On one of the first days of April we joined a group of nine hikers for a six-mile road walk along the middle branch of the Grasse River. We were lucky with the weather. Sunny, cool, no bugs yet. We walked along a dirt road through woods, three miles up and then back.
Back at home in our own gardens, we were able to take our first real garden tour on April 4th. Small red and black box elder bugs were out by the thousands, running around on errands that looked urgent. Here’s one of them.
Down in the vegetable garden David uncovered the mini-greenhouses where kale and spinach grew all winter, astonishingly. The cats were thrilled to accompany us. I later found a tick on my hand–so tick season is also here.
This year in my garden blog I’d like to do something different. In past years I’ve mostly blogged about what plants are blooming and what garden renovations, expansions, or re-designing projects I’m doing. This year I want to focus more on the garden as a whole eco-system. I’m not sure myself what that means yet but I want to pay attention to native plants, native insects and pollinators, what birds and amphibians might live here, and how we all interact. I want to learn which plants are native–I don’t even know that for some of my plants. Here’s an example. Most of us recognize the tall woolly mullien, or verbascum thapsus, which is a wildflower. I thought it was a native, but I found out it was introduced (and has obviously escaped cultivation!) from its native Europe/Asia/ Africa. When I try to find information about it (using the internet, what else?) I find a lot about how it grows, its benefits as a garden plant, and what medicinal uses it has for humans, but it is not as easy to find out its ecological functions. How does it interact as a member of an ecological community? Does it crowd out other native plants (making it an invasive)? One source claims it is not “competitive” enough to count as invasive. Is it a host plant for insects, or a source of food or nectar? I love the woolly leaves and since it is so well-behaved I like to leave it where it wanders into the garden. Like this lovely specimen!