Giving Back To The Future

Something happens in mid-February. With the sap rising in the sugar maples, my gardening spirit goes into high gear. I get fully vested in preparing for the growing season. While I might have luxuriated in dreaming my way through seed and plant catalogs in December and January, come February and I’m raring to start doing garden things.

The amaryllis have been blooming beautifully since the New Year and I just got the hyacinth bulbs that had been cooling in the refrigerator since early to mid-November into bulb forcers.. Does this gardener’s heart a whole lot of good to see them sitting in their jewel-toned glass vases twinkling with all the promise of the spring to come.

This year, my plans for the garden are focused primarily on native wildflowers. It is very much in keeping with my continued efforts towards stewardship of land. Restoration of the landscape to a healthy, indigenous state is a critically important step. It is the only true legacy we can be proud to leave for future generations. I firmly believe that by bringing back what is native to our region is critical before we can pass on the trowel to those who will inherit it. Reinstating the flora and the fauna will follow. Balance will have been re-established.

If each gardener added regional native plants, then ‘habitat corridors’ will be created for free passage of pollinators and helpful wildlife that protect and/or support the plants. The natural symbiosis that is the foundation of a stable ecosystem.

My ‘meadow’ is the natural choice for introducing native wildflowers. However, it is not a simple matter of scattering seeds and expecting the plants to happily emerge. First of all, seeds from the wild are notoriously finicky. Probably evolved to give themselves the best chance for successful propagation, the seeds will germinate only when conditions are ideal. Often, depending on the species, they could take months or years to show signs of life. All of this might be proper for Nature’s normal habits but for a home gardener, it can be torturous waiting. And waiting..

Hence, I’ve forged a two-prong approach. To get the meadow established with plants starting this spring, I needed to procure said plants. Since this area has numerous bulbs already in place, I cannot risk destroying them by digging into the soil to put in mature plants. The solution was to source native wildflower plugs. Not so easy to come by. By discussing with fellow gardeners and researching on my own, I was delighted to come up with North Creek Nurseries. My plugs were obtainable! The additional bonus of the plugs is that they are that much easier to plant. This is a tremendous relief for my back and knees as they were dreading the labor of dealing with a large volume of grown-up plants.

Given that the meadow gets dappled sun, my selections are restricted to plants that are fine with that condition. The order has been placed. Shipment should arrive late April. Already I can ‘see’ the meadow shimmer with columbines, pink turtleheads, yellow sneezeweed, toad’s lily, wild bergamot ….

Meanwhile, the scientist in me was interested in working with seeds. I wanted seeds legitimately sourced from the wild. Plants from such seeds are quite different from their cultivated counterparts. If we are serious about restoring to our countryside and cities true native plants, then we must propagate from those seeds. Enter the Wild Seed Project. Based in Maine, its goal is to bring back the natural flora of Maine to Maine. Fortunately, those of us living in other similar regions of the country can purchase appropriate seeds from them.

Serendipitously, this past December, I was given a bunch of seed packets from Wild Seed Project. A gift of the best kind! Most of the seeds need a period in the cold after being sowed in pots. I have now done just that. My ‘babies’ wait in a sheltered part of the garden for their spring awakening. I will do my very best to attend to them as required and anticipate their germination with patience. Those who know me well are probably smiling with skepticism. Just watch. I’m going to show you a side of me you have never known. Patient and persevering. Wipe that smirk off your face!

Note: North Creek Nurseries supplies wholesale quantities – far more than the typical garden might require. So, team up with friends and neighbors, garden clubs and such, to order. The bonus will be creating native habitats in whole neighborhoods or communities. All good!

Wild Seed Project has a wonderful website and e-newsletter chock full of information and beautiful photos. Their efforts in Maine ought to be emulated in all the other states. Lets get started! I see this as a wonderful project to be taken up by towns and cities, private and public gardens, Girl and Boy Scouts, garden clubs, local Rotary clubs, schools and every other person or group that cares about what happens to our environment.

Below are a few images of the beauty of native flora and fauna:

Joe Pye

Joe Pye

Monarch butterfly on asters

Monarch butterfly on asters

IMG_2745

Echinacea

Echinacea

Hummingbird at work

Hummingbird at work

Bees on asters

Bees on asters

Pink turtlehead

Pink turtlehead

Closed Gentian

Closed Gentian

Sneezeweed

Sneezeweed

Yellow Lady's Slipper

Yellow Lady’s Slipper

Columbine

Columbine

(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar

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