It's been almost 3 years since I last posted to this blog, for which I apologize. Life has presented challenges for me, personally, during that time, as it has for all of us around the world.
We moved from Florida to southeast Virginia in August 2019, so I had to leave my Gulf Coast garden behind for others to tend and begin a new garden here in the Williamsburg area. This is proving to be a real challenge.
For the first time in many years of gardening, I find myself floundering, even with the basic thoughts of what I want to do in this yard. While I love trees and woodlands, I'm unsure how to proceed in our secondary growth, eastern deciduous forested yard. My goals seem strong, yet confusingly nebulous: use native plants and improve the habitat, while designing a yard that encourages others to WANT a native landscape and that fits in with the somewhat traditional neighborhood we live in.
This photo was taken today from the front of our house, looking towards the street. I've started incorporating fallen wood and wood from having our trees trimmed, but that's a post for another time. As always, during the winter, you can see the "bones" (which are rather bare), but there are perennials and ferns moving in...
...as you can see from this photo, taken from the front porch taken in mid October. So far, however, it's all very haphazard.
So, to give you an outline: our yard is 2/3 acre, with 100' tall deciduous trees and understory trees. The only shrubs present were planted by prior owners and are almost exclusively non-native ornamentals, while the ground layer was dominated by Japanese stilt grass and assorted other non-native weedy plants when we moved in.
I have spent the last 2 summers learning about and observing our yard. Weeding has been my primary activity, pulling out stilt grass and other weeds like false strawberry, oriental hawksbeard, and ground ivy. While I've weeded, I've watched to see what plants I find buried within the weeds and seeding in. There have been some fun finds along the way:
striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata),
cranefly orchid (Tipularia discolor),
cutleaf grape fern (Sceptridium dissectum),
and southern adder's tongue (Ophioglossum pycnostichum). None of these plants are large or showy, but all 4 of these species are dependent on mycorrhizae in the soil, which tickles me because it means that our soil still has some serious life in it and is, presumably, fairly healthy.
Moss covers many areas of the soil - and I have quickly learned that it is a wonderful seedbed for other plants, desirable and otherwise.
Serendipitously, I am finding seedlings of wax myrtle (Morella cerifera), spicebush (Lindera benzoin), and a few perennials like old field aster (Symphotrichum pilosum), mist flower (Conoclinium coelestinum) and golden ragwort (Packera aurea), a healthy clump of which showed up on its own.
Above is a clump of aster that self seeded into the front bed by our walkway. I think it's an old field aster, but I'm not completely sure, since this one is taller and airier than the others. That could, of course, simply be due to higher levels of shade. If you look closely, you can see some mist flower in front of it - they make a nice combination, I think, blooming at essentially the same time. The aster is much too large for this spot, though, and will be moved this spring. I'm not sure if I'll be moving the mist flower along with it.
Several different kinds of ferns have shown up in the yard as well, including the Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) you see to the left here, sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis), and others that I'm still leery of naming with any certainty.
Now that I'm ready to change from focusing on weeding and discovery to planning and planting, I'm stuck on dead center. The best I've come up with so far is to create a path through a "woodland garden", then plant the garden alongside it that will make the path enjoyable. I also dearly want some sort of screen between the front of the house and the road.
Meanwhile, I'm "leaving the leaves" and hoping to encourage a healthier soil microbiome and more invertebrate life. So far I've seen few invertebrates at ground level, which worries me.
And help me, please, to keep perspective about my fellow "gardeners" here: the deer, the voles, and the Asiatic garden beetles. They, too, are an integral part of the challenge of gardening in this beautiful area.
At least they don't seem to like ferns.