Wild ThingsÖ
Pre-Spring 
By Karen Vizzi
     At Last! Spring is in the air!
     Well, not really. But for gardeners, the wait is agonizing. The reality is that we will continue to be threatened with snow until the first week in April. Itís still too early to start most seeds. Itís still too early to be  working outside. Itís still too early for just about everything! I pace back and forth in the basement, staring at all the shiny new packages of seed and wonder if Iíll survive it. 
    I have grand plans for this year. Yeah, like thatís something new! 
     Last fall, I made two new circular flowerbeds and I imagine them as blank canvases patiently waiting for me under the snow. I will plant a new buddleia (butterfly bush) in the center of each. A buddleia is an absolute must for attracting butterflies, and the nectar-rich blooms are a beacon for hummingbirds, too. I have five other buddleia in various spots, but this is one plant that you canít  have enough of in the wild garden. Around my new buddleia, I will plant monarda (bee balm), cosmos, asters, nicotiana (flowering tobacco), dill and nettles. This particular flower selection will provide bloom for most of the season and nectar for many insects. The dill provides food for the caterpillars of the Eastern Black Swallowtail and the nettle is a delicacy for caterpillars of anglewing species. The nicotiana is an evening bloomer with a heavenly fragrance and will attract beautiful 
moths. 
     One of the most exciting projects in the wild garden is raising butterflies and moths from the egg stage all the way through the adult stage. Moths? You ask horrified. Yes, moths! Trust me on this one.The sight of a Luna moth or a Cecropia moth flitting about the garden on a warm summer 
evening is a sight you will not soon forget. Their beauty rivals that of any critter in nature and moths are extremely important pollinators in the wild garden. In any case, we will discuss the how-to of caterpillar rearing when the time comes. 
     In addition to a few other varieties of critter-friendly flowers, my 2001 garden will host a few vegetables. Cucumbers for pickling, string beans and a big collection of herbs. In the past, I have grown almost every vegetable known to man, with different levels of success. Hereís what I have learned:
     1.) Never grow more vegetables than can be safely consumed within a week of harvest. Of course, you can always donate your surplus to a charity, which is a great idea. Or you could preserve and can, but I prefer to spend my time in 
the garden.
     2.) Before planting, take a poll of individual tastes in the family. I love to grow tomatoes, but gave up because my husband hates them. Now, I grow 1 or 2 plants of cherry tomatoes that I snack on while Iím working near the 
plants. Thatís all.
      3.) Unless you own a greenhouse, donít expect your heat-loving veggies (like eggplants and peppers) to look like a produce advertisement. These veggies require lots of heat to grow properly. Our days are usually warm enough, but 
itís our cool nighttime temperatures that can cause stress-related problems with these plants. Stick to veggies that can tolerate our weather conditions.
     So as you see, spring really is just around the corner ... at least in my mind!
    Bird Brainers: I am a huge lover of birds of prey and there is a section of the NY State Thruway that is raptor heaven. If you find yourself a passenger on a car trip from Buffalo to Syracuse, turn your eyes to the sky! Iíve seen Cooperís Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks and once, a Bald Eagle. If youíre the driver, KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD. 
    Butterfly Bullets: You would be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful creature in nature than the Luna Moth. The big green Luna caterpillar feeds on the leaves of birch trees. 
    Plant Pointers: Houseplants benefit from an occasional shower. Throw them in the tub with a lukewarm spray, and watch them come to life! 

 
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