Gardens and Plantings: Tending the Base

The green world of plants is the base of all life on the planet. Providing oxygen, nutrients and implicit in innumerable ecosystem services, we often fail to pay due respect and honor to the world of primary production.

On “The Acre” plants have a place of utmost importance. About 2/3 of the property is predominantly wet meadow and allowed to naturalize with human manipulation playing a minimal role helping control alien invasives and propagating native species. Dealing with invasives can be daunting so “control” rather than eradication is the more realistic goal. For example, deflowering the majority of Purple Loosestife (Lythrum salicaria) before they go to seed helps keep them from spreading; they are notoriously difficult to uproot and given that the wet meadow receives a great deal of runoff, it is impossible to eliminate them. So interfering with their further propagation is far more practical. Natural succession is in process with the appearance of Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera), Silky Dogwood (C. amomum) and Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) sprinkled throughout the meadow. Curly/Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus), an alien, politely competes with native Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) as some of the predominant herbaceous plants in the meadow with numerous Grasses, Sedges, Asters, Pinks and Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis) scattered throughout.  On the higher, dryer end of the meadow, native White Spruce (Picea glauca) have been planted, along with White Pine (Pinus strobus) and Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) creating bird habitat and Winter feeding opportunity for Red Squirrel and White-tailed Deer.

The rest of the property, where possible, is little by little being turned over to garden beds for food, medicine and visual pleasure while also functioning to assist wildlife as much as possible.  A 12 by 24 foot vegetable garden surrounded by herb beds is the major garden installation with a number of flower beds created throughout the rest of the “manicured” section. A mammoth Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) provides the annual supply of maple syrup and a generous source of wild berries have appeared thanks to bird droppings and my personal disdain for trimming around trees.  An old Apple tree makes a valiant effort to provide fruit each year in the dense shade of the Maple.  The last of the dead Scot’s Pines still stands providing valuable Woodpecker sustenance while across the way, long ago planted Austrian (P. nigra) and White Pines provide excellent cover for the many songbirds that visit and live here.

Below are posted some photos of plants that have been introduced around “The Acre.” They are part of a hypnotic, if not obsessive, pleasure that brings balance to not only the property’s environment but also to my own emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. All hail the Green!

IMG_2365

Nasturtiums hang in pots around the vegetable garden providing a lovely, peppery flavor to salads.

Blue Columbines

Lovely blue Columbines have naturalized all over the shady areas of “The Acre”.

Echinacea

A bright orange variety of Echinacea stands out from the more common pink variety planted in other areas of the property.

Pileated Woodpecker

Leaving a dead Scot’s Pine snag standing brings the Pileated Woodpecker in for regular visits.

Shasta Daisies

This bed of Shasta Daisies is full of happy smiling flowers.

Blanket Flowers

A new bed of Blanket Flowers has moved in next to the Shasta Daisies.

Monarda

Monarda, aka Bee Balm, is a favorite among Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, a variety of Butterflies as well as the Bees.

Marshmallow

Ants are busy sipping nectar while pollinating these Marshmallows.

Foam Flower and Fern

The base of trees is a perfect place for small beds of native Foam Flower and Ostrich Fern.

Wild Ginger

This new planting of Wild Ginger beneath the shade of the Pines is thus far doing quite well.

Naturalized Black Raspberries

Much credit goes to the birds of “The Acre” whose droppings provide a wonderful supply of wild Black Raspberries.

Common Elderberry

Among the most useful plantings are these beautiful Common Elderberries (Sambucus canadensis) which provide powerful medicine for humans and important bird food just in time for Autumn migration.

2 thoughts on “Gardens and Plantings: Tending the Base

  1. Dear MJ~you are an awesome Earth steward! I am so jealous of the moisture you have available and the ease with which green things grow for you. What a blessing. I like how you have described your “Acre” and think I might also write and share about my environs here in Colorado using your example.
    I saw your comment about my cactaceae posting in the botany group on LinkedIn and noted your website/blog. Now we are both following each other LOL!!!
    Thanks for all you do for the environment. I’m glad to walk the path with you, sharing our mutual passion. Take good care. ~cm

  2. Thanks for your kinds words, Christina. Our area often gets a bad rap for our weather, mostly because of rare, yet substantial, snow storms. And while our proximity to Lake Erie sometimes does cause early heavy winter snows, it also moderates our climate making temperatures considerably milder in winter and summer compared to areas 50 to 100 miles east of us. Only down side is the tendency for high humidity, which sometimes in summer can be really oppressive. The humidity here rarely gets below 40%. We do have our extremes, however. This spring and summer, it has been extremely wet (3 to 4 inches above average each month so far) while a year ago at this time we could not buy a rain drop. In fact, we had about 3 straight years when we reached official drought status. This is why it is really important to advocate planting natives because so many have adapted to the conditions here, although these more recent extremes may be tied to climate change. In any case, I’ve always had a fascination with the southwest, especially New Mexico. Have visited the area a few times and find the wholly different climate and botany so interesting. So I’m looking forward to following you, too, and widening my knowledge. Thanks for all you do encouraging the ideas of native planting and sustainable living. The message is spreading and it has never been more important to advocate for our beautiful planet and those with whom we share it. We are kindred spirits to be sure. Be well! MJ

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