A couple of days ago I actually got out into the yard to do some work. We have a couple of years worth of dead-fall that I keep promising to throw in a burn pile and every year manage to wait until burn season is over and have to put it off to next year.
This year I did make a dent in it (a little dent but better than nothing). As I walked the property picking up branches, I noticed that there was a lot of flora that has supplanted our erstwhile lawn. When we moved in back in 1991, it was the 3/4 acre of lawn that attracted my husband to the property. All I saw was a ton of maintenance but just like a child who wants a puppy, my husband promised he would water and mow it – yeah right! And if you believe that, I have a nice little bridge I’d like to sell you. The first summer, he did mow it quite diligently but it fell upon me to weed, feed and water it. Hours and hours of watering and it still turned brown. We are on a well and fearing to run out of water, I dared not put any more water on it and it would turn brown every summer. As the years went by and I got tired of spending entire days pulling weeds, we ended up with 3/4 of an acre of dandelions. Oh well – at least they stayed green most of the summer.
The years went by and as the lawn got more neglect the biodiversity sprang up. The back yard still has plenty of grass run wild at this point – more of a meadow than a lawn, but the front yard has become quite an interesting array of species. Years ago I noticed some wild violets springing up here and there in the shadier spots; initially they were yellow violets but then a couple of years ago suddenly they all turned purple – great big drifts of sweet lovely purple violets have taken over our lawn. This year, they were joined by a tapestry of wild strawberries. Again, this started with just a cluster or two that appeared on their own – I did not plant them, They don’t really yield much in the way of fruit, the berries are tiny (about 1/2″ at the largest), white and somewhat sweet but it would take a barrel of them to do anything with, the plants however are charming. The third tenant to show up is a small carpet of Forget-me-nots. Now these I did plant – about -18 years ago. They seemed to naturalize for a few years then disappeared but now they have made an appearance again. And finally, in the back yard close to the house, I have runaway oregano. I tried to plant a few herbs many years ago, most of them languished and finally died off but the oregano was tenacious and spread. It seems to have reverted to some ancestral species, the plants are robust but do not have a very intense flavor or fragrance, however they (like the dandelions) tend to remain green all summer long without benefit of a sprinkler so they are welcome to stay.
Less welcome are the blackberries that are springing up in my erstwhile lawn, they are going to have to be addressed and soon. They took over my back vegetable garden encroaching from the neighbor’s yard and frankly, it became a full time job just keeping them at bay. Round-up just encourages them and Crossbow – while effective – is one nasty piece of work. Remember, I said we are on a well and I am ‘well’ aware that whatever I spray on the weeds, we will be drinking in a few weeks time. Before you wax poetic and say “Oh blackberries – why not just harvest the berries and make pies?” let me tell you that these blackberries are more seed than anything else, I may as well try to make a pie from Chia seeds (except Chia seeds get soft and slippery when wet, blackberry seeds remain hard like gravel). Add to that, I believe blackberries are sentient beings. I have never seen any plant fight back with as much seeming intelligence as those beasts, I am sure they hold conferences at night when no one is looking, plotting on how they will take over the world (or at least Oregon). They are accompanied in places by their ally – Russian Thistle which also fight back on any attempt to pull it up. Those spines can go right through leather gardening gloves! Also not welcome is the English Ivy that I (and the nursery who encouraged me to plant it 25 years ago) am responsible for. How I wish I’d never planted that and at some point I hope to be able to eradicate it (without heavy doses of poison) but I fear it’s a losing battle.
I have posted some photos of the multiracial ‘lawn’ I now have along with pictures of my lovely Viburnum that is about to explode with blossoms and a lovely delicate Japanese water iris I have confined in a planter on my deck. I got a start for the iris from a cousin in Washington, I have no idea where she found it but I have not seen it in local nurseries here and in fact the only other place I’ve ever seen it in was in botanical gardens in Maui when I was there a few years ago.
After a long hard winter, perhaps spring has arrived.