Late winter musings: spring is coming

After doing a class on spring gardening activities this morning, it was interesting to walk around our historic neighborhood, with the lens of ecological gardening and pollinator conservation that I was promoting.

Don’t mulch yet! I said, describing ground-nesting bee habitat.  Keep those hollow-stemmed perennial stalks in place, or as I’ve done, bundle them up and leave them in a less visible part of the landscape.

My pollinator-friendly pocket meadow in our front garden was hammered by an unusually large snowfall in early December: we were able to try out our short hybrid skis. Fun.  The stalks of most of the perennials (largely of prairie heritage or affinity) were flattened.  It was not attractive even for a naturalistic gardening sort of person, so I did cut most of the stems, putting them in the back woodland garden, just in case there were larvae overwintering.  So my front landscape looks perfectly ready for the judicious removal of leaves from the perennial crowns in the next week or so.

There are a few of my neighbors that are thinking about this;  my visionary pollinator-promoting neighbor’s husband hasn’t cut back the very small stems of the pollinator-friendly perennials he’s planted in the only sunny spot in their front garden, probably overly considerate, but perhaps there are some really small cavity nesting bees that live in Rudbeckia stems.

Around our neighborhood, we run the gamut from the uber-green lawn aficionados to the let it go folks, and everything in between.

But I guess what’s heartening in a 120-yr neighborhood is that just as the old houses are renovated and kept up, for the 3 or fourth iteration, so are the landscapes, large and small.

a lawn alternative that works

This isn’t a wildlife-friendly front landscape around the corner from our house. But I’ve admired it: it’s a creative mix of sedum, thrift, and vinca (!)   There’s clearly management going on, as some of the species are more assertive than others, and I see bare soil currently in one patch.  It’s a lawn alternative that works.

Maybe vinca wasn’t a good choice in this mix, but he’s done a great job keeping it in check
A star magnolia just coming into flower

And another neighbor down the street, who spent literally years renovating an very old and decrepit rental from the studs up, to be his personal flat, plus two additional spaces.  He added this lovely deciduous star magnolia to his front landscape.  I know how tender the flowers are from the one next to the Nature Center at the South Carolina Botanical Garden (where I used to work).

Hopefully, he’ll (and all of us that walk by) will enjoy it until the coming frosts will darken the flowers.  We had roughly one out of five years that we had flowers to enjoy down in the Piedmont.  I’ll be enjoying these for the next few days.

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