“The bumblebee consults his blossoms and the gardener his catalogs, which blossom extravagantly at this season, luring him with their four-color fantasies of bloom and abundance.”—Michael Pollan
It’s that time of year.
My mailbox overflows. Catalogs from Prairie Moon Nursery. Prairie Nursery. Park Seed. Burpee. Seed Savers Exchange.
You get the idea.
Still, these are not enough. The more garden catalogs I receive, the more I yearn for the ones I don’t have. (Baker Creek Heirloom Seed, where, oh where, is the catalog I requested?) Evenings, I pore over my precious stack. Make lists. Compare prices. Check shipping costs. Consult last year’s lists of successes and failures. I order from some companies, like Prairie Moon Nursery, even when I don’t particularly need to. I want to see them stay in business.
The packet pictures are a foreshadowing of the season to come. Little envelopes full of dreams.
Last August, I swore I’d order no tomatoes and peppers in 2023. The bounty of the past few gardening seasons has been incredible. We pop frozen cherry tomatoes in chili all winter; shake out chopped sweet peppers into scrambled eggs. Never have such few plants produced so much bounty. And yet… .
I may plant a few cherry tomato plants; plus a SuperSauce tomato or two. Perhaps a couple of peppers. You know…three plants, max. After all, tomatoes and peppers are part of the joy of summer.
After a happy morning with the garden catalogs, Jeff and I go for a hike at a local forest preserve.
The call of sandhill cranes is a continuous soundtrack to our ramble. Bird migration is ramping up.
Birders glass the lake with their binoculars, pointing. Northern shovelers! Almost a dozen scattered across the water.
There is a flotilla of mergansers, diving and dabbling. A birder tells us he sees the lesser scaup and we zoom in on a few, hoping to see the field marks. I dutifully enter that species in eBird, but I’m not sure. When I return home, and blow up my blurry photos, I consult a birding friend. Ring-necked duck, we both agree—a life bird for me. But my oh my! The ring-necks and the scaups look so much alike.
So much to learn! I edit my eBird entries and cross my fingers, hoping I’ve got it all right. It’s fun to see new species, even if the waterfowl are confusing.
I don’t have to worry about identifying the starlings. They lift off from a tree in waves, then float through the sky in groups known as murmurations. I’m not fond of starlings (a non-native species), but I can’t help but admire their choreography.
As we hike around the lake, checking for birds, we admire the 365 view. Danada Forest Preserve and its prairie plantings are directly across a busy highway from endless shopping strips and restaurants. Jets lift off from Chicago-O’Hare International Airport, adding their grumble to the birdsong.
How wonderful that this preserve was set apart. As we hike alongside families, bikers, horseback riders, and older folks, I feel a sense of gratitude.
A turkey vulture flies high overhead.
Clouds gather in the west and a mackerel sky foretells the coming rain. We’ve hiked further than we intended, and forgotten our water bottles.
By the time we make it back to the car, we’re ready to put up our feet and rest.
What a joy to hike the prairie this month! What a delight to see new birds. How fun to anticipate the warmer season on the way, and then, return home to once again browse the garden catalogs.
What a marvelous month you are, March. I can’t wait to see what other delights you have to show us.
This post kicks off with a quote from one of my favorite chapters in Michael Pollan’s book, Second Nature:”Made Wild By Pompous Catalogs.” Pollan (1955-) who writes compellingly about the frustrations, joys, and desires of the home gardener, also authored Botany of Desire and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, two books that are must-reads. Read more about him here.
Join Cindy for a Class or Program in March!
Literary Gardens —In Person— March 7, 7-8:30 p.m,– Hosted by the ELA Library and Lake Zurich Garden Club. Location change — now at St. Matthews Lutheran Church, Hawthorn Woods, IL. Free and open to the public. For more information, visit here.
Illinois’ Wild and Wonderful Early Bloomers ONLINE — March 15, 7-8:30 p.m., Hosted by Bensonville Public Library. Free and open to the public, but you must register for the link by calling the library. Contact information here.
Illinois’ Wild and Wonderful Early Bloomers ONLINE –March 16, 7-8:30 p.m., Hosted by the Rock Valley Wild Ones. This event was formerly a blended program and is now online only. Open to the public; but you must register. Contact information is here.
Literary Gardens — In Person —– Saturday, March 18, 9am-12:30 pm. Keynote for “Ready, Set, Grow!” Master Gardeners of Carroll, Lee, Ogle, and Whiteside Counties through The Illinois Extension. Dixon, IL. Registration ($25) is offered here.
The Morton Arboretum’s “Women in the Environment Series”: The Legacy of May T. Watts— (in person and online)—with lead instructor and Sterling Morton Librarian extraordinaire Rita Hassert. March 24, 10-11:30 a.m., Founders Room, Thornhill. Registration information available here.
Literary Gardens–In Person — Wednesday, March 29, 7-8:30 p.m. La Grange Park Public Library, LaGrange, IL. (free but limited to 25 people). For more information, contact the library here.
See Cindy’s website for more spring programs and classes.
Bell Bowl Prairie in Rockford, IL, needs your help. As of this writing, it appears the bulldozers (as May Watts would say) are drooling. The destruction of this remnant is near at hand. Find out how you can help save this threatened prairie remnant at SaveBellBowlPrairie.