Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Category: Butterfly Gardenining

There Is Nothing More Refreshing Than a Morning in September

There is nothing more refreshing than a morning in September.

One advantage of living in the North is that as soon as the calendar hits September 1, PLOP! The curtain drops! And It Turns Fall! That doesn’t happen in the South. I remember my school-teaching days in Mississippi. I remember standing out on the asphalt parking lot and waiting for the kids to load into the buses. The heat was so intense that I felt as though I was baking–literally baking–I half-expected that my flesh would begin to fall off my bones–pulled-pork style.

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In another week or two, I’ll begin singing my September Song about how we all need to book our plans to go to the Poconos to watch the leaves change in the land of endless trees and waterfalls. That is an awe-inspiring, mouth-dropping experience, but it is not what I do to recreate myself. Any trip requires packing and traveling and unpacking and packing again and traveling again and unpacking again and then, playing catch-up for several days afterward. Autumn does have a restorative power, but the best place for me to take advantage of that power is to open my back door and to simply go outside and into my garden.

“Outside the leaves on the trees constricted slightly; they were the deep done green of the beginning of autumn. It was a Sunday in September. There would only be four. The clouds were high and the swallows would be here for another month or so before they left for the south before they returned again next summer.”
― Ali Smith, The Whole Story and Other Stories

In the North, we have some hot days in summer, but summer doesn’t last as long here as it does in the South. I have laughed, saying that I believe that whoever broke the years into seasons lived in New Jersey, because in New Jersey, we have 4 distinctive seasons, and you can bank on the weather’s changing at exactly the time that it is supposed to change. September should look and feel like the beginning of fall, and that is how things are in New Jersey.

“[T]hat old September feeling, left over from school days, of summer passing, vacation nearly done, obligations gathering, books and football in the air … Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year’s mistakes had been wiped clean by summer.” ― Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose

Image result for asters flowers

My purple asters have begun to bloom in my garden, and this year, I have been rewarded by the opportunity to watch the fascinating life cycle of the monarchs who have come to sip the nectar from my asters and t munch on my milkweed. My black-eyed Susans are about done for the year, and my garden’s purples need some golden yellow now, but that is no problem. The garden centers here are brimming with pots of yellow chrysanthemums and bunches of dried corn stalks. The pumpkins are standing in columns, making promises about the army of jack-lantern grins that are in the ranks behind them.

We’ll still have some days that are typical of Indian Summer here, but by September 1 in New Jersey, it is time to begin looking for last season’s flannel shirts and leggings because by September 1 in New Jersey, fall has begun.

“But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.” ― Stephen King, ‘Salem’s Lot

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“The first flash of color always excites me as much as the first frail, courageous bloom of spring. This is, in a sense, my season–sometimes warm and, when the wind blows an alert, sometimes cold. But there is a clarity about September. On clear days, the sun seems brighter, the sky more blue, the white clouds take on marvelous shapes; the moon is a wonderful apparition, rising gold, cooling to silver; and the stars are so big. The September storms–the hurricane warnings far away, the sudden gales, the downpour of rain that we have so badly needed here for so long–are exhilarating, and there’s a promise that what September starts, October will carry on, catching the torch flung into her hand.” ― Faith Baldwin, Evening Star

Without a doubt, I am a bit of a Rip Van Winkle, and I have a tendency to sleep-walk through chunks of time, but autumn is the season that always awakens and recreates me.

September Song
by Jacki Kellum

I just took a nap for my mind, to see,
Flickering fae breath blew in, restored me.
Visions of sugarplums danced, set me free.
Sang me that September song.

Rain showers dripped down through the limbs of my tree.
Moonbeams and crystal shards lit up my sea.
Soft webs and angel hair dropped from a flea,
And tow-tugged my leaf-boat along.

©Jacki Kellum September 16, 2017


Pictorial Guide to Butterflies in Eastern Gardens – and the Plants Where They Lay Their Eggs

This summer, I have had the privilege of watching the Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle in my garden, and I have done some research into the other types of butterflies that I might attract to might garden.  This is not all of the butterflies that visit New Jersey Gardens, but it is a list of butterflies that I want to try to attract and watch reproduce in my garden.

