He or she shed his last skin sometime yesterday. At first he was the same color with the same markings as he was when a gobbling caterpillar, and I could tell he had changed form only by his new shape and his “safety harness.”

Now he has developed his protective coloration and blends in better with his surroundings. I’m assuming that he will overwinter as a pupa. 

You can see the safety harness better here. It contrasts with the lavender ribbon on the azalea stem.

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Metamorphosis 2

Right beneath the lavender ribbon I tied on the azalea to tell the painters not to trample it this spring, I saw this Eastern black swallowtail caterpillar, and I knew he was getting ready to pupate. His body language is completely different from when they’re pigging out on parsley or, in his case, rue. He’s very straight and compact and — not eating.  For a caterpillar, “not eating” is not an option. 

Here’s what they look like while they’re eating:

Relaxed, curvy, stretched out, shoveling it in. That’s their job at the larval stage.  

In the picture at top of this post, he’s on an azalea twig – not a host plant, and too woody to eat – and perfectly straight, and still.

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It’s October, and a mushroom I don’t recognize has unfurled its umbrella overnight. It’s the most delicate thing, semi transparent like a Luna month’s wing, and it looks like it would glow in the dark.   

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Peggy Martin, Peggy Martin, Peggy Martin


Stage right

I’ve been trying to get the essence of Peggy Martin into a photograph.

I’ve been trying to get the entire plant into one photograph. 

It’s not possible.

I think this is hilarious.

You want to feel smart? Like you know what you’re doing? Plant a Peggy Martin.

But you have to have a lot of room.


Stage left

This specimen was started by me from cuttings the summer of 2012; planted in our new yard either December 2012 (unlikely, as we moved after Thanksgiving 2012, too late to plant) or more likely spring 2013.  I’ll scare up pictures from last year. She made a nice effect then, but now she’s a behemoth. A lovely, thornless behemoth.


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Return Of the swamp rose


The swamp rose is back and better than ever. It’s about four feet by four feet now, covered with panicles of 2.5″ semi-double lavender -pink blossoms that the light shines through.

And the fragrance scents the entire yard. It’s a small yard, true. But it smells like heaven.

“Not heavy
Not sensuous
But perilous
Perilous. . . .”

H. D. “At Baia”

Posted in recommended rose varieties for the Midwest/Upper South, seasonal updates, the good news about roses | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Hail to the Sicilian stonemasons!

DSCN2284I’m laughing my butt off reading Marie Manilla’s The Patron Saint of Ugly, about a character who is both Appalachian and Sicilian, like me.

I do not know much about my forebears from that spiky island, but I know that some of them were stonemasons. And behold, Manilla’s novel features Sicilian stonemasons!

Bob jokes about my affinity for rocks and its origins. OK, yeah, I admit I have a thing about rocks.  I love to seek out ones I can pretty much lift, pry them out of a construction site with the crowbar I keep in my car at all times, carefully load them into the trunk, floorboards, and seats of my tiny car, and then arrange and rearrange them in my yard.

Which brings us to a question:

How many rocks can an out-of-shape woman in her fifties, with a sedentary job, rheumatoid arthritis, and no cartilage in her knees, carry home from a construction site?


This many:


and this many:

DSCN0419Plus this many:

DSCN0418And also these: DSCN0582-001In my former garden on Hambrick Avenue, I scavenged, hauled, and arranged these:

DSCN0916Also these:

back patio w columbine


DSCN0928In fact, the step-like run of rocks pictured at the top of this page owes its solidity to my ancestors. It’s my most recent construction, and it’s also the best. Because I finally got a clue.

Did I refer to Youtube videos on the subject? That would have been wise. But no. I was all high on endorphins from lifting a bunch of rocks. I was not going to take a break and go check out Youtube, get sucked into the internet, and perhaps never emerge.

Did I obtain a book on dry stone masonry? Again, that would have indeed been wise, but again, sadly, no. I was too lazy to go to the library and too cheap to go to the bookstore.

Did a compassionate neighbor give me a few pointers? No.

I asked my ancestors, and then listened for an answer.

And they told me the secret:

Lay each stone so it rests on two other stones.

That’s all there is to it. [Luckily they said this in English, not Sicilian].

The stones up that 45-plus-degree slope are so solid I can walk up them like steps. I  walk up and down them many times a day when I’m out there gardening.

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Rise ‘N’ Shine


According to https://www.chambleeroses.com/order.php?id=143 , this miniature was bred by Ralph Moore in 1977. It went on clearance at https://www.antiqueroseemporium.com/roses/2211/rise-n-shine , Bob got it for me for my birthday (mid-June), I stuck it in the ground, and then I left town for a month. Here it is, six weeks later, a couple days ago, flanked by crabgrass.

After a month that contained about 29 days of rain, it should be defoliated by black spot. It is unscathed. It has not bloomed much yet, but things take time to be established. I’ll keep you posted.

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