The act of gardening is an ever-evolving learning process. There is always something to tend to, from watering, weeding, or pest management. It can get frustrating at times, especially when a garden is carefully planned with specific plants and some do not survive or plants show up that you don’t want. However, gardening also teaches patience and flexibility and to expect the unexpected.
For example, blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis) canes keep appearing among one of my gardens. After countless scratches and wasted efforts in removing them, I have decided to allow them to keep their space in the yard. Clearly, SOMETHING deposited a seed which then germinated and became this newest garden addition.
While I was looking at it today, I noticed several bee and butterfly species visiting the flowers, literally dozens of individuals. The Rubus genus is host to more than 160 species of butterflies and moths – another great reason to leave it. It is in bloom right now, where not much of anything else is blooming right now and I have yummy blackberries to look forward to – if the birds don’t get them first!
The blackberry patch is here to stay!
In another area of my yard, I attempted to create a garden bed along a stretch of chain link fence. Long story short, nearly everything died. I did not study this piece of land as closely as I should have and planted things that could not handle that site. It has since reverted back to turfgrass, except for one thing – a grapevine (Vitis sp.) that appeared on its own. Yet another thing that was carried into my yard by some species of wildlife. Do I really want this vine tangling up in my fence? How much damage could it do? Time will tell, but for now that I decided to leave it alone. Hopefully in another year or so, it will bear fruit so that I can enjoy seeing our fruit-eating bird species like orioles, catbirds, and cedar waxwings.
The failed garden…or is it?
These vines are actually very good for wildlife. They check off nearly all the boxes needed for survival: Food (fruit), shelter (thorny branches), and places to raise their young. The tangled vines provide sturdy structure to build nests, and in the case of grapevines, the peeling bark is used in nest construction, too.
What other cues is Mother Nature trying to point me to? How about some oak trees (Quercus sp.)? Great! As a fan of Dr. Doug Tallamy, I have learned oak trees are the most ecologically beneficial plants we can have in our yards. They host over 500 species of caterpillars –just butterfly and moth larvae! That doesn’t even count the myriad other species, from leafhoppers, wasps, beetles, and so many more. But if you like to watch birds, then you definitely want oaks, as 96% of Ohio’s bird species feed their babies caterpillars. The funny thing is that I do not have any oak trees in my yard! Some industrious blue jay or squirrel has been burying acorns from somewhere else. Many of them are coming up along the edges of the yard and those will stay. A few have come up in garden beds or right against the house or garage, so I have been digging and transplanting them into more favorable areas. I am thrilled to have these wonderful trees coming up for free, as I am trying to create an ecologically healthy yard by removing invasive plants and popping in these oaks where tangles of multiflora rose, honeysuckles, and buckthorns once thrived.
Instead of battling my yard and trying to create this perfect vision I have in my head, I am accepting these gifts that Nature is giving me and integrating them into my landscape. Nature is telling me what is needed and I am happy to oblige.
Written by Sustainability Coordinator, Patti Donnellan [email protected]