After planting lots of plants to attract the bees to the garden I started to get more interested in planting plants to attract butterflies as well, particularly after I watched a wonderful, graceful Monarch butterfly just fluttering all around the garden. It landed on the artichoke and seemed quite content to let me photograph it.
So I went down to the garden centre to buy a swan plant – always promoted for attracting monarch butterflies but I had never had one before. It wasn’t a very big plant but seemingly within a few days I was sure that I could see a tiny stripey caterpillar in the leaf tips. I was hooked! Every day after I got home from work I would race out into the garden to see if my caterpillar was there and whether it had grown. I would water the plant religiously to make sure that my caterpillar had plenty of food.
They certainly grow fast – within less than two weeks it was huge. And then it disappeared! I knew they often moved to more sheltered places to turn into a chrysalis so I hoped that was what had happened. I spent ages looking around all the nearby places to see if I could see it but no luck. I was really disappointed because I wanted to see it go right through to an adult.
Last weekend I went round to my neighbours’ house to give them some courgettes and was delighted to discover that they also have swan plants (much bigger than mine). They had been absolutely decimated by the caterpillars but they had dozens and dozens of chrysalises everywhere and I was able to photograph all the stages that I had missed, including butterflies just emerging from the chrysalis with their shrivelled wings that gradually straighten out. It was such a treat and I resolved to get more swan plants.