Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Milkweed Finds a Home

After my recent character-building failure with the patio, I've turned my attention back to the yard and to one of our newer plants: a giant milkweed (Calotropis gigantea). We got this comical looking guy last spring at a big plant fair. Cheryl picked it out and was optimistic. I expected that it would die soon enough.

Like other milkweeds, the gigantea provides a nice home for the monarch butterfly. We were told that monarch caterpillars would strip this nearly six-foot giant to the stems in a matter of days, only causing the gigantea to come back prettier and stronger. But no monarchs this year--like many migratory animals, it is having a rough time lately.

Because of its size I planted the milkweed in the hottest and driest and most deserted section of our yard, a miserable place where more than a few plants have shriveled and died. With puffy leaves and thirsty-looking disposition, it seemed doomed from the first day. Oh, well. I did say that it had no chance at all.

Our gardening philosophy has evolved to a pretty simplistic approach. If a plant thrives without our constant attention, it is a good plant. Otherwise dig it up and try something else. Eventually, the logic goes, we will have a happy, self-sufficient yard. I know what you are thinking: there is a more scientific approach, with soil analysis and so forth, and this would eliminate the unnecessary suffering of many misplaced and unfortunate plants. (you know, you can be pretty critical sometimes...)

To my surprise the milkweed seems overjoyed with its new home. While most of our plants have the winter blues, the gigantea is sprouting new limbs and showing off. Cheryl was right (curses).

In the meantime, work on my new biobot (the one designed for the good of humanity) is going well. If things work out, I should be able to confront the evil Sri-Lankan biobot weevil very soon. A video is in the works.

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