When we decided to re-design our property in 2015 we focused on the patio area - digging a new, larger pond and creating layered, cottage-style beds. Many of the flowers, trees and shrubs were newly planted (or transplanted) and the property was in a transition period. There was an obvious lack of diversity -- mostly insects -- during those initial months. I missed our pollinators.
In late winter/early spring of 2016 we turned our attentions to the addition of native species. Finally, Michael re-designed our compost system. Re-claiming wood from our old compost he built a new, three-bin compost. The three-bin compost serves two purposes: first, it allows me to access the fill with ease, as it is no longer too much to handle. Lifting the sliding front panels I may turn the compost materials and/or transfer materials from bin-to-bin. I no longer have to wait for help doing what should be a relatively simple task! Also, by virtue of its design, a three-bin compost creates usable compost much more quickly.
The original compost (along with two raised beds) was built ten years ago! When we built it we wished to preserve as much lawn as possible, as we had a toddler and hoped to give him plenty of space to run around, explore and play. So, we built the compost and the beds outside our living area. We soon regretted it; as it was completely inconvenient to leave the confines of our backyard every time we wished to take something to the compost or check on our spinach or carrots! Admittedly the beds became an unruly tangle of thistle, bindweed and plantain.
We re-located our disused raised beds and re-built them. Benjamin, a toddler in 2006, is now a strong, able-bodied eleven-year-old and he was able to drill the holes for reinforcing steel bars and amend the soil for what would become my garden of cutting flowers and herbs. One 3' x 6' bed is planted with sage, pineapple sage, lavender, English thyme, creeping thyme, Italian oregano, marjoram and German chamomile. In the other bed we sowed seeds: hollyhocks, California poppies, larkspur, spring onions and cosmos. Interchangeability. The structural hollyhocks will (if they are a success) reward us next year with their blooms. All the rest are annuals - providing one summer of beauty before making way for something new in the bed next year. And the spring onions? Well, they are a favorite of a certain eleven-year-old boy...
Last week I bought some border plants -- lavender cotton and Spanish lavender. Lavender cotton, despite its name is not a Lavendula species but instead, a Santolina. Spanish lavender is a Lavendula species - but it is used primarily in the making of pot potpourris. Not one of the herb or flower species planted in any one of my raised beds is a native plant of North America or Pennsylvania...but, I know from experience that my pollinators benefit from my herbs and flowers as nectar plants...and, increasing the number of native host plants we've provided continues to strengthen the role of our property as a wildlife habitat. This week we added wild geranium, wild bergamot, cardinal flower and turtlehead; turtlehead is a host plant for the beautiful Baltimore checkerspot.
Although small, our property provides us with so much to learn about, explore and enjoy! Thursday night Benjamin noticed a English sparrow fledgling had gotten separated from the rest of its brood. It sat on a crossbeam flush against a slat on our fence. After some time, it flew to the steps leading up to our backdoor. It huddled there for a long time. It was dark and we knew it would not be safe left to the mercy of the neighborhood's feral cats. After doing some research on the Cornell Lab website I learned I could place the fledgling in a basket and place it in a tree or a shrub and it would fly off or be reunited with its brood at daylight. So, we gently placed the little bird into a small Longaberger key basket and hung the makeshift nest in a lilac tree. I had my reservations -- not about using my Longaberger basket -- the English sparrow is an invasive, alien species. Why was I saving a bird that most conservationists are happy to euthanize? Well, I didn't have the heart to leave him defenseless against cats. Or, our resident Cooper's hawk! The following morning he was gone -- and we have not found the remains of an English sparrow strewn on our sidewalk.
Every day I discover something beautiful to photograph -- all in my little corner of the world.