Without human intervention, most of New England is inclined toward becoming forest. But humans have intervened. When managed land is abandoned, meadows are not periodically mowed and invasive plants are not managed, it is not a pretty picture. If you "let nature take its course" invasive plants will take over.
Plants that look good in fall and winter abound in prairies. Travels to The Olbrich Botanical Garden, Curtis Prairie and Northwind Perennial Farm in Wisconsin show how to use them in the garden.
Having studied painting rather than horticulture or landscape design, I long thought of myself as a self-taught gardener as I felt my way along the convoluted path to where I am today. But that's not quite right. Gardens and other gardeners have been my teachers. The gardens that most intrigue me were made by similarly "self-taught" gardeners who spent serious time looking, developed their very personal gardens over time and who never stopped learning, looking and sharing.
Among the many native perennials in my landscape, goldenrod has the highest ecological and wildlife value. It's a standout "good guy," a beneficent prince. It's also one of the worst thugs in the prime real estate of my gardens. I've had to draw the line between garden (where I don't want them to seed in) and landscape (where they can run rampant).
I’ve always loved staghorn sumac’s tropical-looking leaves, young stems resembling velvety antlers (hence its common name), plumy cream-colored flowers, spectacular fall color and fuzzy red berry clusters (only on female plants - they’re dioecious). But I had no idea how much interrelated life, drama, trickery, sex, life and death went on in its embrace until the show was right under my nose.
Creating a reliable food system calls for a shift of priorities from efficient and as cheap as possible to reliable and local. It needs to be about reliability and nourishment. The big threat is lack of pollination services. To protect the pollinators we must plant native plants and protect habitat.
Showy Star of Persia (Allium christophii, aka A. albopilosum) is a garden star. It's a Goldilocks plant - not too tall, not too short, with easy-to-hide foliage, just the right-sized flowering globes - and pizzazz to spare.
I've been making a game of seeing how long I can go without going to the grocery store. That means not just living in the garden, but living on what grows in it.
In this season of rapidly emerging garden weeds, Doug Tallamy's recently published Nature's Best Hope really got me thinking about how subjective and value-skewed the word "weed" is. We want plants with wildlife value but get tripped up with words that carry a lot of baggage. The common definition of weed as a plant out of place is subject to all sorts of interpretations. It depends on your point of view.
After such a mild winter, my 'Brandywine' strain hellebores (Helleborus x hybridus 'Brandywine' ™) are especially lovely. Time to give these Lenten roses, aka Oriental hellebores, center stage. Even my cut-leafed stinking hellebores (Helleborus foetidus) look pretty good this spring.