Success! After several years of planting milkweed and then having very little of it survive the winter -- and then being embarrassed when people asked why there was so little milkweed in the Monarch Waystation -- this spring, we have a ton of it:
In that second photo, you can see how this variety (common milkweed) marches all in a line. That's because its main root grows not vertically, but horizontally, and then the new sprouts pop up from that.
Some of the milkweed I've found has been under my feet or in a shovel because I've accidentally weeded it. That's a risk this time of year, when clearing needs to happen before all the perennials (including milkweed) have come up. But if I wait too long, then the weeds get a big head start. So far, I've been able to put any uprooted milkweed back in the ground, and it continues to grow. I have not seen any monarch eggs on it yet, but I expect to any day now.
The south end of the butterfly garden now has a lot of flower seeds in it: zinnias, sunflowers, marigolds, and many others. Here's what it looks like now:
The big plants are perennials, and there are seeds wherever there's bare soil. We have a few days of rain later this week, and after that, we should start to see a lot of flower seedlings coming up.
Here's something else exciting that happened recently:
This is the first black swallowtail to come out of one of the four chrysalises that I kept safe and cold over the winter. Swallowtails don't migrate like monarchs do, but the caterpillars can sense changing conditions in late summer and fall and "decide" to stay in their chrysalis until spring. This one is female. She can lay eggs on a few different plants. One that I know we have growing now is parsley, in a pot under the HPNC classroom windows. We might find eggs or caterpillars there soon!