Wild Sanctuary

Ruby-throated hummingbird public domain USFWAImage via Wikipedia

This morning I was rewarded with a moment lovely in its simplicity and rich in the beauty of life.  I watched for several minutes a Ruby throated hummingbird darting in and out of the pineapple sage. It’s tiny wings flapping at amazing speed, visiting each colorful stalk, drinking in the nectar of the brilliant scarlet flowers.  Hummingbirds are some of my favorite garden visitors.  These last days of October are a flurry of activity by humans as well as our animal friends in the wild and the not so wild.

I spent much of this beautiful day in the garden.  I find peace here working with Mother Nature.  I feel part of a greater whole that fills me with a calm serenity that is electric and full of life.

That is my garden to me.  I call it my sanctuary and it truly is.  I share my sanctuary with a few humans but mostly I share it with a cornucopia of lifeforms, from the smallest microbe in the soil to the squirrels and the birds and butterflies.  This place is truly alive.

I have spent the better part of a decade planting and shaping this place.  I have made my share of mistakes but I have learned from them. It is much easier in the long run to work with nature than against it.  Some believe that when a gardener welcomes wildlife into the garden, he or she is asking for troublesome pests as well as pretty butterflies. This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Nature exists in balance, Mother Nature provides to all; predator and prey.  A garden in balance is in harmony with all.  By working with nature we reap many benefits and so do the wild lifeforms that visit our yards.  There is much we can do and every little bit helps.

My garden is teeming with life and it is by no accident.  My obsession with plants is deep and true. I must have hundreds upon hundreds of types and kinds that spring up throughout the year.  Many are native plants to my region which is the Pacific Northwest. Many are flowers that are appealing to bees and insects and nectar rich providing food for hummingbirds and others.

I see it as my mission as a gardener, as a lover of the land and nature to do my small part in helping the flora and fauna of our fantastic planet.  In this I feel that my garden is not only a sanctuary to me but to many.  Urban gardens can provide a refuge for many species that have been forced out of their natural habitats.  Our wild areas are vanishing  and we gardeners have a huge role to play.  Our urban and not so urban gardens link up making a larger habitat for wildlife.

No space is too small.  A potted plant on a back patio or a window box planted with the right plant can provide food all year.

No effort is too small.  There are many ways to help. It can be as easy or as complicated as you choose.  Typically wildlife have three basic needs, the essentials;  shelter, water and food.

Three Essentials For Wildlife

Shelter

   A large Evergreen shrub can provide shelter for many species as can other types of plant life such as climbers.  A pile of logs or rocks can serve as shelter to many ground dwelling species. Leave a bit of leaf litter on the ground to protect overwintering insects.  Simply leaving a wild corner of the yard can help.

Water

Water is essential for all life but it can become a scarce commodity for wildlife in the city. A pond or bird bath can spell welcome relief for the thirsty. A plastic plant saucer with a few stones on the bottom filled with clean water could be a lifeline for many.

Food

Use plants native to your particular region.  Create biodiversity with as many varieties as possible. There are a number of plant species that provide food for wildlife.  From nectar to pollen to seeds and berries.  Once a flower has bloomed, typically gardeners remove the spent seedhead.  This also removes a valuable winter food source for birds. A bit of untidiness in the garden is no crime, in fact a more natural appearance can be quite comely and you will be rewarded time and time again with the wonder of nature beckoning at your back door.

Butterfly
Image by Travelling Steve via Flickr

Happy Gardening!

Strawberryindigo.

                

References and suggested reading

  • Planthropology: The myth, mysteries, and miracles of my garden favorites.  Ken Druse ©2008.
  • Create a wildlife garden. Christine and Michael Lavelle ©2007
  • Attracting birds, butterflies and other winged wonders to your backyard. Kris Wetherbee ©2004

The Colors of Life

 

The spectrum of humanity lives in my garden.  All the hues are represented.  I spent much of the day today here in the garden, working and enjoying the beautiful day. 

