Utilizing the allowances made by the City, I have been planting and mossing and bouldering and nurse logging as much as possible since deep in the post holiday doldrums. I’ve been annoyingly distracted by my actual employment, went on a family vacation, went to a meeting held by the City Planning Commission about how the rules and laws are created that govern my private property (what a kick in the gutsack…I will eventually get to my green…or ‘Green’ epilogue, but oof); I continue to fight soil, the exposures, the deer, the Mountain beavers, and the newest varmintular threat to the survival of my plants, the coyote. Yep. You’d think, with fire hydrants up and down my street, these doglike animals might mark their territory in some other way than peeing on my lovely little saplings. But NO. Those brown fronds on my Alaska cedars, those dead branches on my Subalpine firs: Wile E. Coyote thinks he owns them. He better watch himself, I might just release roadrunners into his ecosystem.
The Native-only plant palette, pared down to the small number of plants that (ought to) thrive in my clearing, bores me: brown six months of the year, green the other six, messy for twelve. I can’t help but picture this spot with an azalea, that with Acer japonicum ‘Bloodgood;’ to be sure, there are plenty of interstices where something more ornamental or colorful could look great. But I’m not planning to plant non-Natives…not me. I am Mitigating.
I had thought to add, at some point, some Native points of interest and color, such as the native Bleeding Heart. Imagine my surprise when a dozen and a half or so came up all by themselves as Spring yawned itself awake. I took some moss transplants from a new ‘mother field’ late in winter–each of these came with at least one sweet little wildflower. I picked my way back to this ‘mother field’ recently; what was open leafless scrub, easily passable in February and March, is now a dense and leafy canebrake of vine maple. I found the ground to be covered, literally carpeted, with wild Bleeding Heart. I now know it to be a ‘careful what you wish for’ plant: ants are attracted to a sticky resin in the bloom, and carry the seeds away with them when they feed. I don’t want a carpet of Bleeding Heart, and neither do I want a carpet of ants…so no more Dicentra than I’ve got. I’m not even sure whether to add them to my plant count.
The same goes for an large new drift of wood fern and deer fern that emerged after I cleared years’ of debris and detritus from the wetland edge: they weren’t there before, so I can count them as part of my Mitigation plantings, right?
I will be honest: sometimes my heart becomes leaden as I work, or think about working, in my clearing and the forest and wetland margins surrounding it. I am not gardening for me. This is not my choice. But there are mornings, when I am up, alone with my coffee and my moss, and my lovingly-selected, stunted little trees; the sun filters in through the Bigleaf maple canopy and the shafts of light hit here or there, dancing just a little in the breeze. There is a Pileated woodpecker knocking somewhere, the owls call out their presence just before taking their diurnal rest. I think: I did this. This looks pretty good. Have a look around, please. I am going to let myself be proud of it, just for today.