Maybe Dorothy Was Right

It’s been more than two months since I’ve written here. My absence hasn’t been because I don’t have anything to say, or anything to show you, but rather because I have too much to say and can’t figure out how to channel it into something good and uplifting. The turmoil in our society has become something that weighs heavily on me, and it’s getting harder to stay optimistic when there’s no end in sight.

Monarch on butterfly milkweed
Monarch on butterfly milkweed

My usual solution of going to nature for solace doesn’t always help anymore. But I cling to it, still, out of sheer determination to not succumb to despair. I admire my blogging friends who have been able to write regularly and optimistically. I know some of them will be reading this, and I am so grateful for their writing about nature. They are my inspiration to sit here now and try to put some positive energy out into the world.

I want to show you some bits of my native plant garden and the critters who live in it. After the early-blooming spring ephemerals are done, most of the other native plants in my garden don’t bloom until at least late June. I’ve had to be patient, but that makes it so much more exciting when everything finally bursts into bloom. I took this video of my biggest monarda patch yesterday, trying to show you the dozens of pollinators buzzing over it. This section is about 10’x3′ and there were easily a couple dozen bees working through the flowers.

You’ll notice how that bee in the close-up portion goes completely around the flower, making sure to get every possible bit of energy it can from it before moving to the next one.  That patch of monarda is about four feet tall and I can stand right up against it with my face only inches away from the buzzing bees, and they don’t pay the slightest attention to me. It’s such a calming, meditational thing to do.

One of my favorite plants is this Shrubby St. John’s Wort (Hypericum prolificum), with its cheerful lemon-yellow flowers and glossy leaves. This one is about four feet tall in its second year and looks fabulous. A friend gave me another small one and I can’t wait to see how big it will be next year.

Shrubby st john's wort

Anemone virginiana - tall thimbleweed
Tall thimbleweed flower, only an inch across

Last year I put in two Tall Thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana) that another friend gave me. They’re blooming this year and I’m in love with their dainty little flowers and the “thimbles” that remain after the flowers are spent. This plant has large lobed leaves below bare, thin stems that tower a couple feet higher and support the flowers. When I’ve found thimbleweed on my walks in local parks, I’m always struck by how easy it would be to overlook it. So many native plants seem to be overly enthusiastic (“we’re gonna take over everything!”) that it’s nice to have a few that behave themselves better. I’ve got these at the front of a bed where they’re easy to see and enjoy, and they won’t get bullied by anybody else.

I found this little grasshopper eating a leaf on boneset. I watched him. He watched me.

grasshopper collage

One of the first times I noticed Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata) was when I photographed a Snowberry Clearwing moth feeding on it a couple years ago as I hiked in a state wildlife area. I took a series of photos that remain some of my favorites. Here’s one of them from that day.

Snowberry clearwing moth feeding on blue vervain

I also found a dragonfly on this plant along the shore of Lake Erie last fall. Dragonflies aren’t pollinators and so it’s not common to find them perched on flowering plants like this Common Green Darner was during fall migration last September.

Green darner on blue vervain

And here’s a pic from my garden this week, where my own Blue Vervain is just beginning to bloom. The tiny purple flowers bloom from the bottom to the top of each spike, with just a few blooming at a time. I just adore this plant!

Blue vervain - verbena hastata

I’ve noticed that I often use the word “love” to describe how I feel about some native plants. Since I’m spending lots more time at home these days, I’m getting to know my plants more intimately, and I’m feeling very connected to them in a way that feels like love. I take care of their needs. I mourn when the rabbits chew a young plant down to the ground before it even gets a chance at life. I spend lots of time just wanting to be near the plants, to enjoy their beauty and the unceasingly fascinating world of the insects who come to eat them. The garden is my connection to something larger than myself, something intensely gratifying and life-affirming.

