When we finished prowling our new backyard for morels on Tuesday, this was the final tally. We soaked them in water, melted some butter, cut them in halves and cooked them about 3 minutes. As advised by a friend, we poured the soaking water out over the stubs, hoping to prompt further growth.
Sadly, I am not volunteering as a butterfly caregiver at Butterflies in Bloom at Dow Gardens in Midland, MI. Work commitments made a weekly two-hour afternoon shift prohibitive this year.
I am cheered by knowing I made someone very happy with the opening of that shift, as the job always has people eager to fill it. I hope that next year I can return. In the meantime I still can visit, which is what I did Friday:
On Wednesday I drove to neighboring Midland (Michigan). I was picking up honey from an entomologist friend and when she suggested Tuesday or Wednesday to meet, I jumped on the latter because it’s a Farmers Market day. (The other is Saturday. More on the Midland Area Farmers Market within the next week.)
Midland can be an odd place. It’s very much a company town, and that company is Dow Chemical. Because this global behemoth needs to keep employees happy in a town of 42,000 people, there are amenities that don’t usually show up in small Midwestern cities. Also, things are neat and attractive, hence its Sparkle City nickname. That’s not a compliment; it’s a dig at the gentrification and greenbelting.
One positive is that the public plantings often are stunning. This is especially true downtown, where the beds and containers sport interesting plants and combinations – so much so that I had to stop for pictures just outside the market.
I love texture, so I’m intrigued by this prickly plant against this feathery one.
Looking back up the hill toward Main Street.
Color groupings are common, such as this purple…
…and this red.
Sometimes the combinations are ones that never would have occurred to me, like the one above where the flowers and foliage have no similarities at all.
I wonder if my hibiscus would like a tall tropical plant friend like this one.
These prickly things among the zinnias remind me of baby birds.
This was my last week tending baby butterflies in 2016, as Dow Gardens’ Butterflies in Bloom is nearly over. The varieties we have only live a few weeks, so when the exhibit ends, the conservatory is closed to visitors while all our insect friends finish out their short but happy lives.
The “rules” posted in the vestibule – Elly Maxwell, our entomologist, prefers to limit the rules as much as possible – include
Please keep fingers out of food dishes!
Watch your feet! Be aware of butterflies on the floor.
Please don’t pick the flowers.
Watch out for hitchhikers!
No outside plant material in the display.
I brought my lovely daughter Heather, who proved adept at finding hidden butterflies – the camouflaged Southern white covered in mist from a fan below, and the Mexican bluewing hiding deep within a plant but still in a sunny spot, below that.
(As a child, she was our “finder” when objects went missing. The Southern white butterfly eventually concerned her enough that she asked me to check on it, so I moved it to a sunny and dry spot, and it took off immediately.)
We didn’t plan to have moths this year and so our moth case isn’t out in the exhibit. Moths lay eggs quickly so we don’t want them out in the conservatory and always keep them separate. But a supplier sent us some luna moth cocoons so we dealt with it. Elly is collecting the moths for possible use in a pinned collection she is creating.
A sunny day made occupants and visitors alike happy at Dow Gardens’ Butterflies in Bloom.
One of the questions I was asked most often Tuesday was, as one child put it, “Why are you putting water on the floor?” With sun pouring through the glass, I had to do this about every hour, more often than usual.
I tell people that many of our butterflies come from jungle and rain forest environments, and while we can’t bring in all of their native plants, we replicate their humidity and temperature the best we can.
Some butterfly nicknames make sense, some less so. Crackers get their name because the males make a “cracking” sound when being territorial. The two below are a gray cracker, which is gray, and a red cracker, which is blue.
The butterfly on the right above is a blue morpho. You can just barely see the blue topside at the wing opening. If you’re wondering why I didn’t just wait for it to open, you clearly are not one of the people who has waited 20 minutes or longer for this to happen.
This is perhaps the zooiest week at Dow Gardens’ Butterflies in Bloom … spring break. We had loads of babies in arms inside the conservatory and strollers parked outside.
There wasn’t time for much picture taking but I did answer a LOT of questions, mostly of the “What kind is that?” variety. With a lot of emergence in the case there were ample opportunities to observe brand-new butterflies, and when one came out halfway but got stuck, I unpinned it from the shelf, brought it around for people to see and as quickly as I could move gently, removed the rest of the chrysalis to free its wings. “It’s like separating layers of wet tissue paper,” I told the handful of people watching, before moving the baby back into the case.
While the wings attract the most attention, I find it interesting how much difference there is in the coloration of the bodies. There is even variety in the eyes, with some solid black while others are spotted.
While I love tending baby insects at Dow Gardens‘ annual Butterflies in Bloom, it is also fabulous to hang out among the plants of the conservatory for a couple of hours at a time. It’s a large version of a dream space, something I could only wish for my own home.