Well. What’s a gardener to do, other than mutter? Thursday was a glorious day—sunny, warm, not even that windy. I went to Dartmouth to meet with some work and personal associates, and sat on the wharf eating lunch, feeling warm sun on my face and figuring that maybe, just maybe…we’d broken the back of the weather.
Not so. Woke up in the middle of the night to hear ICE pellets hitting the window. Staggered downstairs and looked out—at another few inches of snow, and then this glazing of ice over top. Returned to bed, hauled covers over head, and grumped my way into sleep.
Today it’s sunny for the first time since Thursday, and I don’t know whether to be glad or worry about what comes next. However..I’m watching goldfinches stuff themselves at the feeders outside the office window. They are definitely turning gold from the tarnished-grey-green they’ve been all winter. And where the ground is emerging from melting snow, it has that lovely warming-earth scent. We’ll be okay.
I’ve got bees and other pollinators on the brain this week, as the stories we’ve been hearing about honeybees with colony collapse disorder has got me thinking about ways to create pollinator-friendly gardens. Ours is such a one, we hope, and I asked my friend and wild gardener Wild Flora for her wisdom and suggestions, which she’s generously been sharing with me—and with readers of her blog. So I’ll be writing an article about how to encourage pollinators to the garden very soon.
I often wonder what visitors to our garden think. Last year when we were part of a garden tour fundraiser for a local youth group, I was away (tee hee! It wasn’t intentional—I agreed to be part of the tour then discovered I had to be in St. John’s Nfld that weekend.) As a result I didn’t get to trail around and listen to what people thought of our yard. Martha-Stewart-perfect, it ain’t. Far from it, actually. It’s a work in progress, and some of the progress is very incomplete, so there are beds that are partially planted, others in need of thinning, borders that need edging, more things to plant, beds to join with other beds (to make mowing the grass easier for my beloved longsuffering spouse, of course). The ground is uneven in places, in part because our property is at the crest of a hill and slopes to the north. It’s wet in spots, especially after a rain. It’s not a formal garden, but one of jubilant growth.
And oh my…there are wild areas that are never touched. There are grasses growing 5 and 6 feet tall. There are NETTLES over by the spruce tree hedge that we’re slowly developing. There are THISTLES—all kinds of them—down by the pond, which is full of cattails and edged by some alders and willows and reeds and who knows what other wild stuff. Can’t you just hear some of the perfect-subdivision-patch gardeners? “Whyever would she have THOSE growing there?” “Why doesn’t she spray those?”
The answer is simple, dear friends and gentle gardeners. This is a haven for most all creatures great and small. (except raccoons and coyotes. I don’t like either of them, but we manage.) The cattails filter the pond, shelter wildfowl and frogs and other welcome visitors, and look really nice with redwinged blackbirds sitting on them. Alders filter impurities from groundwater, if there happen to be any impurities (including pesticides) around. Nettles are a food plant for the red admiral butterfly. Thistles feed many small seedeating birds. The tall grasses shelter a host of other things. The burdocks…well, they sneak in. We’re working on getting rid of them, but hey, those big tap roots are very efficient at loosening compacted soil. Likewise with dandelions.
Of course, there are plants that I don’t welcome in the garden. Horsetails are a bit annoying, and creeping buttercups, and ground ivy, and couchgrass. Those would be the worst nuisances. But I happen to like sitting on the ground on a warm day, digging up weed plants and throwing them on the lawn to wilt (and drive my dearly beloved crazy!) before I dump them in the compost heap. I love that we have a full orchestration of insect, bird and frogsong happening here throughout the growing season. We love sitting on the deck out back watching butterflies flit through the yard and pasture, or the swallows teaching their babies to fly. We enjoy the vast variety of plants, both cultivated and native that surround us. And we count our blessings daily.
I always write my articles encouragingly, urging people to bloom where they’re planted, and to plant what gives them joy. I don’t nag excessively about growing organically, even though I think it’s an infinitely more responsible, healthy and wise choice than dumping a gazillion chemicals onto lawn, garden, shrubs and trees. So with that in mind, I tell people: welcome to our yard. It isn’t something you’ll find in the pages of Gardening Life. But it’s happy, it’s ours, and if it’s not to your tastes…no worries here. We love it. ☺