I added two sessile trilliums to the woodland garden late in 2014. They have done well for two years, and this year I was watching as they came up again.

a large flower on the left, a medium-sized flower in the middle, and a small flower with only the stem and one of three leaves visible, viewed from a standing position

But apparently I wasn’t watching very closely because it took me awhile to notice a third flower popping up, too, this one hiding under the leaf of one of the original flowers. It looked like a baby hiding behind a parent.

same flowers but viewed from the side, so the smallest one on the right is more visible as it's unfolding

I went back to look at earlier photos, and sure enough, there’s a hint of a third growing; I just wasn’t paying close enough attention to notice.

two emerging folded leaves, the right one with a smaller stem right next to it

Soon after, the stem of one of the older flowers broke (or was chewed or otherwise disturbed)…

same three flowers, but the left stem is broken and curved, with the flower's leaves now flat on the ground, purple flower blooming

…and two days later, the same thing happened the other old one.

similar photo as previous, but with two open flowers on the ground and one closed flower standing

The “baby” stayed upright and flourished…

a single flower with a long stem, three green-and-purple leaves, and a purple flower partially opened

…and even the two broken flowers did okay from their new positions on the ground.

all three flowers blooming, the left two on the ground

Sessile trillium (common name: toadshade) is a native plant, though it’s not native in Minnesota; its range is south and east of the Midwest. Apparently it does not smell good, though I haven’t noticed this. I wish I could remember where I bought it.

More about sessile trillium

This year the monarch migration from Mexico was earlier than normal. Butterflies started reaching the Twin Cities about two weeks ago, so I have been checking the milkweed every few days but not finding any eggs. Then this evening Bill saw a monarch fluttering in the front yard. I raced out with my camera.

monarch butterfly resting on common milkweed

She landed on common milkweed, in a cluster of plants that’s growing outside of the garden in the lawn. While I watched, she paused in the egg-laying pose and then fluttered away, circled the yard, and came back to another plant nearby to repeat the process.

monarch butterfly with her abdomen curved to lay eggs on common milkweed

Then, in my excitement to see this process up close, I scared her away. (Next time, I will be more cool.) I started checking the plants and found two eggs right away, where I had seen her. Then I moved on throughout the garden.

closeup of a striped, football-shaped, ivory-colored egg on a green leaf

We have more than 100 milkweeds, so it took awhile, but there were plenty of eggs to be found. Each was on its own plant. Some were on full plants about a foot tall…

egg on the underside of a large leaf

some on really small plants with only one or two leaves so far…

egg on a leaf that's still unfolding

one curious location near several insects…

egg on the edge of a leaf with several green aphids and white, cotton-like insects

some on plants growing in a community…

a milkweed with many leaves, with two more plants in the background

one on an island in the grass.

egg on the underside of a vertical leaf, only grass in the background

12 eggs in all! So maybe she was done laying eggs, anyway, and wasn’t bothered by me observing…?

Last year, it wasn’t until July 15 that I saw my first monarch in the garden and September 22 when I saw the first caterpillar. While May 26 feels really early, now that they’re here and the cycle is continuing, it’s pretty exciting.

At this point, I’m not planning to bring any of the eggs inside to raise them. It’s only May, and I’m not sure I’m up for an entire summer of cleaning out cages. But once I start seeing caterpillars in the garden, it won’t be surprising if I cave.

a patch of white flowers in the sun

Rue anemone or false rue anemone?

another patch of white flowers in the sun

The previous two pictures look really similar. (There’s even a log in each!) They’re white flowers, approximately the same size, with very similar leaves. But they’re different: all of the flowers in the first photo have five petals, but only some of the flowers in the second photo have five petals, and most have more than five.

I can always remember that there is a distinction in the petal numbers, but I haven’t been able to remember which is which without looking it up. Thank goodness for minnesotawildflowers.info.

yet another patch of white flowers, each with five petals

Color might help: if it’s pink, it’s rue anemone. But with such similar common names, what are the chances I’ll remember that? Slim.

closeup of four pinkish flowers, one with seven petals, two with six, and one with five

In addition, both can be white, so it’s not safe to rely on color. So it’s back to counting the petals. False rue anemone always has five petals; true rue anemone has between five and ten.

closeup of a white flower with eight petals and several smaller flowers drooping away

However, that rule has never stuck with me. I have to keep learning it and re-learning it. Even in my own garden — where I have one of these flowers but not the other…

six white flowers, two with five petals, one with six, one unknown, and two missing several petals

… the only way I know for sure is to look at the tag.

an out-of-focus white flower next to a plant tag that says rue anemone

This year, I posted this problem on Instagram and asked if anyone has a mnemonic to help. Within a couple hours, a new Instagram friend, Jenny Stratton, responded with this spur-of-the-moment suggestion:

Five is false, ten is true?

