Butterflies and Parsley

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I love planting herbs at the foot of my kitchen steps. As I cook, I can run down and quickly clip basil and chives for summer salads or thyme for soup. My rosemary plant has become a dowager of such dignity that she rivals the nearby azalea plant.

Years ago when I began growing herbs, a beautiful stand of parsley thrived near the drip of the garden hose. One day I went to clip parsley sprigs and discovered camouflaged caterpillars, a brilliant chartreuse, busy devouring my parsley. I was so upset I cut off all the sprigs that had caterpillars and moved the munchers to another part of the garden, far away from the kitchen steps.  I didn't realize who those caterpillars were until later when I encountered them in my insect book. They were swallowtail butterflies in waiting. I apologized to all the tiger swallowtails I met in my garden that summer and planted lots more parsley.

Among my new designs this Spring are two butterflies – a tiger swallowtail and a monarch. I discovered the swallowtail at our local botanical garden as it sailed between the blue salvia and Mexican sunflowers. The monarch butterfly loved sunning itself on the asters by my front path. I am wiser now, and when I saw my butterfly weed looking half-eaten during the summer, I searched the plant until I found a monarch caterpillar happily munching and watched over the next days as it formed its chrysalis. I like to think that the monarch in the painting was the caterpillar who spent its summer on my butterfly weed.

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butterflies and parsley