A Beautiful Evening for the Autumn Equinox

It’s officially the autumnal equinox, and what a wonderful way to celebrate it’s arrival than a beautiful evening party at the Benedictine Sisters Monastery Teaching Garden! Last Friday we were treated to a lavish spread of delicious food, violin music by Michael Francis Haley, and a very informative and entertaining class (by flashlight) with Capital Naturalist Alonso Abugettas.  The evening was so lovely; you could here an orchestra of a of chirping insects and croaking amphibians, bats were busy keeping the mosquitoes at bay and the hundreds of tea lights and candles made for perfect lightening. The tables were elegantly set with flower arrangements by Nancy Berlin (and others), tables of savory and homemade appetizers, and scrumptious desserts. There was so much attention to detail and it was evident that many people worked hard planning  and  setting everything up. Most of all, it was a delight not only to see people from your own MG class, but also meet others that you had not met before.  It really was a splendid evening in the beautiful setting of the Teaching Garden, and true to it’s description, the White bed was in full “moon glow”.

Thanks to Tina Chappell (chair of event), the MGPW board provided funding, Paige Thacker (who did SO much),  Nancy Berlin and the support of Brenda Hallam, Linda Ligon (and her husband Tom), Terri Anderson, Sally Peterson, Val Chappell (Tina’s husband). If I have forgotten anyone, let me know! I will add their names. I also would like to give a HUGE shout out to all the Master Gardeners that faithfully come out every week to keep this beautiful garden and  composting going. Please come out and see us more often!


Alonso Abugettas was the guest speaker and he has agreed to speak again on June (details coming later…..) Alonso is a well-known local naturalist, environmental educator and storyteller in the Washington, D.C. area. He is the natural resources manager for the Department of Parks and Recreation and the co-chair for the Beltway Chapter of Region 2 of the National Association for Interpretation. He has been trained as a master gardener, was made an honorary Virginia Master Naturalist for his role in starting two chapters and serves as an instructor for both. He is a co-founder of the Washington Area Butterfly Club and has held several offices, including president, for the Potowmack Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society.

He invites you to check out his personal blog “Capital Naturalist” and Facebook group where he posts regular nature notes using his own photography.

Alonso took us out into the garden after dark and found lots of interesting things going on in the Lesley’s Deer Resistant bed.  The Teaching Garden is designed to support pollinators in all of the beds, but special attention is paid to Monarchs. Throughout the season we find all stages of metamorphosis and for the last several weeks the generation that leaves on the long migration to Mexico has been emerging from their chrysalis’. Monarch catepillars have been munching away on the many milkweed plants planted to attract them. Alonso found them of course, busy consuming as much as they can. He also found many other stages in the life cycle of beneficial insects we have been supporting, as well as the sticky aphids that supply honey dew.  Some of the things that Alonso talked about: There are 13 species of milkweed found in Northern Virginia, aphids found on milkweed are not native, but are native to oleander bush, and the Monarch caterpillars that we saw that evening are probably at least, the 3rd or 4th generation this season.   We learned to cut back the milkweed in late August to encourage a new flush of leaves to feed the last generation before migration, to wash the aphids we find off with fresh water, and that young milkweed leaves are edible. Alonso also found plenty of milkweed bugs and lace wing nymphs eating aphids. One interesting we also learned is that if a catepillar bites directly into a vein of the milkweed, the latex can glue its moth shut!

Please come again! We love to see everyone. Thanks again to all that worked hard to make this a special evening!



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