I have been meaning to keep a chronicle of my garden so that in the future I may look back and remember how it looked and what plants were blooming when. I never seem to get around to keeping that promise to myself so I am writing about it here. The garden behind our house is glorious, if I do say so. The trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants, take up the better part of the back yard, and though I have left some walking paths, by the end of the season even they will be overgrown and difficult to navigate. It is a garden full of vegetation indigenous to this part of PA and is just now starting to come into its riotous summer bloom. In this sacred space tiny flies, bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds and songbirds go about their daily tasks of eating, breeding and dying and it will soon be filled with the myriad melodies of crickets and katydids, as well.
Lately I have been thinking of this patch of earth as my contribution to the threatened populations of our local pollinators. My garden has become more of a study in ecology than in aesthetics, in restoration rather than style. Though people sometimes say they find the plantings beautiful, mere beauty is no longer my goal. Survival is. Since our human landscape has significantly altered the available habitat for the insects, birds, amphibians and mammals of our region, planting a garden that helps to provide for their need is an act of stewardship I find richly rewarding. And the best and most effective means to accomplish that goal is through the planting of plants that have been a part of Penn's Woods since before the first settlers arrived.
Pastels seem to be the dominant shade in the garden at the moment, though that will soon be changing. There is lavender, red and fushia beebalm, pink swamp and common milkweed, pinkish purple coneflowers, blue wild petunia, pink downy phlox, yellow coreopsis, and a magnificent orange stand of butterfly weed. In the next few days, yellow black-eyed susans and three-lobed coneflower will open, along with purple liatris, pink and white garden phlox, pink meadowsweet and some yellow early goldenrod. Later will come various species of asters, goldenrods, joe-pye weed, ironweed, and the golden color of the flowering warm-season grasses.
Each year I also plant in some non-native annuals that will grow big and lush by the time of the fall hummingbird migration. These plants will provide sustenance and calories to be converted into body fat before the long non-stop trip to South America. A few males are already regularly coming to the flowers, as are a couple of females, but by later in August the garden's airspace will become something akin to the halls outside a middle-school cafeteria at lunch time. There will be hummingbirds chasing, bullying and jostling one another all over the yard, eating on the run and putting on weight. Watching these autumn scenes is especially fulfilling as I contemplate the fact that the nourishment these small but scrappy creatures find in our yard will be what helps them make their long journey to the next stage of their lives.
Having a garden that sustains the life of the Creation embodies the concept of stewardship. It is a tangible means of partnering with God in caring for what He has made and what He intends to live on. I have realized that, for myself, participating in the sustenance of Creation is an act of worship springing from a grateful heart hoping to make a positive contribution to what is left of God's natural world. The invitation is open to all who care about the life around us. The invitation is open to you.