Five years ago, we bought a house in Midwestern zone 5a. Two large Norway maples, one overgrown lilac, an arbor vitae and two yews were rooted in the landscape as we first saw it that Winter. In Spring, a few crocuses bloomed briefly against the garage, monochrome green hostas appeared in three places, and a skinny, naked, woody stem waved at us in the wind. A spotty lawn of grass, fescue, a bit of clover and dandelions, and a large amount of creeping Charlie culminated in an atmosphere that seemed itself to be sighing a heavy “meh.”
We met the woman next door. After sharing my name and greeting her dog, I looked around with squinted eyes, and the next thing I said was: “I’m going to plant the shit outta this yard.”
Each Summer since, I have created beds, planted species for sun, shade, and in-between, said, “goodbye” to grass. I have witnessed the genesis of an ecology. There are parts of the year when it is definitely not easy to maintain, but the color! the shapes! the audible buzzing of SO MUCH LIFE.
Year one: cabbage whites and paper wasps. Year four: 8(!) species of butterflies; moth, wasp, and bee diversity beyond my ability to keep up with identification. I can barely push a trowel into the ground without disturbing an earthworm, where before there were none. A pitch of Baltimore orioles has greeted me on Mother’s Day morning. Indigo buntings and Ruby-throated hummingbirds shine blue, red and green at springtime feeders. The sad, skinny stem now climbs and blooms as the beautiful rose it was meant to be. More species means more species, here, where our place is their place.
I look forward to sharing more observations, yard experiments, natural beauty, science, growing tips, and the occasional in-season recipe with you here.
YOU can create ecology.