Let’s give it a try:

sunny shot that focuses on a couple flowers in the foreground, with many more blurred in the background
All of these flowers have five petals, so it’s false rue anemone


focus on one pinkish flower, with many more around it
All of these flowers have [up to] ten petals, so it’s [true] rue anemone
It works! And I’ve managed to remember this saying for two weeks.

closeup of one pinkish flower with seven petals

One problem is that five petals could mean either flower. But a patch of true rue anemone, as far as I have seen, never has all five-petal flowers. In fact, I usually don’t see any with five; it’s usually six or eight. As long as I am not in a hurry and look at the entire patch of flowers instead of just one individual, I’ll get it.

closeup of one white flower with five petals, with half a dozen more in the background

Learn more about these flowers

The first thing I noticed in the garden this afternoon was a butterfly flitting around the pearly everlasting.

blurry photo of a black-and-orange butterfly resting on a small, light green plant

When I got closer, I noticed that there was another one nearby – and then another and yet another. I managed to get a photo with two of them in one frame.

two of those butterflies close together among seedlings

Altogether, four American lady butterflies, possibly already laying eggs! I couldn’t wait to get inside and write a post about this.

But then I started seeing other new discoveries in the garden. I’m way behind on the phenology report and need to get recording!

Irises are showing purple.

about a dozen iris buds, some with dark purple tips

I hope these are first-year cup plant seedlings (because there are close to a dozen of these, so it would be nice if they’re a good plant).

plant with red, rhubarb-like stems and large but relatively narrow, toothed leaves

Peonies are already covered in ants.

one round bud in the foreground, two in the background, all covered in small ants

Ferns (not my favorite) are already huge.

at least six nearly fully-grown ferns

The invasive creeping bellflower is already out of control.

the entire frame covered in dozens of green, elongated heart-shaped leaves

The creeping charlie is everywhere, too, although that is at least somewhat manageable. Tonight I pulled this by hand for 30 minutes and actually made a large dent in the strawberry / vegetable garden.

the entire frame covered in short plants with lots of purple flowers

Back to the wanted plants: Canada violet, joining the wood violets that have been blooming for a couple weeks.

white violets in the foreground, light-purple violets in the background

Baby wild ginger leaves, next to the fading flowers.

two dark purple triangle-shaped flowers, to the left of one small, green, rounded leaf

With any luck, this will be the first time we’ve had more than one jack-in-the-pulpit! I spotted three shoots.

And the large-flowered trilliums are finally open.

a drooping three-petaled flower that is starting to open

I can’t decide if that was my favorite find, or if this is instead: common milkweed making an appearance. Monarch butterflies will be here any day now, looking for places to lay their eggs. Grow quickly, milkweed!

six or so tightly packed, short milkweed stems with new leaves standing straight up

The robins are back! One decided to set up shop in our front yard.

robin perched on a pine branch facing left

Last year, a pair of robins built a nest on the downspout and raised several babies, so I was excited that we might be able to observe that process again this year. But I haven’t seen that yet; instead, he has spent his time fighting an intruder in his territory. (I am assuming this robin is a male.)

robin in midair with its feet straight up and claws extended

Except the other robin is just his own reflection in our front windows.

silhouette with its head turned to the left and wings outstretched

For several days in a row, rain or shine, for hours on end beginning at 6 am, he would watch the reflection from his spot in the tree, then move in closer and perch on a stick close to the window, then go in for the attack.

Each incident lasted from 2 to 5 seconds, and then he’d fly back to the pine tree and pause for a minute or two, then look both ways, then look straight at the window and start again.

The tree shows evidence of his presence.

pine branch with many bird droppings

This wasn’t just playful; this was feet-up, claws-out wrestling — at least, as much as he can wrestle with a window.

silhouette with wings outstretched, tail down, feet up

Nothing we did to dissuade him worked for the long term. Not putting up more anti-bird-strike stickers, not putting up shiny metal tape, not hanging a screen, not shooing him away from the inside or outside.

silhouette from the side, mouth open, right wing up, left wing down

He just kept coming back and fighting and fighting

silhouette from the left side, wings back, right leg and claws visible

and buzzing by repeatedly.

flying to the right, wings down

flying to the left, wings down

Finally, one day the constant attacks stopped. I imagined he must have admitted to his rival, “You are a worthy opponent.” He’s still around, and every now and then he’ll attack the window-robin once, but that’s it. And on Sunday we saw (and heard) a real skirmish: a robin flew super-fast into the tree and apparently dislodged another bird; they wrestled and screeched in midair, and one flew away.

hovering in front of the window, wings back, feet down

But mostly now he just watches his territory without incident. So far, I haven’t seen a nest; maybe he hasn’t had time to find a mate, what with him being so busy patrolling and all.

back on the branch, facing right, looking left

Learn more about this behavior