Here in my garden among nature’s living color.  The riotous reds and sunny saffron.  The bright fuchsias, vivid indigo and royal plums, Tangerine oranges and leaves of deep velvet green with tickles of snow-white petals kiss the Kelly grass. 

The butterflies flutter and frolic, while the songbirds twitter and tweet. The place hums with life.  Chickadees and blue birds, Robins and Crows, the little Wrens and the glorious hummingbirds all play and sing. 

 Raccoons and opossums, the neighbor cats and probably a few mice. A million kinds of insects and even a few humans also pay frequent visits to the garden.  It is an oasis of pure green in the city.

Everything is all organic.  I let nature do  a lot of the work so I can have more time to appreciate It’s wonder.

When I work the soil, I feel a certain connectedness to the Earth.  I feel so included, so a part of something much bigger than I .  A  cool cloud of  calm descends over me and my mind can finally relax.  I take in the whole experience of the garden, It is a delight to all the senses.

I plant a seed and watch that seed sprout out of the ground and grow into something beautiful  and useful, it’s like a miracle to me, every time. I can’t get over it, the more I learn, the more I need to learn.  

I have learned much over the years and have accomplished much as well.   Many times I had to learn the hard way until I finally learned that I don’t know everything and that it’s O.K. to ask for help.  I’ve learned that nothing and no one is perfect and that is a good thing.   We are all different: but just as beautiful, just as vitally important.  All of us contribute to the beautiful essence of the garden of humanity in our own unique ways.

We need a spectrum of colors in our garden of humanity.  And love and understanding for one another.  The health of the garden depends on all of us…From the bipedal big-headed hairy ape, to the smallest microbe.  We need to work together for the good of all.

As I work in my garden I think of these things;  I start to believe that nothing is impossible, if you believe.  Every plant starts with one tiny seed, and ideas are like that.  Some land in the wrong place, some never germinate or get water, some just wither and die, and some are even stepped on.  Some ideas, with love and care and attention can grow and become tall powerful towering trees, like the great redwoods.

I believe that, if we all believe and work hard.  Humankind can achieve wonderous beautiful things. Together, we can do much. Apart, we achieve nothing.  And maybe someday we can all live in peace and harmony.  Just like in my garden.

And while we are on the subject…Check out My Garden page  for a tribute to The Sunflower and more…Wishing you Peace and Happiness,

 Strawberryindigo.

The grass is always greener…A letter to my neighbor

The lawn of a garden taken from a low level.
Image via Wikipedia

I don’t have an alias for you so I will call you: The man who messes with his lawn too much.  I used to call you the poisoner but I thought that was a little harsh, maybe you are just ignorant.  Keeping that in mind I decided to write this open letter to you. 

I see you often since we are neighbors.  I see you water at all times and rather frequently, almost everyday in the summer.  You’d think that because of this your lawn would be lush and green.   It’s not.  You know what it looks like….It looks sick and patchy.  It’s hard to take.  Even my shriveled up tree looks better.

You are constantly at work on your lawn; mowing very short so that it resembles a brown golf course.  You re-seed it at least twice a year and you are spraying pesticides around like there is no tomorrow.  It’s a bit ridiculous to tell the truth.  There you are, wearing goggles with a giant container of poison on your back.  You spray and spray.  Everywhere.  I’m tempted to run out and scold you.  I want to scream “Stop the insanity, you are poisoning our planet with your damned pesticides!”

I need peace in the neighborhood so I grin and bear it.  It still bothers me. It’s all so unnecessary. 

I must say that I might be partially to blame for your obsession with your lawn, that and retirement.  Where I come in is that my lawn is the one that is lush and green.  Everyday my greenness stares you in the face.  It never used to be that way and neither did my lawn.  Once we were like you,  I didn’t use poison but I made more work for myself by how I treated my lawn.  I have learned a few things since then.  Maybe my neighbor, you can too…

 
watering in the morning

I have read many books and have at least a decade of first hand knowledge on the subject of lawn care.   Especially organic lawn care which I highly recommend.  Mother Nature really knows best.  I work with nature instead of trying to conquer it. You are fighting a losing battle there.

