Wouldn’t you know it, dear readers? As soon as butterflies were clearly on my radar and I’d made an appointment to visit the Hallberg Butterfly Gardens in Sonoma County, this beauteous creature greeted me at my front door. I was, as you might imagine, ecstatic! I was even more ecstatic during the next fifteen minutes or so when it played about my head, clearly checking me out, then obligingly landed on a mat on the front porch allowing me full access to photographing him. (Yes, he’s a boy.) I was beside myself with joy. He also gave me a side view when he landed in the oleander. Thank you, dear soul butterfly! You have only an inkling of how grateful I am for your propitious, synchronistic visit. (I was clearly on the right road.)
Mind you, this is the first I have ever seen on this property. Thus it was with great joy and optimism I set out yesterday morning for Hallberg Butterfly Gardens, where awaiting me was the very special 92-year-old Louise Hallberg, and don’t you know I was thrilled to have her greet me at her garden gate! California Sister, indeed!
Isn’t she wonderful? Yes, she is! After a warm greeting we set off down one of many paths to a meadow below. Silly me, wearing clogs, and barely able to keep up with Louise! Here is the meadow where we shortly arrived.
These butterfly gardens were carefully designed through the years through Louise’s knowledge and guidance, and through hired workers, volunteers and grants. As gardeners we would be more apt to call them butterfly meadows, and I think that is an important distinction, and I will be telling you why over the next few posts, as I am currently mining a line of thought I think most important to share. The subject of butterflies is far too complex in this day and age to be relegated to a single post, so today I’m going to focus simply on the butterflies I was able to see yesterday on a hot August afternoon. Down in the first meadow while I was able to learn much about host and nectaring plants I saw only honeybees and bumblebees on hand. After taking many photos Louise led me back up to a guest barn, the doors flung open.
“Do you see a horseshoe up there?” she said, pointing just inside one of the doors.
“Yes,” I responded.
“And do you see a chrysalis?”
Louise explained that the chrysalis I was viewing was a pipevine swallowtail butterfly and that it would remain as a chrysalis for nine months. I was shocked. I had no idea there was such a disparity among butterflies and that while some could emerge in weeks, some, such as the anise swallowtail, might stay in a chrysalis for years. What a metaphor!
Louise then invited me into a side room at the back of the house where she has lived her entire 92 years (!!), to share a very special event. Apparently a man who knew Louise had brought her caterpillars of the California dogface butterfly, California’s state butterfly. This was very special, as, in spite of their status, they are rarely ever seen. Louise said she had only seen one sighting, ever, in East Sonoma County! Louise provided them with amorpha Californica, false indigo bush, which fortunately she has growing, as it is their only viable larval plant food, on which they feasted, and then they ensconced themselves in chrysalides, and, lucky me, I had arrived as they were emerging, two months after their arrival! Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!
I felt very honored when Louise generously offered to release one while I was there, so I could witness this process. Her helper, Catarino, carefully removed the cage out into the front yard. We opened the front door to the cage, and whoosh, out flew a male California dogface, landing on a nearby Queen Anne’s lace. Here he is!
After these adventures I was ready to make my departure, not wanting to tire Louise. But, no. She only thought a drink of water would be appropriate, and then she wanted to take me on another path. Okey dokey, Louise! I’m coming! Off she went.
And good thing, too. Soon there were two kinds of swallowtails dancing about our heads. One flew off on his own adventure, but one got curious and made himself available to us, first from underneath…
Western tiger swallowtail
Wasn’t this a magnificent way to wind up a perfect afternoon?
Next post I want to show you some of the many native plants I learned about under Louise’s generous and abundant tutelage. I will be happy to share.
Thank you for the visit, dear ones.
Love and butterfly blessings,
Posted on August 18th, 2009 by Kathryn
Filed under: Field Trips