Gardening at HPNC

Follow along as the HPNC Garden comes to life!


First of all, a big Hello from Ms. Marilyn! Here’s a quick summing up of things she’s seen this week/news from the butterfly garden.

She says she came by on Thursday evening and watered a couple of spots that were dry and found some interesting things:

1) A bunch of monarch eggs on the potted plants at the south end of the butterfly garden, by the rope fence! She brought the eggs home because¬†if you leave them outside even overnight, there’s a good chance they’ll get eaten.

2) This little caterpillar, also on one of the potted milkweed plants – do you see where it is hiding?

Tiny caterpillar on milkweed

3) This big caterpillar, on the milkweed in the main HPNC veg plot:


Marilyn has been leaving caterpillars outside¬†because results are better when you bring them in as eggs instead and also so that kids have a chance to see them in their natural environment. The same applies to black swallowtail eggs and caterpillars — there are a ton in the Little Inspirations dill.

Sometimes kids and adults alike are disappointed when they don’t find evidence of butterflies right away. Ms. Marilyn says that, in general, throughout the eastern half of the country, things have been slow for every kind of pollinator (except that we’re booming in black swallowtails). Every garden/insect group that she’s in on Facebook is saying the same. I’m noticing it in the perennials, too — some things that usually bloom in May don’t even have buds yet! On a more hopeful note, she continues to see new milkweed plants just about every day, and they’re already very large. This has mostly been along the 55th sidewalk (under the south-facing hpnc letters) rather than in the interior butterfly garden.

We are all happy to have them in any location!

Help Needed from Summer Camp kids!!

Marilyn says she is needing some help from our summer campers! The main things she need help with are:

1) Watering

2) Removing any vines campers may see growing on plants at the front of the butterfly garden, in the raspberry bushes, or in perimeter areas. Even if the vines have pretty pink flowers on them, if they’re twining around something else, they need to go! Exception for the grapevine on the tree at the south end of the butterfly garden.

3) Pulling weeds from cracks between the bricks. Ms. Marilyn spends a few minutes on this when she visit, mainly focusing on the length of the butterfly garden, up against the wood that borders the playground. But kids – you can do this and it can be fun. Let’s see who can pull the most!


As part of their training, HPNC Summer Camp teachers are learning about raising Monarch and Swallowtail butterflies from eggs! Their expert teacher is Ms. Marilyn Cavicchia, keeper of the HPNC Monarch Waystation.

Marilyn says that for monarchs, the teachers will look for eggs on the milkweed in the potted plants area of the butterfly garden. Here’s what the eggs will look like (magnified here – they are actually tiny!):


Marilyn taught the teachers how to tend to the eggs, the tiny caterpillars that will hatch out and how to feed those hungry caterpillars as they get older and bigger!

Black Swallowtail eggs will be found on our dill, parsley, carrot tops, or Queen Anne’s lace, and the plant we have that looks like Queen Anne’s lace. Ms. Kirsten has said it’s OK to take tiny snips of her dill that has eggs on it, Here’s what the Black Swallowtail eggs look like:

Black Swallowtail egg

Marilyn suggested that our kids stop collecting eggs once they have a maximum of 10. Once all have hatched, then we can separate the caterpillars, 5 in each of our netted containers. One thing that is possible and pretty fun, she says, is to have a mixed group of monarchs and swallowtails. They get along fine as long as each has the right kind of food. 

Because of Covid-19, our summer camp kids must stay in their assigned classroom; they can’t visit the other classrooms to see what’s going on. In order to give everyone a chance to participate in our butterfly project, the eggs/caterpillars will rotate through each classroom. In the end, all kids will take turns with their care.¬†

If you’re on Facebook and you’d like more information on raising Monarch and Swallowtail butterflies, these two groups are very helpful:¬†(Marilyn’s an admin!)

Wow, thanks Marilyn! What a great training for our teachers!

When spring weather is dull and the garden is slowly waking up, what else can we do but wait? Well HPNC Volunteer, Marilyn Cavicchia, actually overwinters Swallowtail Chrysalises (the stage of metamorphosis between caterpillar and butterfly). and its around this time that, with warmth, they emerge into their beautiful adult Swallowtail form.


Today we received a welcome note from Marilyn, our volunteer Monarch Habitat gardener:

“I’ve seen our first butterflies, either red admirals or painted ladies. Last I heard, the monarchs were in central Illinois. We might see them here by the middle of this month.”

4/26/20 Part 2

These are some flowers/weeds that Marilyn always leaves alone unless she has something else she wants to plant in the spot. Dandelions, Violets, and Purple Dead Nettle (far right) all are very helpful for the first bees and butterflies, before much else is blooming. All are popular among people who like to forage for food, too! She doesn’t know exactly what people use dead nettle for, but dandelion greens are very popular, and lately, she says she’s seen photos where people have deep-fried the flowers. Violets can be candied, made into jelly, or cooked into a syrup that then helps make a pretty purple lemonade (yum!).

4/26/20 Part 1

Today, our volunteer Monarch Habitat tender, Ms. Marilyn Cavicchia removed the duct tape from all but one jug because that last one has not sprouted. But all the others have, and many are stuffed full! She says she’s leaving the top half attached to the jugs for now, in case of a cold snap, but for now she’s flopped them all open.

The big seedlings now have more room to grow, and the small seedlings might benefit from more sun. She will need to watch that they don’t dry out, and lightly mist with the hose if any are too dry. They still need another month or so to grow before planting.

We will have plenty Milkweed to share with anyone who wants some for another community/school garden or at home. We always plant more than we need, because we never know how many will “pop.” The other thing that could happen — and did happen last year — is that if the monarchs arrive early and find no other milkweed (she hasn’t seen any coming up yet), they might lay eggs all over these seedlings.

Marilyn says that she has some other, bigger milkweed plants (different kinds from these seedlings) arriving in the next few weeks, so that will help in the event that the Monarchs show before our plants big and strong. 

Milkweed grown from seed. Originally in covered jugs, allowing for sunlight but protecting the seedlings from gold weather. The jugs are open now to allow more sun in and give the little plants room to grow!

HPNC’s Certificate of Appreciation from MonarchWatch?


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