garden Center Show (IGC) in Chicago with Mom, and while I'm totally exhausted from the activities, a good time was had by all and I'm planning on doing it again next summer. There will be much more about the show in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned!
One of the first things I did when I got home Friday night was to take a walk through the garden. Four days away makes for many changes and it's fun to see them. The garden phlox was blooming! I'd been lamenting the fact that it hadn't bloomed since I planted it two years ago, and wondered what I was doing wrong. Beautiful foliage, but no blooms.
I'd seen so many pretty blooms posted by others online, including some in my own zone, so I assumed that mine weren't going to bloom again this summer. But right before I left for Chicago, I noticed flower buds on the two largest plants. Now those are in full 'Blue Boy' glory:
|Phlox paniculata 'Blue Boy'|
|When I walked out to see if this phlox was as fragrant as our wild phlox (it isn't), an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail was sipping nectar!|
They're actually lavender, perhaps a bit periwinkle, as many 'blue' flowers are. I'm thrilled to have this blooming in our garden - the first phlox ever.
As I walked further on out to Max's Garden to survey things, Lily accompanied me as she usually does, but was quickly distracted by something. She sat very still, with an unwavering stare at something between the two tree stumps we use as resting spots under the willow tree. I walked over to see, expecting it to be a small moth or butterfly. She's very good at chasing them and she usually catches them, unfortunately, and eats them.
But it wasn't a moth. Not exactly. It was the largest caterpillar I've ever seen. And you know I've seen (and raised) some BIG ones! I thought the Imperial Moth caterpillars were big, but this one had those beat, if not in length, certainly in circumference.
I picked it up and took it inside to show Romie, then looked it up online. I'd not seen one like this in real life before, but its blue projections looked familiar to me. It's the caterpillar of the giant silkworm moth, Cecropia. The Cecropia moth is the largest native North American moth, with a wingspan of nearly six inches.
This caterpillar will overwinter here, wrapped up in a leaf, forming a silk cocoon, attached to a branch, stem or trunk of a tree or shrub. A leaf isn't always used, however. I released the caterpillar after a short photo session and we haven't spotted him since, though we know he's there somewhere.
I've seen a Cecropia moth, but it's been decades ago, and never on our property. Obviously, there are a lot of native life cycles going on in our gardens that we've never been privy to before this summer! First, the Imperial and now the Cecropia.