We are fortunate to live on ten acres of rural land. Most of it is second-growth forest, but I believe a bit along the edge of the creek may never have been cultivated. Some of my favorite memories are of walking in the woods with my uncle leading the way, so it wasn’t long after we moved here that I started carving paths through the woods. Carving is probably too strong a word–I discovered deer trails already there and widened them for human feet.
(Read more about the Secret Garden here.) And since one of the pleasures of walking in the woods is discovering wildflowers as I stroll, it wasn’t long before I was adding more to what was already there. My focus has been on plants native to the northeast of North America, especially if I’ve already seen them growing locally.I’ve planted it in several spots in the Secret Garden. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center says it’s hardy to USDA Zone 6, but it’s been growing fine in my cold Zone 5 garden. And since we live on the Allegheny Plateau, I like that it’s called Allegheny spurge. I always try to match the habitat that the plants naturally grow in. I had noticed that hobblebush grows in patches of spring sunlight near the creek, so I picked a similar spot along our side creek. I use a 3-in-1 chicken wire cloche from Gardener’s Supply (affiliate link) to protect it from deer and rodents. It’s kind of pricey, but it’s more attractive than anything I’ve been able to fashion myself. I didn’t realize when I planted them that swamp azalea likes really moist soil, but not an actual swamp. The two I planted in the wettest part of the Secret Garden didn’t make it. I planted the third one at the edge of that wet area and it’s thriving. I can hardly wait to see it bloom! You’ve probably noticed those yellow tent stakes. I buy the cheapest ones I can find and use them to mark plants that I don’t want to lose track of. As you’ve probably noticed, many of these plants don’t look like much when they’re out of bloom. Many more of my favorites go dormant, leaving no evidence that they even exist above ground. I wouldn’t want to dig up a trillium by mistake, and the tent stake lets me know something special is in that spot–even if I can’t see it. This has an actual cage of chicken wire around it, which is overkill–way larger than the little baby tree. But Gardener’s Supply didn’t sell those cloches back then, and I was paranoid about deer. But the bloom on it was always rather scraggly. ‘Cloud 9’ is reputed to have the cold-hardiest buds of any flowering dogwood cultivar. I planted it on the far bank of the back creek, so we can see it from our deck when it blooms. There are next year’s flower buds on it, so–fingers crossed!
Improving on nature–really?
Some would say that you can’t improve on Nature. Maybe that’s true of completely undisturbed land, but this is second-growth forest. The original trees were cut down to make pasture for cows. The land around us was modified before I showed up. I admit it: it’s not natural. It’s a further extension of my garden, a very naturalistic garden, a managed wildness. I find it improved, because I am adding plants I approve of. And I’m not only adding plants–I’m also removing invasive plants, clipping branches that interfere with walking the paths, and removing dead logs that block the trails. I will be very happy if the plants I have added become self-sustaining, incorporated into the habitat that is already there. I already get such joy from wandering around, taking note of changes and envisioning even greater beauty in the future.
Posted for Wildflower Wednesday, created by Gail of Clay and Limestone, to share wildflowers/native plants no matter where you garden in the blogosphere. “It doesn’t matter if we sometimes show the same plants. How they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most. It’s always the fourth Wednesday of the month!”