August 8, 2021

It might sound a little strange, but I have been playing hide and seek with monarch caterpillars much of the summer. I have seen monarch butterflies all around my garden. And I have seen a number of them flitting about the Descanso Gardens as well. (You may have already noticed the tiny orange blurs in the first two sketches for this week. Those were monarch and fritillary butterflies.) But I haven’t seen any monarch larva in action in either location since I shared a sketch on June 12, 2021. And believe me, I have looked for them both at home and at the Descanso! However, I have seen a number of wasps buzzing around the milkweed plants here and there. Wasps will hunt and kill such larva. I’ve seen them do it! If I see one hovering around my milkweed plants I spray them with water and then squish them underfoot. I probably wouldn’t be allowed to do that at the Descanso. No one there has ever questioned my bringing a squirt bottle filled with water into the garden, especially if they saw me use it to create one of my “just add water” sketches. (See 6/20/2020, 6/9/2020 and 4/13/2019 for examples of how I create a nice effect with Inktense pencils and blasts of water.) However, I wonder what the Descanso folks would think if I repeatedly sprayed a wasp–wetting it completely until it can’t fly, drops to the ground and I grind my heal into that ferocious critter—making it dead? That’s what I do at home, anyway. TMI, right?

However, you may or may not be interested in my quest to find thriving monarch larva or how I hunt and kill wasps. But you may be interested in my less violent story for the week—the amazing gingko tree you see in each sketch. I saw a whole bunch of butterflies flitting inside the potager garden (flanked by this maidenhair gingko tree) at the Descanso Gardens (7/28/2021), daring me to find out where they had been hiding. Of course that drew me in, but did not sustain my interest for long. I think maybe the best story here is that tree. (See January 1, 2021 to see this lovely tree as part of a series of pastel sketches I did in honor of our most recent winter solstice.) Once my attention was drawn into looking at the tree, I was hooked for more visits and summer tree renderings. These sketches show a “changed” opening to that part of the garden, as it was recently altered with a new rustic arbor. For the winter solstice pastel sketch, there was a kind of rustic gate that kept people from going inside. (Not really sure why we weren’t allowed in there. Maybe they had heard there was a CA girl planning to kill bugs in their garden?) It’s much better now, as the opening is much larger and people can walk around at will. (I haven’t been going near the wasps…) I happened to walk by the day the garden guys were reconstructing it. And I’m not sure why, but they left that original gate leaned up against the tree. I kind of like it there…somehow gone, but not forgotten. 

Monarch caterpillar update!

I went to the Descanso Gardens this morning to sketch. Guess what I found in a patch of milkweed just outside the potager garden? Yes, a monarch caterpillar. In fact, I saw two caterpillars munching away on this plant. That really made my day! After taking a bunch of pictures, I floated on air back into the garden to do another ginkgo tree sketch. It’s not here today. I’m saving it for next week’s story. Stay tuned…

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