Patience With Puberty

Plants are not so different from animals. They reach sexual maturity on their own time. You can't rush it. As I read posts on various social media sites asking why their plants are not flowering or setting fruit, my first question is about the age of their plants. Often, it's only a question of patience - waiting for their plants to reach "puberty."  This is the first question that needs answering in diagnosing why a plant is not yet floweing.
Some plants are precocious. They mature quickly. It's not about growth rate as much as it is about age. It's no different than what most of us understand about animals. Some, like most rodents, mature quickly and begin producing offspring before they are a year old. Others, like whales and elephants, take decades before they are mature enough.
Most shade trees, like the commonly planted live oaks (Quercus virginiana) often don't flower and produce acorns before they are at least 20 years old. If you plant an oak fo…

The Power of Beauty

I firmly believe that there is an almost-infinite power in beauty. Though we all might not measure it the same way, we are all touched equally by it. Each of us, if asked, could name things that are beautiful to us. Though our individual lists might differ a bit, what we find to be beautiful affects us in the same way and it has the power to change the way we look at life. In most of my writings, I add the line: “surround yourself with beauty” because I believe in the power it installs in us.

In this tumultuous time, the trails of wild areas remain open to us. Though sanctioned programs have largely been curtailed and are likely not to open soon, we can still walk the trails and soak in the restorative power that nature provides. We need to surround ourselves with beauty now more than ever. Though the temperatures have been brutal over the past few weeks, many trails are shaded or partly so. I encourage you to take a walk in the early morning or late afternoon. Bring a pair of binocu…

Paying It Forward


Butterflies Need More Than Nectar

As my landscape continues to develop, I'm ever-increasing my ability to provide for butterflies. Since my early childhood, I've been enthralled by them and that love has only grown as I've aged. I've done my best to design my new landscape to accommodate as many species as possible, but it is still a work in progress. As our focus often seems to be on the decline of monarchs, we sometimes lose focus that monarchs are really only a miner's canary - their decline signals a decline in all invertebrates worldwide and all of them need our attention.
Pollinators need much more than nectar and pollen. In a world gone mad with pesticides, they need a safe place away from them. Here in Florida, where the landscape focus seems directed at "interesting" plants and those from tropical climates, they need simple flowers to nectar from - especially wildflowers meant to be pollinated. But what seems often to be lost is the need to raise a family. Without the ability to…

The Circle of Reciprocity

Author, botanist & conservation biologist, Robin Wall Kimmerer, writes about the Circle of Reciprocity in her wonderful book, Braiding Sweetgrass; in my opinion, the most important book about our relationship to the land since Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac. 
What strikes me as most poignant in Dr. Kimmerer's book is coming to an understanding of how we have artificially separated ourselves from the living world in a way most, if not all, native peoples don't. It's this separation of us vs them that seems to most fuel our rapacious hunger for goods and services and our inability to acknowledge these gifts and to consider giving back what we take. The Circle of Reciprocity teaches us to revere what the rest of the world has given us and allows us to feel a sense of responsibility to give something back in return.
In our modern Eurocentric culture, we name other living things, but we do so in a way to separate ourselves from them. The striped mud turtle in the…

Mosquitoes and Standing Water

The wetland I created with a pond liner does not have standing water. It was not designed to be that kind of wetland. When it rains, as it did a few days ago, the water is directed into it from the rain gutters and the drain spout off the corner of my roof. The water saturates the soil and keeps the plants wet, but excess water exits the wetland on the side away from the house. There is a slight slope and this protects the foundation of the house from these conditions.
The other wetland I created over a year ago, uses a plastic pool and it does hold water after a rain event. At times like these, the water evaporates after 3-4 days, but during the summer rainy season, it almost constantly has standing water. This creates both positives and negatives.
The negatives are all related to the fact that standing water breeds mosquitoes and that mosquitoes breed disease. Regardless of also having dragonflies and their larvae present in your landscape, having a standing water source encourages…

The Ethics of Collecting Seed

I've been writing lately about seeds and using them to create what is often called a pollinator meadow. A great many of the plants in my new landscape were grown from seed. Frankly, I have always loved sowing seeds and watching them sprout. I started in early childhood and I've been doing it since. It's rewarding and the anticipation of waiting for seeds to sprout is difficult to match unless you play the lottery.
I rarely purchase seeds. I collect them. When I can, I purchase a few plants of a species I wish to add to my landscape and I then collect their seed after they bloom. If a plant doesn't prosper sufficiently to set seed for me, it is not a plant I wish to continue to grow. Over the years, I've tried a great many plants that I've failed to adequately provide for. Today in my landscape, I'm trying a few that I've never tried before. The exceptions come from plants that are not available in the trade. To grow these from seed, I need to collect i…