Tales from a "wild" garden.



Boalsburg, PA

June 9, 2008


            It was not very big, not very showy, and could easily have been overlooked.  It actually may have been mowed a few times as quack grass.  I had seen blue-eyed grasses only on rare occasions in a few Pennsylvania wild places, out in the woods or fields.  It is not very common.  Imagine my delight then, on a warm June day, when I discovered it growing right here in my own yard.   

 The newest of several wild neighbors to move into my urban “wildlands”, as a result of a hefty cutback in grass-cutting activity,  only partly because of high gasoline prices.

  I welcomed this native by taking it’s picture:



Common Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium montanum)



            Our lot is just ½ acre, which is more than the usual size for this ¼ acre lot neighborhood, but not really large.  Even with limited space,  I decided to encourage native plants in my yard.  While we are not “certified” organic, we don’t use any serious pesticides in our garden, and we enjoy sharing space for wildlife – bunnies and squirrels mostly – and many types of birds that come to our feeder or to bathe and drink at our small garden pond and waterfall.  I call the pond area our “nook” or our “bird sanctuary”, or sometimes “the Peace Place”.



            Several edge areas of the yard, as well as the “nook”,  are looking unkempt these days.  Our neighbors who keep “military” lawns probably view them with scorn.   They don’t know the joys of a diversely balanced natural yard.


            A robin has built a nest in a honeysuckle bush directly in front of my window.  As I sit and type, she sits and warms her eggs,.  I should be treated to a good show in the next few weeks -- and without leaving my desk.  From time to time she flies out quickly to the pond for a bath and a drink, or to the other trees for a snack – maybe a few gypsy moth caterpillars, I hope.


            The back yard is a flurry of house wren activity, as both wren houses now have tenants – one in the grape arbor, and one above the brush pile on an unused garden bed.  A small Redbud tree has grown up in that area of the garden. It provides a convenient singing perch for the wren, who greets me with a bubbling song as I hang my laundry out to dry.   The house wren has loud competition from a Carolina wren, a bird who has recently been moving farther northward.  A catbird with a virtuoso repertoire of song gives a prolonged morning concert.


            Grass mowing was postponed this spring because our lawn was a “meadow”.  Who can mow when there are flowers in bloom?  The orchard was blue with Forget-me-nots; the front yard was purple with ajuga or  Bugleweed;  expansive neighborhoods of yellow dandelions,  or white violets covered other areas.  After a long delay, I finally began minimal mowing – going carefully around developing yellow cone flowers, hawkweed, buttercups, Deptford pinks, and tall cinquefoil.   Many of these will not bloom until late summer or early fall.  I must allow them to grow tall.


            Before I knew about wild flowers, I could be cavalier about cutting things down.  Now it seems like murderous discrimination to keep a “grass-only” “chemical” lawn.  I have a mix of native and naturalized plants, the more species the merrier.  Trees of many kinds spring up, too.  I simply cut out whatever gets too egregious, or transplant it to a more desired spot.


            Among the volunteers who have moved into my yard in recent years are: Blue-eyed Grass, Wild Ginger, Jack-in-the Pulpit, Jewelweed,  Deptford Pink, Tall Cinquefoil, Yellow Coneflower (sometimes confused with Black-eyed Susans, Dame’s Rocket, Wild Bleeding Heart, Daisies, Yellow Hawkweed, White violets, Common Blue violets, Feverfew, Wild Geranium, Sweet Cicely, Goldenrod, Daisy Fleabane -- All on a half-acre island of urban wildness.


            The first monarch butterfly of the season is seen fluttering exhausted across the vegetable garden.  It then heads for the pink and white blossoms of the Dame’s Rocket which are spotlighted by the late afternoon sun.   Ah, sweet nectar for a tired traveler.




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