Doing Little Bits

VAriegated Lemon Thyme will hold part of the bank with its dense foliage and roots.

Variegated Lemon Thyme will hold part of the bank with its dense foliage and roots.

Today has been another day of weeding, spreading compost, planting, and delighting in bits of perennial poking up through the warming soil.

Each newly emerging Echinacea, Monarda, and Comfrey merits a quiet celebration that winter is behind us now, and spring unfolding.

Comfrey leaves emerge from an herb bed.  Their leaves are medicinal, and their flowers area great favorite with both bees and butterflies.  Several of these will be transplanted soon.  Comfrey spreads with underground stems.

Comfrey leaves emerge from an herb bed. Their leaves are medicinal, and their flowers area great favorite with both bees and butterflies. Several of these will be transplanted soon. Comfrey spreads with underground stems.

Finding a dead looking stick poking out of the Earth, with a small cluster of dark green leaves emerging at its base, brings quiet satisfaction that another hardy plant has survived to grow for another summer.

Once these little bits of green emerge, they grow so very quickly.  The change is apparent from day to day, as they grow, branch, and set buds for another season.

I worked today on some informal herb and perennial beds terraced on the slope behind our butterfly and hummingbird garden.  Several large Lilac shrubs, just opening their flowers, anchor these long narrow beds.

Our Josee lilacs rebloom several times during the summer.  This potted one will move out to the garden after it blooms.  Several others just like it anchor the beds on our hillside.

Our Josee lilacs rebloom several times during the summer.   This potted one will move out to the garden after it blooms. Several others just like it anchor the beds on our hillside.

I’ve been digging them into the hillside bit by bit over the last few years, planting sturdy shrubs, iris, and herbs whose roots will hold this hillside in place and whose blooms will attract every butterfly in the county.

Now I’m hoping to find some milkweed plants to work into this area as hosts for Monarch butterflies.  There is already bronze fennel growing.

Bronze fennel is an important host plant for swallowtail butterflies.  This newly emerged herb will grow to 4' or more tall by lae summer.

Bronze fennel is an important host plant for swallowtail butterflies. This newly emerged herb will grow to 4′ or more tall by late summer.

I’ve planted additional parsley this year, and I broadcast dill seeds last year.  Although many butterflies lay their eggs on hardwood trees, like the Tulip Poplar, parsley, dill,and fennel host the swallowtail butterflies which animate our garden for months each summer.

Parsley for the butterflies.

Parsley for the butterflies.

Host plants are a very important part of any butterfly garden and help insure that our butterfly populations are maintained or increased year to year.

Now, as we are adding plants for the new season, is an important time to consider how our  choice of plants can  contribute to the health of our environment.

This catmint can be divided into several clumps and replanted on the hillside.  A hardy perennial, like any mint, it will spread to cover large areas.  Bees love its blue flowers.

This catmint can be divided into several clumps and replanted on the hillside. A hardy perennial, like any mint, it will spread to cover large areas. Bees love its blue flowers.

My partner and I have been keenly interested in the data on climate change released by the UN over this past weekend.  The amount of carbon dioxide in the air we breathe is higher now than it has ever been in the last 800,000 years.

Carbon in the atmosphere contributes to our planet’s rising surface temperature.  An increase of only two degrees Celsius will re-shape our landmasses as coastal areas flood.

Another culinary sage, or Salvial officinalis.  This purple cultivar is especially hardy and easy to grow.

Another culinary sage, or Salvial officinalis. This purple cultivar is especially hardy and easy to grow.

Although the problem is vast, and will take planet wide cooperation to fully address, each of us can do a little bit to help.  If all of us will do a little bit, then all of us together can make a tremendous positive difference.

All plant life, from algae growing in a pond to the beautiful Cedars of Lebanon, continuously draw carbon out of the air.

I found this patch of Monarda emerging today.  Its flowers will be covered in bees and butterflies for several months this summer.

I found this patch of Monarda emerging today. Its flowers will be covered in bees and butterflies for several months this summer.

The basic process of creating food from sunlight requires carbon dioxide and water.  Plants convert these compounds into sugar, storing the sugar in each and every cell.  The  products of this process are pure oxygen and water vapor.

This means that everything we plant, whether a tree  or a marigold flower, will help scrub carbon dioxide out of the air;while producing pure oxygen for us to breathe.  Isn’t this an elegant plan?

Lanbs Ears, another hardy perennial, brightens the garden from late winter through autumn.  When it blooms, its purple flowers will be alive with hungry bees.

Lambs Ears, another hardy perennial, brightens the garden from late winter through autumn.  I love its silvery foliage throughout the season.  When it blooms, its purple flowers will be alive with hungry bees.

We lose so many large trees each year.  Some are lost to logging or to clearing land for new shopping centers, roads, neighborhoods, and agriculture.

A male cardinal surveys his garden.

A male cardinal surveys his garden.