Black Swallowtail Male Butterfly [above]

Black Swallowtail Butterfly Female [above]

Size of Black Swallowtail Butterflies: 3.25″ – 4.25″

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

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Black Swallowtail Butterfly Chrysalis

Black Swallow Tail Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Dill

Black Swallow Tail Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Fennel

Black Swallow Tail Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Parsley

Black Swallow Tail Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Queen Anne’s Lace

Black Swallow Tail Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Common Rue – Ruta graveolans

Eastern Comma Butterfly or Hop Merchant [above]

Size of Eastern Comma Butterflies: Wing Span: 1 3/4 – 2 1/2 inches (4.5 – 6.4 cm) [Small]

Eastern Comma or Hop Merchant Butterfly Caterpillar

Eastern Comma Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Hops [Hops is also necessary to make beer]

Eastern Tail-Blue Butterfly [above]

Size of the Eastern Tail-Blue Butterfly: Wing Span: 7/8 – 1 1/8 inches (2.2 – 2.9 cm) [Very Small]

Eastern Tail-Blued Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Peas

EasternTiger Swallow Tail Butterfly [above]

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Magnolia Trees

 Size of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly: Wing Span: 2 1/2 – 4 1/2 inches (6.2 – 11.4 cm)

Gray Hairstreak Butterfly [above]

Gray Hairstreak Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Hollyhock

Gray Hairstreak Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on High Mallow or Zebra Mallow

Gray Hairstreak Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Peas

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly [above]

Size of the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly: Wing Span: 4 – 6 1/4 inches (10.2 – 16 cm)

Giant Swallow Tail Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Common Rue – Ruta graveolans

Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly [above]

Size of the Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly: Wing Span: 2 1/2 – 4 inches (6.3 – 10.1 cm)

Great Spangled Fritillary Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Violets [above]

Monarch Butterfly [above]

Size of the Monarch Butterfly: Wing Span: 3 3/8 – 4 7/8 inches (8.6 – 12.4 cm)

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis

Monarch Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Milkweed Plants

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

Size of the Mourning Cloak Butterfly: Wing Span: 2 1/4 – 4 inches (5.7 – 10.1 cm)

Mourning Cloak Butterfly Caterpillar

Mourning Cloak Butterflies Lay Their Eggs in Willows

Pearl Crescent Butterfly [above]

Pearl Crescent Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Asters

Asters are the primary nectar-producing flowers in my fall garden. In order to have a butterfly garden, it is essential to have nectar-producing flowers for at least 3 seasons each year.

Red-banded Hairstreak Butterfly

Red-banded Hairstreak Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Winged Sumac

Red-spotted Purple Butterfly [above]

Size of the Red-spotted Purple Butterfly: Wing Span: 2 1/4 – 4 inches (5.7 – 10.1 cm)

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Red-spotted Butterfly Caterpillar

Red-spotted Purple Butterflies Lay Their Eggs in Willows

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly [above]

Size of the Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly: Wing Span: 3 – 4 inches (7.5 – 10 cm)

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar

Spicebush Swallow Tail Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Lilacs

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Spicebushes

Spring Azure Butterfly [above]

Spring Azure Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Blueberry Bushes

Summer Azure Butterfly [above]

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Summer Azure Butterflies Lay Their Eggs on Dogwood Shrubs

Cardinal Red Twig Dogwood Cornus sericea “Cardinal Grows 10′ x 10′

In my garden, I grow Cardinal Red Twig Dogwoods, which are great for winter gardens, too.

©Jacki Kellum September 11, 2011




How to Turn Your Garden Into a Breeding Spot for Monarch Butterflies – Free Plan for a Butterfly Garden – Free 3-Season Flower Garden Plan

Monarch butterflies are among the most fascinating of nature’s creatures. Yet, because of climate change, global warming, excessive use of herbicides, and illegal logging in Mexico, the monarch butterfly population is declining. Over this past summer, I have realized that I can harness my efforts in my New Jersey garden to help increase the monarch population, and in this article, I want to share what I have learned about butterfly gardening, and I will outline how other people  can turn your their own gardens into monarch breeding grounds, too.

My garden is a heavily planted Cottage Garden, which is a natural-looking, free-form style of gardening. While cottage gardens might make those who prefer formal gardens shudder, cottage gardening has been around at least since the Renaissance, and cottage gardens are ideal for doubling as butterfly breeding grounds.

Which Comes First, the Butterfly or the Egg?

Many people know that monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed plants, and they might assume that if they simply buy a milkweed plant, they will have turned their garden into a monarch breeding habitat. But that is not entirely true.

Step 1: Begin with a Garden that is Filled with Nectar-Rich Flowers

It is true that milkweed plants are the essential food for monarch caterpillars, but adult monarchs are initially attracted to a spot that is filled with nectar-producing flowers. When it is time for a monarch mother to lay her eggs, she will only lay them on milkweed plants, but the rest of the time, adult monarchs need flowers that are rich with nectar.

Butterflies love to sip from butterfly bushes, and I always have a butterfly bush in my garden, and I also have a Chaste tree, which is like a large and prolific butterfly bush that has clusters of blue flowers.