When the pandemic first arrived and we were just getting used to lockdown, I wrote about desperately missing my friends. As time went on, I wrote about starting to enjoy some time without a busy schedule. These days I see a few of my friends regularly (outdoors only, and always six feet apart). As my schedule has gotten busier again, I find myself wanting to hold on to as much of my “home time” as I can. Sure, there’s a lot to see “out there,” but this place is where my heart is, and where I find peace and a connection to the natural world. So I guess I’m a bit like Dorothy in discovering that you don’t always have to leave home to find what you need. #TheresNoPlaceLikeHome

Young rabbit in my yard
One of my resident bunny twins chowing down on ferns

21 thoughts on “Maybe Dorothy Was Right”

  1. Very nice blog Kim! Your native plants are so pretty and quite a variety. I have 5 flower seeds I started and the plants are in those little cups that dissolve but have to wait to plant after our house painter replaces some drains over my flower garden. The plants are about 10 inches high now and do not want them trampled by the painter so have to wait to put them in the ground. Like you said, you get such pleasure from flowers and taking care of them. XO

  2. This was very uplifting, Kim, thank you. I have been having the same problem, wanting to post but not being able to quite gather enough positive thoughts that I wanted to put out into the world. We see all the things unfolding in the USA and feel so sorry for everyone. We are having our own challenges in Australia and in our personal lives and it is also a great comfort to me to take my daily walks in nature…to see a beautiful sunset…to watch my funny brood of birds. Yes, you and Dorothy both have it right. xx

    1. Ardys, I’m sorry that I haven’t kept up with your blog. I just read the heartbreaking post about Amos…how very sad. You did a very loving thing by trying to save him.

      I’m glad Australia had a much smarter response to the virus than we did. It seems there’s no end in sight for us as people continue to refuse to wear masks and scream about their “rights” — it’s shameful and is causing so much unnecessary suffering as it prolongs the time we all have to live like this. If only Canada would give us refuge from the insanity on this side of the border…sigh. xoxo

      1. Thank you for your comment about Amos. It was a really special event in my life. Yes, we are doing ok here, but people are getting antsy during this increased incidence (they say it isn’t a real second wave yet) we are having and it remains to be seen how it all pans out. I’ve had to turn off much of the news because I find it really makes me quite sad and depressed, I can only imagine how it must make those of you living in it feel. My very best thoughts xxx

  3. Cheering you on! Thank you for giving us a tour of your home prairie. I’m writing about the same this week — there is, sometimes, no place like home. Kindred spirits, for sure! Grateful for you sharing these beautiful photos and words with us. xo, Cindy 🙂

  4. Hello Kim! I loved your photos on this post. I had a lengthy comment written, but WordPress maybe had a glitch and all was lost. I’m too tired to compose another comment. Just know I feel much the same about what is happening, and I cannot seem to get it together to write anything either.

    1. Hi Lori! I’m not surprised that you’re also having trouble writing these days. It’s hard to wrap your head around everything that’s going on and try to maintain some semblance of normalcy in life. Be well, my friend!

  5. It is nice to have you back, Kim! These are wonderful photos, so full of light, bounce and cheer it really brightens our world up! Your garden is looking glorious, and being close to nature always helps, even if we don’t realise it 🙂

  6. Love this! Great photos, beautiful garden. I agree that this is the best time in the garden–plants are blooming furiously and haven’t started their decline. I love my blue vervain–I think I started with one plant and now have many, and they have jumped from their original location. I love those garden surprises! I’ve made plenty of mistakes, like the elderberry I planted that got way too huge too fast for its location and now since it has been removed it continues to sucker like mad. I sort of have to respect the persistence though.

    Keep blogging! My blog lapsed years ago and I often think of restarting it.

    1. Hi Deb! Yes, I agree that we’ve gotta respect their persistence. I’m still in the experimental stage with so many of my natives, and have made some mistakes too. I can’t wait to see what my garden looks like five years from now. 🙂

  7. Beautiful post. Glad your garden brings you such peace and fills your soul!!! Welcome back. 🌹🐝🐞🦗🦋🐛🌻

  8. Thanks, Kim, for brightening my day with a visit to your garden (and other places where you took your pictures)! Despite how you’re feeling, what you wrote and posted conveyed optimism. Also, I loved that I learned about a new flower (tall thimbleweed). And would you mind telling me the name of the fern the bunny is nibbling?

    1. Judy, thanks, so glad you enjoyed it! Those ferns…hmmm…I’ve never paid enough attention to them to know what they are. I keep pulling them out to put natives in, but now that I know the rabbits like them I’ll keep some so they won’t eat as many of my other plants (hopefully).

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