A Walk On The Wild Side

Last week, I took a walk that was all pleasure and wonder at every step. If ever there was a way to escape the world and still be completely present in the world, this was it. I was treated to a guided tour of Wildflower Island at the Teatown Lake Reservation in Ossining, NY. Guided by Leah Waybright Kennell, the curator of this magical isle, I learned how much there is to see and delight in if only one knew where and how to look.

As gardeners, we tend to focus on the showy and/or dramatic. All too often, we forget that beauty also resides in the diminutive and shy. Tiny flowers expressing their enthusiasm on ground hugging stems of Canadian Mayflower. Or bashful Chrysogonum virginianum permitting sweet glimpses of its sulphur yellow blooms.

Walking to the accompaniment of a rich chorus of birds, I saw yellow lady’s slippers skipping around while their more rare pink cousins tip-toed quietly. Hummingbird columbines shone like small flames and red Silene virginica darted in and out of the spring growth that spread all around.

Leah pointed out so many plants that I was not familiar with. Wonderful natives that ought to be included in our gardens and woodlands. Her love and passion for the plants in her care is infectious and her knowledge of them is plain impressive. I’m inspired and determined to get to know more of these plants and invite them into my garden.

My ‘meadow’ is perfect for Hypoxis hirsuta, Zizia aurea and several more of the wildflowers. I already have Anemone canadensis, Arisaema triphyllum, Rubus odoratus, Myosotis sylvatica, Taraxacum officinale, Camassia quamash and some others. Adding the aforementioned will prolong bloom time in this part of my garden. As such, along with the myriad bulbs in its midst, the meadow only blooms through spring. I would love to have summer and fall blooming plants here to properly sustain all the wild life it draws.

My meadow also supports Ajuga and Viola odoratus. Two rather attractive but invasive aliens. To be rid of them is near impossible and frankly, I’d miss them. They add a real dose of brilliance to the spring show. I have been somewhat successful in containing them to only this part of the property. Any such plant found elsewhere is ruthlessly removed.

If you live in the Tri-state area, I strongly encourage a visit to Teatown. A tour of Wildflower Island is possible only by appointment and you get a highly knowledgeable guide to lead your eyes to all the gems that are nurtured there. It is a comfortable walk and takes only however long it takes you to get your fill of the beauty and variety of our unsung, wild natives. There are always things to see but spring and the second half of summer have the most in bloom. I expect to walk with Leah many times this year!

This ramble was one of the best hour and a half I ever spent. A mindful meditation like no other.

Note: I’ve used the botanically correct names mostly because many of the common names are the same as some non-native species. I did not want to confuse those looking to get the native plants.

Yellow lady's slipper. Cypripedium acaule.

Yellow lady’s slipper. Cypripedium acaule.


Pink Lady's Slippers. C. calceolus

Pink Lady’s Slippers.
C. calceolus

Zizia aurea

Zizia aurea

Hypoxis hirsuta

Hypoxis hirsuta

Hummingbird columbine

Hummingbird columbine

Silene virginicum

Silene virginicum

Chrysogonum virginianam

Chrysogonum virginianum

(c) 2015 Shobha Vanchiswar

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1 thought on “A Walk On The Wild Side

  1. What a great column. I am going to schedule a visit to the wildflower island. Sounds like a treasure. Love Teatown – was just there last week to see an exhibit of exquisite botanical paintings!

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