Spring Awe–Buds and Bugs

White tullips and Puffball Kitty
Dive in! Honeybee enjoying the cherry tree blossoms.

Nature does not stand still and wait for us to catch up. It’s a glorious spring after all the winter rains we finally enjoyed after so many drought years. Verdancy is erupting in the garden and the air is abuzz with activity.

There are summer veggies to plant and damselflies to admire. The ladybugs are mating and the roses are perfuming the air. Shadows of the pipevine butterflies are dancing over the earth as they sip on wallflower nectar and lay eggs on the pipevine. An archetypal call to reverence is sounded out by the hawks flying on high.

Nature is my sanctum where I feel connected, where there are the marvels of life to observe and learn from and I must get back out there. So for now, an excess of photos to share from the last many busy weeks.

This post has a lot of photos. I suggest viewing them from your browser for the best viewing. Go to The-Compulsive-Gardener.com Hope you enjoy it!


Lots of ladybugs overwintering near old brassicas covered in aphids.
Lots of ladybugs overwintering near old brassicas covered in aphids. They also liked hanging out in the cover of old spinach leaves.

In early spring, I was delighted to find one of our raised garden beds crawling with LOTS of ladybugs. They were near three brassicas–broccoli I think– that had begun to go to seed and were covered in aphids. I usually remove old veggies that tend to attract aphids, but finding so many ladybugs there has given me a new inspiration to keep some tired ol’ brassicas around just for encouraging the ladybugs overwinter. This bed had been partially covered with frost cloth, to encourage some lettuces to grow in the cold, so it was probably also cozy for the ladybugs. We’ve never purchased ladybugs and I see no need to. They seem perfectly capable of finding gardens and will stay if the habitat is good and they are not killed off with pesticides. In fact, I enjoyed learning more about that from this article in a FB post by the UC Master Gardeners of Placer County, by Laurie Meyerpeter:

(Dec 11, 2022) Ladybugs! This is the time of year when our native ladybugs from the Valley migrate up to the Sierras to overwinter in huge masses. Did you know the ladybugs from the nursery are “harvested” from these wild masses during the winter, packaged up, and then sold in nurseries? And that ladybugs are wonderfully beneficial insects but buying harvested ladybugs is not really the best way to get ladybugs in your garden, nor is it best for the ladybugs. Ladybugs from the nursery tend to fly away after they’re released. In addition, it’s not the adults that are the voracious eaters of aphids, it is the young (the larvae). And did you know that ladybugs will come to your garden on their own and raise their voracious, aphid-devouring young in your garden if you provide them with a nice home? Here’s how to make your garden into an attractive home to ladybugs (and other beneficials): http://sacmg.ucanr.edu/files/77452.pdf

Ladybugs go through different life stages: from eggs to larvae (where they look like little alligators), to pupa (as shown on post), to the full beetle as we commonly know them as. Here is a good link to see the various forms.

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies

If you’ve read any of my posts before, you know that I’m a big fan of these big beautiful black swallowtail butterflies and right now in spring is when they are hatching from their chrysalises and bringing us so much delight. Daily there are many flitting around, some females laying eggs on the California pipevine (aristolochia californica), some pairs mating in flight, some males wandering afield for flower nectar.

Other Wildlife

There are many red-shouldered hawks in our area, despite the crows constantly nagging them. Apparently this is called mobbing and is to protect the nests of the crows from the hawks. We used to have more red-tails and kites but I haven’t seen as many of those lately.

I also noticed what I thought was a honeybee recently, but it was a little fatter and with a pointy mouth, so I looked it up on the Seek app, which said it is a native Digger Bee (Anthophora spp. Apidae). Anyone know if that is correct?

So many life forms going on all around us!

The Gardens

Since it’s mid-May as I write this, and we are now hopefully past our last frost date and the soil is hopefully warmed enough, I’ve been busy planting out the tender summer veggies like tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, winter squash, cucumbers, tomatillos, beans, as well as some favorite summer flowers like sunflowers and cosmos. We’ve been harvesting asparagus, artichokes, and some lettuce, chard, kale, and parsley. The cold spring slowed the growth of early snow peas, and the tatsoi went directly from baby to bolt.