And so Mr. neighbor, the guy who messes with his lawn too much:

This one’s for you… Here are some tips I’d like to share to help you in your quest for a green lawn.

Watering  Do it infrequently and do it deeply.  This forces the roots of the grass to grow longer in order to get a drink.  This makes the grass stronger and better able to withstand longer periods without water.  Also do it in the middle of the night or early in the morning. Watering in the heat of the day causes the water to evaporate before it can sink into the soil. 

Mowing  Mowing height is an important element to consider.  Giving your lawn a super short cut may look nice to you but your lawn hates it. Keeping the mower blade 3 to 4 inches off the ground  is the best  during the summer months.  The shade the taller blades of grass provide enable the grass to hold on to moisture longer.  Thus you water less. In addition, the more you mow the grass the harder it works to re grow itself.  In my opinion, it feels softer and is more lush when it’s allowed to be longer.

 Poisoning  There is a better way.  You don’t need that.  Look around, it’s a dead zone over there. No birds, no butterflies or cute little insects, no weeds, nothing but dying grass. It’s depressing. It gets into our ground water.  It’s even found in breast milk.  Please stop it! 

Your lawn would healthier without all that.  Nature provides.  In the coming months, I will be writing more on the subject of organic gardening.  Perhaps we can whip that lawn of yours into shape so that by next summer, you will have a lush green lawn and more free time to spent with your wife, who I happen to know, is a nice person.

Happy Gardening,

Signed your neighbor,  Strawberryindigo.

Good Tree Bad Tree

I must confess something to you.  I have been known on occasion to brag up my green thumb, yes, its shocking but true.  Most of the time I can back that statement up but not now…

Now at this very moment a reddish-brown shriveled husk of a tree sits in my front yard, a testimony to my ignorance and arrogance. I know enough about trees to know better.  It is a foolhardy and risky endeavor to plant a tree where one once stood, especially an old sick one. I am guilty of such an offense.

It all started innocently enough.  I was at one of my favorite nurseries. I was wandering around like I do when I spied a beautiful tree, it was smallish and covered with tiny white flowers.  It was a dwarf Yoshino Ornamental Cherry tree and it had a twin!  I get excited by stuff such as that.  I almost let out a squeal and start to jump up and down but I contained myself long enough to purchase the trees and arrange for their delivery.

Now I had to figure out where to plant them.  I have a habit of falling in love at the nursery and bringing home plants I have no room for.  So far it has all worked out, I’ve always found a home for them, but trees are special.  You can’t just stick them anywhere and expect them to thrive.  But that’s what I did. Right where an old sick one once stood about a year ago.

I guess I thought the tree and I where above such practical nonsense as compaction and nutrient depletion and for a while it seemed that we were.

I was so proud of the trees, they were the first in the neighborhood to bloom.  People would stop and gaze appreciatively at them as the passed by.  I too, would gaze appreciatively  at them and that is what I was doing when I noticed the first brownish leaf.  It was just one.  I didn’t worry.  Then more brown leaves started to appear. I scoured gardening books like I do and found the answer.  It was a harmless fungus and it would be O.K. in time.  We’d had an unusually wet spring so that made sense to me.

The other healthier tree grew and produced green glossy leaves, While its ugly twin stood there looking sick and depressed.  I tried to fed it, I tried some old gardening tricks, to no avail.  In the back of my mind, I knew what was wrong, I hoped that everything would turn around.

Now I would avoid the tree like the plague, I couldn’t stand the sight of it.  The sight of my failure, for all to see.  Where once the tree invoked pleasure in the people walking by.  Now people shook their heads and made faces of disgust as they walked by.

Does having a dying tree in my yard make me a bad person?   I know people want to ask what I did to the poor thing?  I feel so embarrassed.  I”ve almost cut it down several times, it small enough for me to do by myself.  Something in me won’t let me do it.  Maybe I’m holding out hope for the underdog, which I have a habit of doing.

I just can’t give up on this poor wretched tree.  So I’m babying it and watering it and even talking to it.  It is probably a lost cause but I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.  Please, wish us luck…

Strawberryindigo.