Posts

Thanksgiving - Life in My Landscape and the Concept of Reciprocity

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Little metalmark Thanksgiving is a day for reflection. A time to pause for a moment and think clearly about the gifts we've been given - and, to a point, the gifts we pass forward. There are a great many things for me to be thankful for, but near the top is the newly created gift of my living landscape. Robin Wall Kimmerer in her amazing book, Braiding Sweetgrass , talks about the concept of reciprocity - the act of giving back to the world what we've been gifted by it. It had and still does have a profound influence on me and my approach here. We live by taking the lives of others. There is no denying it. Whether it's a plant-based life or one that consumes meat as well, we live by consuming. We consume space that was once the home of others and we take resources that could have been used to support another life. We do this daily and often without reflection. Today is a day to do that. We take life with or without reverence. The choice is ours, consciously or not. When we

Preparing For A Long Winter's Rest

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Hawthorn Hill, November 20, 2020 Winters in Florida is not the same as the ones I grew up with in Wisconsin. As a gardener, I'm always happy to be able to putter around my plants here, but I have to admit that there is something wonderful about taking a rest. That's what wintertime is, after all. It's a time for us to catch our breath and a time to evaluate where things stand. To a great extent, that's even true here in my new Pasco County home. Most of my plants are done growing for the year and, although a few are yet to bloom, most are starting to lose their leaves and/or are going to seed. With that, comes planting and planting for a new season brings me great joy. No longer are the weeds trying to stay ahead of me and the attention I have to give to watering the plants in my flats is significantly reduced. Except for collecting and planting seed, I have very little to do right now and that is fine with me.  I don't consider myself to be a lazy man, but there is

Color is Important - It's Not Just Aesthetics

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Native red salvia ( Salvia coccinea ) Royal catchfly ( Silene regia ) Evolution is an amazing force of nature. Over time, life evolves to best meet the needs and conditions of each living thing, plant or animal. Plants evolve what they are - their color and shape, for example, by design not to meet an aesthetic consideration. A few years ago, I was teaching a small group of elementary students about flowers and I asked them why flowers are the way they are. The answers surprised me a bit, but shouldn't have. Several of the students answered that flowers were pretty and smelled good because it pleased us as humans; the concept that too many of use seem to embrace - that we are the center of the universe. It never dawned on them that plants use those features to best ensure their survival. It has nothing to do with aesthetics.  As I peruse posts on social media it never fails to reinforce the fact that too many of us fail to recognize this. We all-too-often design and plant our lands

Only the Strong Survive

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Chinaberry debris Chinaberry Florida has its share of hurricanes and tropical storms, but none have made landfall close to me since my move here over two years ago.  When I lived in Seminole, my landscape took the brunt of a Category 3 hurricane and escaped virtually unscathed, but as Eta bore down on me in what looked to be a direct hit with 70 mph winds, I wondered if I would be as lucky here. As it struck in the dark of night, I had to wait until dawn to surveil the possible impact of this storm. Much has been written about choosing native trees for a number of reasons, and some have centered around their strength and ability to withstand significant weather events, including high winds. Not all of what is written is true, however, as this sort of strength is not purely confined to nativity.  A mature red cedar across the street from me It is true that a great many of the fast-growing nonnatives planted so commonly here in Florida are weak. Fast-growing trees are almost always inher

In Praise of the Late Bloomers

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Scaleleaf aster ( Symphyotrichum adnatus ) Eastern silver aster ( Symphyotrichum concolor ) Far too often, we design our pollinator landscapes based on aesthetics and utility, but we fail to consider the time of year that our plants will bloom. It is a critical decision that must be considered if we are to be as effective as possible. Throughout the growing season, my wildflowers bloom in succession. The early ones are few and far between, but they provide a critical link to the early pollinators that emerge hungry during that time of year. The vast majority bloom from summer to fall as the number of pollinators increase with them. Fall in Florida is the most beautiful time for wildflowers and the pollinators are everywhere as they prepare for their "long winter's nap." Today, in mid-November, most of my wildflowers are going to seed and far fewer pollinators are out and about. Some of them, however, are still active and it is these that I plan for assiduously. It's t

Anticipation

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Alabama azalea - Rhododendron alabamense Florida flame azalea - R. austrinum Pink azalea - R. canescens   Flame azalea - R. flammeum It was Carly Simon who wrote the lyrics and music to the hit song Anticipation... It rings true today as much as it did in 1971. Like many, I live in anticipation for what is yet to come.  As a child, it was the excitement of an upcoming birthday or the days leading up to Christmas. At this stage of my life, it is the anticipation of what portends with the plants I've added to my landscape. I pity those who live around me surrounded by neotropical landscape plants and turf - or gravel for some. These are the folks who move here and complain that Florida has no seasons. Without a proximity to nature, I can understand why they might feel this way. The very nonnative plants that are so commonly in use here simply do not change with the seasons. In the tropics, those kinds of adjustments are largely unnecessary. Native plants, even here in west-central Fl

Birds Need Fruit Too

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Arrowwood Viburnum ( V . dentatum ) Parsley haw ( Crataegus marshallii ) Simpson stopper ( Myrcianthes fragrans ) A lot is written about the need that birds have for invertebrates to feed their nestlings. It is true that such food is a critical link in creating a living landscape. Invertebrates are the key to a great many things and everything we do to promote them in our landscapes is critical too. Invertebrates feed a great many things. They also serve as the vector to pollinate our flowering plants and when they do, it creates the other critical food source for birds and other wildlife - fruit. The need to provide fruit for birds is often lost in the discussions I read in other literature that discuss the importance of native plants for birds. That is a significant omission and it must be rectified if our landscapes are truly to function in the way we desire.  The truth is that very few birds rely on insects and other invertebrates during the winter months. Even birds such as woodpe