Butterflies also love to sip the nectar of coneflowers or echinacea. At the end of the post, I’ll include a plan that names the plants needed for a Butterfly Garden. In the following video, you see bees sipping nectar from the zinnias that are blooming next to one of my milkweed plants

Step 2: Be Sure that Your Garden Has Flowering Plants for at Least 3 Seasons

In a cottage garden, a large variety of plants are crowded together and are allowed to grow as naturally and as freely as possible. Vegetable and flowers are often grown side by side, and because the flowering plants are close to each other, pollination is simple. In my cottage garden, something is blooming almost all year long, and because butterflies breed and produce caterpillars several times during the gardening season, they require nectar-producing flowers as long as nature will permit. At the end of the post, I’ll also include a 3-Season Flower Garden Plan.

Step 3:  Be Sure that There Are Plenty of Milkweed Plants in Your Garden.

I Grow Several Types of Milkweed

Swamp Milkweed is a hardy perennial in most garden zones, and you can plant it in your garden and leave it there over winter. I have the Incarta variety of swamp milkweed [above photo], and it is pink. Another variety of swamp milkweed is more purplish.

North America’s native milkweed crops are not as prolific as they once were.


Monarch caterpillars must eat milkweed leaves and by the time that the season’s final generation of butterflies are hatched, my first milkweed plants were no longer blooming. The caterpillars don’t need the blooms. They only eat the milkweed plant’s leaves. During the winter, I will bring my tropical milkweed plants inside, and will take cuttings from them to create new milkweed plants. In order to stagger the blooming season of my milkweed, I will try to stagger the starting time of the new milkweed plants.  If I have milkweed blooming over an extended period of time, I have the milkweed nectar to attract the adult butterflies to a plant that will also be an appropriate place to lay their eggs, but it is more important to have milkweed leaves for the caterpillars.

 I also grow tropical milkweed in planters that I take inside for the winter.

Early in the spring, I bought a tropical milkweed plant. The plant was about 3’tall, and it was already blooming, and I paid $30.00 for it.  The cost of the plant almost scared me away.

Image result for hummingbird tropical milkweed

For the first month or two, I only noticed hummingbirds and bees feeding from my tropical milkweed plant, but late in July, I began to notice that monarchs were hanging around, too. I never saw many monarchs assembled together, and they never hovered very long.  In fact, I was disappointed by my monarch community, and I simply gave up on the idea of butterfly gardening and quit watching my milkweed plant.

By the end of August, however, I noticed that my milkweed seemed to be dying. It had lost most of its leaves, and then I spotted my first monarch caterpillar.

Step 4: Be Sure That You Have Water for Your Adult Monarchs to Drink

In the preceding video, you see caterpillars in my garden and also a monarch chrysallis that has formed.

Before they enter the chrysalis stage, the monarch Bbutterfly caterpillars suspend themselves upside down from a silken cable that they spin

On September 3, 2017, I noticed that one of the caterpillars had moved into the hanging, J-like position. On Septer 5, 2017, that caterpillar was encased in his chrysalis.

Monarchs mate several times each summer, and they normally live from two to six weeks. However, the last of the season’s butterflies are born stronger, and they live long enough to migrate thousands of miles to Mexico, where they spend their winters. Although milkweed has been in my yard all summer, it appears that the butterflies did not reproduce in my garden until the last of the season’s matings. By that time, the milkweed blooms were gone, and I only had milkweed leaves. My main nectar-producing flowers in late autumn are asters, zinnias, and perennial cranesbill geraniums. To effectively breed monarch butterflies, you will need to plant a 3-season garden that is filled with the kinds of flowers that butterlies like and you will also need plenty of milkweed leaves all season long.

©Jacki Kellum September 10, 2017

Better Homes and Gardens provides free garden plans, check out their plans for a butterfly garden and for a 3-season garden.

Free Butterfly Garden Plan from bhg.com

You don’t have to follow this exact plan, but if you grow these plants in your garden and if you plant them closely, you will have butterflies.

Notice that the plan calls for a water source. I have several birdbaths and a pond in my garden. The butterflies frequent my birdbaths more than the birds.

This plan calls for Butterfly Weed, which is not the same thing as Tropical Milkweed. I suggest planting Butterfly Weed and buying a Tropical Milkweed, too. The Butterfly Weed is hardy, but the Tropical Milkweed will not withstand winters in most of the USA.


Free Butterfly Garden Plan from bhg.com

You don’t have to follow this exact plan, but if you grow these plants in your garden and if you plant them closely, you will have butterflies.

Notice that the plan calls for a water source. I have several birdbaths and a pond in my garden. The butterflies frequent my birdbaths more than the birds.


© 2017 Jacki Kellum

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