Other trees are lost to storms or disease.  If each of us can counterbalance this by planting even one tree each year, it can make a tremendous difference or our environment.

Not only do trees scrub huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but they offer cool shade.  Their roots hold the soil against erosion.

April 9 2014 buds 015

Those of us fortunate enough to have land where we can plant trees can certainly add a tree to our yards.  Those without space to plant can contribute to organizations dedicated to rebuilding forests around the world.

Every little action from each of us adds up to a mighty effort towards healing our planet. 

The trees have finally begun to open their leaves in our garden.

The trees have finally begun to open their leaves in our garden.

There are many organizations involved in reforestation.  One particularly interesting one is the  Eden Reforestation Projects.

But today, I wasn’t doing anything so grand as planting a tree.  Rather, I was pulling weeds, building the soil with compost, and planting herbs.

Artemesia is another silvery perennial important in the garden.  Another drought tolerant herb, it shines at twilight.

Artemesia is another silvery perennial important in the garden. Another drought tolerant herb, it shines at twilight.

I planted parsley, sage  and thyme today, and some marigolds.  Every little bit we do makes a difference.

The garden is still looking rather unimpressive.

The little lemon thyme now grows at the base of a fig tree, partnered with a culinary sage,  Salvia officinalis"Berggarten."  The sage will grow to

The little lemon thyme now grows at the base of a fig tree, partnered with a culinary sage, Salvia officinalis”Berggarten.” The sage will grow to about 2′ by late summer.

There are still leaves lying about, and the little wild strawberries would gladly re-take our hillside given the chance.  Their dense mats hold the soil.

The little strawberries they produce feed our birds.  And yes, even the little weedy wild strawberries filter carbon out of the air, and do their little bit to make our planet a better place to live.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

This hypertufa stepping stone made its debut in the garden today.

This hypertufa stepping stone made its debut in the garden today.

 

About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

11 responses to “Doing Little Bits

  1. Lovely post, WG. I adore my bronze fennel and it is such a great host for butterflies not to mention beautiful architecturally. Regarding deer and Eliza’s comment about fishing line….there is a grower of daylilies in my county who swears by this tactic. And we all know deer love daylilies second only to maybe hosta. So I am going to give this a try around a bed of daylily and see what happens. Also continuing to plant what I know they won’t eat….like ferns as you mention in another post.

    • Thank you so much! Please let me know how the fishing line works in your garden. The last owners here used kite string to do something similiar. My few hostas were nibbled a few days ago, before the leaves even unfolded… Best wishes, WG

      • Aaarrrrrgggghhhhhh! That is so frustrating. And really the sprays do not work, I’ve found. Is this typical for you that the hostas are eaten this early? Or are your deer particularly hungry this year?

        • I’ve never seen Hostas eaten this early! None were even touched until late summer last year. I think the pressure from the deer is much greater than in previous seasons. There were practically no acorns around here last fall- a major food source. Sprays are only a temporary fix. As soon as there is new growth- or heavy rain- everything must be sprayed again. Sun today 😉 WG

  2. I really enjoyed this post. It is inspiring that you still have energy to write! Glad to know you are putting out extras for the butterfly larvae and bee pollinators. You reminded me about fennel…need to get some more this year. Things up here (MA) are starting to emerge, snowdrops are actually going by and crocus are peaking. Bloodroot opened today. Early daffs just starting. Spring makes the heart sing!

    • It is always fun to watch spring unfold. Much of today has been about bringing things back indoors and battening down the hatches. We have a storm on the way with a 30-40 degree drop. A freeze warning is in effect for tonight, as winter returns over night into tomorrow. Spring is just totally unpredictable, isn’t it? SO glad I haven’t purchased any tomatoes yet, and have room for our first little pots of basil inside! May all be well with you, WG

      • Weather is unpredictable. Where I live we don’t bother starting our gardens until Memorial Day. Last year our last frost was May 22. Even tomatoes that self-sow catch up with the transplants come August, so early starts aren’t worth the worry. Stay warm and dry!

        • OH MY! Memorial Day? What patience you must have! I”m glad the tomatoes catch up by the end of summer. Do you grow determinate varieties, then? Warm and dry at the moment, and planning a pot of soup 😉 Best wishes, WG

          • Northern summers are kind of short! Yes, most tomatoes here are determinate, which means we are inundated at the end of the season where we make sauce & can for days! But that fresh, homegrown tomato is worth it! 🙂

            • Yes it is! I’ve harvested tomatoes here in November, believe it or not. We generally grow indeterminate varieties for the long, slow season. Lately, all have gone to the deer or squirrels anyway, so it really doesn’t matter…. 😉

              • Deer are rebounding here as well (along with the Lyme tick 😦 unfortunately) and it seems that all food gardens now need fencing. A tip that works for deer is suspending fishing line about 4′ off the ground. It is virtually invisible, but the deer feel it and don’t go beyond it.

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