In early spring, we got a metal shelf and LED grow lights to start veggie and flower seeds indoors, since my houseplant love has taken over the space we used to grow them in. I’m making a big attempt to grow more butterfly and pollinator plants from seed, but not sure where I’m going to fit them all in. More on that in a later post. If you are local to West Sonoma County, check out the 2023 Home Gardener Produce Exchange held on 2nd and 4th Tuesdays where you can “trade surplus items from your garden for something you don’t have”. It’s an underutilized fantastic resource.

The Butterfly Garden still looks like a weed patch but we’re slowly establishing various milkweeds and many other caterpillar and nectar plants for monarchs and other butterflies. The wildflowers in the field aren’t as dramatic this year as usual, at least so far. It seems like the wet winter gave the nonnative grasses even more of the upper hand over the native wildflowers, and I had to mow the field early to keep them from getting six feet high. Some of the California poppies and arroyo lupines are blooming but it’s not the show we usually get. So no superbloom here, unless there is a late surprise. Such is gardening.

Spring Blooms

And now, please forgive me for pummeling you with the buds of spring.

The purple irises have put on quite a show this year, such that I’m questioning whether gophers eat them or not. It seemed like the gophers were getting ours in early years, but not lately. If any local gardeners in SoCo would share their experience with iris, I’d love to hear. We’re in sandy soil here, which is crazy with gophers. It is said that gophers won’t eat ranunculas, so I got some this year, but got nervous and put them in pots anyway. What joy they brought!

That’s it for now…thank you for your patience and for reading! Hope all of you are being nurtured by your garden or nature spot or indoor houseplant haven! ~lisa

6 thoughts on “Spring Awe–Buds and Bugs

  1. Wow Lisa! so much going on there! I don’t even know where to start 🙂 One thing I’ve found strange living in an EU country is how differently EU regulations are about nature and the environment. You’d think being able to purchase ladybugs would be an easy thing if you felt you needed to do so, or introduce parasitic wasps – but I’m pretty sure it’s not possible to do either! Chemicals, etc are basically the same way – bio control and small packaging keeps the harm on a reduced scale. I’ve always loved Ranuncula’s, but they are something that would only survive and grow here if coddled in a pot – which is definitely something I don’t have the time for. You’ve developed a wonderful variety of lovely plants! WELL DONE 🙂 -Kate

    1. How interesting about the different EU regulations! Yes, I wanted to mention the ladybugs because I see a lot of new gardeners online talking about ordering them to introduce to their gardens, and there is really no need. I feel similarly about most wee creatures…build the habitat first and let it establish over years. Probably the lovely creatures will find it. I hear you about growing things that require coddling in pots. I prefer not to also. Alas, we have rampant gophers and very few things will life in the ground without protection, so I do have some pots for beloved flowers. Thanks for reading and for the kind words Kate! I enjoyed your recent post too! -lisa

  2. Dear Lisa,
    Thank you for sharing your spring buds, bugs, and general beauty. I’m so glad you finally received some long-awaited moisture. It’s marvelous how quickly nature responds to the improved moisture.
    Living in a generally arid area compounded by a decades-long drought, I can only dream of such verdancy and lushness, but it’s nice to enjoy them vicariously through your wonderful photos.
    Happy gardening,

    1. I hope the weather will alter to bring you some much needed moisture Tanja! Yes, it’s been quite a change here. I hope we’ll continue in a wetter pattern for at least several years. Some towns were out of water altogether. The good thing is that it got so many of us to install even more ways of saving rainwater and reducing water use when needed. I still haven’t fully learned that it’s OK to take a daily shower again, instead of intermittent sponge baths. 😉 I’m glad the photos brought some vicarious joy! I like doing that too, although at times during the drought it could be depressing to see lush garden photos when we were just trying to keep things alive. So I would understand if it at times feels that way too. Much luck and hope your garden thrives and some sufficient rains arrive! -lisa

    2. I appreciate the good wishes, Lisa. While I have felt envious of the lushness of other areas, my envy has not yet led to depression, and there are some hopeful signs about a change in the weather pattern here as well. We had a soaking rain last week and might receive the next one as early as tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

      I admire you for having sacrificed daily showers in the interest of saving water, something I haven’t resorted to. But we do try to use less and recycle more.

      Keep enjoying your beautiful garden.


Share about your garden, a question, a comment. We look forward to hearing from you!

error: Content is protected !!
%d bloggers like this: