"The beauty of the natural world lies in the details." Natalie Angier
I found this quote recently but I've long known this to be true. I love nature (clearly as I work to protect it daily in my professional and personal life) but I also dabble in photography. I gravitate towards the details - an eye, a wrinkle on a hand, the tiny parts of a flower. When my niece was born I took photos of her fingers, her toes, eyes, nose. It got weird and I remember my Mom questioning me about it saying something about how she's not made up of parts. But aren't we all? Isn't all of nature? A billion pieces and parts that come together to make a whole - a system that works together, or should work together.
As humans we often just see the larger part and not the details - the intricacies that make up who we are as a person. At our homes, we see a garden. We make a judgement on that garden whether it is neat or messy. Some homeowners associations have rules on how you are to keep your garden. I can guarantee they would not approve of mine.
While I do plant to please myself, I more do it to assist wildlife that I welcome to my yard. I try to include as many native flowers as I can - always adding more in no particular order, but I make sure something is always blooming from the first bloom in Spring to the last in Fall. Pollinators always have something to eat if they come visit. In the Fall, I don't do a cleanup. I've seen more articles about this recently and I blogged about it a few years ago.
But what you don't hear as much about is the Spring start to your garden. I have blogged about this before, but it's worth repeating. By the end of Winter, people are craving the smell of soil, we want to get our hands dirty again. I get that, trust me. My co-worker brought over a sunchoke bulb the other day and I immediately smelled it and claimed how I miss the smell of soil.
We see our gardens this time of year and they look messy. They're brown and not 'properly' edged. If you followed my advice and left your gardens to overwinter as is, they are even more so. The urge to clean debris out and neaten the garden is strong.
But hold up. Remember the details.
What may look 'ugly' overall has great beauty in the details. Under that layer of decaying leaves are sleeping insects. Beneficial insects like native bees and syrphid flies (who eat pests in your garden) need a little more time to wake up and come out. Other species are nestled in the leaf litter, others are in cocoons or chrysalises. Cleaning up too early to appease what you deem aesthetically pleasing is often destructive to these critters who you want in your gardens.
So take some time to enjoy the details and try to change your perspective on what is beautiful by finding it in the details. In the photos you'll see the rain on the pussywillows, the sedum pushing its way up thru last years stems. Even the first pictures that seem ugly, to me, are beautiful. Because I know birds and other critters are using these materials to build their nests and shelter their young.
I don't do anything in my garden until Mother's Day weekend and/or until the temperature is consistenly above 50 degrees. That way I know all the critters are up and about and the chance of me harming them by digging around has passed.
These are my pretty gardens. Yes, I think they are pretty. Even now when they are messy and brown. Because I know the details of what is happening in there. There is life that in just a month or so will emerge and enhance my garden.
This weekend, Cuyahoga SWCD is hosting the National Wildlife Federations's Habitat Ambassadors training. We have held this for over 12 years and it's a great way to learn about what habitat the wildlife that visit your yard and gardens needs. Food, water, cover, places to raise young, and other sustainable practices. Check out their site for tons of information on this and how you can make your yard wildlife friendly.
Lastly, the Great Lakes Science Center has a film titled Backyard Wilderness. As it says on the site - 'The film reminds us that sometimes in ordinary places, you can uncover extraordinary things - you just need to step outside." I haven't seen it yet, but hope to soon!
- Savvy Gardening - Spring Gardening Cleanup Done Right
- Xerces Society - Don't Spring in Garden Cleanup Too Soon
- Houzz.com - Four Reason Not to Rush the Spring Garden Cleanup
Blog author: Amy Roskilly, Conservation Education Program Manager