“April showers bring May flowers.”
~ Origin unknown, but most likely from Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales”
The spring bloom is in full display across the local foothills and outlying areas. As expected the first flowers opened long before the beginning of May and will continue to do so in one variety or another throughout the summer months. This year’s April showers were unlike our usual non-existent ones; not only did they settle in, but fell with a nice regularity. The anticipated rainfall for the 2015-16 season – compliments of a strong El Niño pattern – literally fell short of Southern California. Maybe the extra rain in April was an attempted apology from Mother Nature. Adding to my assumption, more rain and thunderstorms are predicted through the weekend. It can be said of 2016, “April showers continued into May, along with abundant floral display.”
Last summer we finally gave up on trying to maintain a lush green lawn. Our main reason was, of course, drought-related and the need to conserve water. “Man’s best friend” – our dogs – take full advantage of a beautiful lawn, be it for recreation or …
So, with a white flag flying, we surrendered and transformed our yard into a native paradise. The process included researching native drought-tolerant plants, designing the layout (including a dry stream bed), drip lines and lots of mulch. One component landed in the midst our landscape project, completely unexpected. Attracted by the colorful plants, monarch butterflies became frequent visitors. At any moment throughout the day they can be seen fluttering around the yard. I’m almost certain artists created stain glass windows to replicate this butterfly’s wing.
Unbeknownst to us, milkweed plants are monarch magnets. In addition to my selected plants, a local nurseryman suggested milkweed as they thrive in our dry, rocky soils. He added, as a sideline, “You can watch the entire life cycle of a monarch butterfly as it plays out exclusively amongst the milkweed’s foliage.” Okay, why not? Sold!
Almost 12 months later, I watch in amazement. Their symbiotic relationship is one of nature’s miracles. The orange-colored flowers match the monarch’s wings and their eggs; even their fat caterpillar babies blend in. Our milkweed is no longer very pretty, for its leaves have been devoured and stems are aphid-covered. But I can promise this: this small world is off limits to human hands.
When should you plant milkweed? A cool and cloudy spring weekend is ideal. If rain is predicted, all the better. Now the time is right. Help make La Crescenta “the monarch capital!”
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.