This morning, as I meandered about the garden pulling the last of the larkspur and snacking on a couple of SunGold cherry tomatoes, I was startled and then ecstatic to see Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars on one of the Bronze Fennel! I've planted Parsley, Dill and Fennel for years now in an attempt to entice Swallowtails to choose my garden for their egg-laying. This is the first year I've seen any larvae, though. This particular Fennel is absolutely loaded with eggs so I'm hopeful that I'll have more caterpillars soon. I need to look for some Dill to plant because the Fennel can't last much longer in this heat.
What is particularly meaningful to me is to see these as I continue to mourn my friend Jeanie. Jeanie and her husband T spent many weekends on their boat and Jeanie had created an herb garden at the marina for the boaters to enjoy. The Umbrelliferae family invariably attracted Swallowtails to lay eggs on the plants and my tender-hearted friend could never bear to leave the caterpillars there if the food supply wouldn't hold out until her next visit. So she'd bring them home and keep them supplied with dill, fennel or parsley. Many are the times she'd recount in e-mails to the Bobs her efforts to track down those herbs. If her local nurseries didn't have them, she'd hound the grocery stores, the greenhouses and any growers she could find to get what she needed. It lifted my spirits and warmed my heart to see the caterpillars today and I felt like Jeanie's spirit was very much present at that moment.
That feeling was confirmed when I was poking about in another bed and discovered new growth on the Amsonia which Jeanie had shipped to me last fall. I was convinced that it had succumbed to my less hospitable climate but it's growing bravely. Oh, how I hope it will continue to do so. I'd be beside myself if it actually bloomed but just to have it is enough to bring me comfort. Jeanie had wanted to send this to me for several years and last fall she finally was able to get out in her garden and dig some for me. It's one small plant but it holds big memories.