What grows on the verge of a nervous breakdown? Nothing; no Campion, no Stitchwort, no Vetch, no Jack by the hedge and most certainly, no caterpillars. The verges and hedge banks of the country lanes along which I familiarly walk are joyful, profuse flowers, dancing with life. At least they were until this morning when the growling, thrashing hedge bank monster (tractor with 'attachments') determined to peruse its territory destroying everything in its path. Callously it chewed up and spat out every living thing within reach of its jaws including the exquisite green caterpillars of the Orange Tip butterfly that I have been delighting in watching grow.
Earlier this Spring I followed the butterflies courtship dance; the demure female, with soft grey tips to her wings leading the amorous, orange tipped male along the garden path... and the country lanes before succumbing to his whiles... his pheromones or simply his sheer persistence! By and by she lay her precious eggs just below the flower buds of the Garlic Mustard plant, known as Jack by the hedge in country parlance. Butterflies are very particular as to where they lay their eggs, choosing specific food plants for their young. The Orange Tip is no exception, she seeks out plants growing in a sunny aspect, laying her eggs singly, a sufficient distance apart from one an other to ensure that in their appetite for life they don't consume one another. Their beauty belies a rather gruesome cannibalistic bent to their nature. When they hatch they feed on their nursery flower bud before moving on to the long green seeds that form as both plant and caterpillar mature. Their camouflage is perfect, emulating the colour and form of the long bean shaped seeds, making the joy of discovering them and watching them grow all the more fun.
If not, as melodramatically suggested 'on the verge of a nervous breakdown', I felt disconsolate, sulking for a while before realising that as I was being so negatively self indulgent, the hedge bank monster could still be heard, growling away in the distance, prowling its way back along the other side of the lane! Dashing out I gathered nine lives into an old ice cream box and out of harms way before the monster could be seen coming over the hill. They now reside in my caterpillar nursery (a bespoke, bijoux building that Neil made for me, worthy of ranking on a list of amazing small spaces!) in the company of Tortoiseshell chrysalis's and Peacock caterpillars. They are, I hasten to add out of harms way from one another too...mine is a respectable establishment, not a house of horrors, cannibalistic and parasitic behaviour is not tolerated!
...more from the nursery soon!