“Gardens console us, welcome us, connect us. They humble. They teach… . Couldn’t prairies exist in our backyards in some meaningful form?” — Benjamin Vogt
Snow. 70 degrees and sunshine. Sleet. 75 mph wind gusts.
It is March in the Midwest, full of twists and turns…and wonder. We wake up, not knowing if we’ll put on sweaters and boots or shorts and sandals. Each day offers surprises, like crocus suddenly in bloom.
The first daffodils and hyacinths spear green shoots through the prairie dropseed in my backyard. Welcome back!
Redpolls cluster at the feeder, seemingly loath to begin their trip to their Arctic breeding grounds. They remind me of myself getting ready to go somewhere. “Hold on—let me do one more thing before we go… .”
A male redpoll feeds a female redpoll some thistle. Is this courting behavior? I’m not sure. This was our first year to have redpolls at our backyard feeders in Illinois and I know very little about them. What an unexpected delight! Who knows if we’ll see them again? I’ll miss the redpolls when they are gone. They’ve left us with some beautiful memories, and the reminder that life is full of these unexpected amazements —-if we pay attention.
There will be other birds to enjoy. The female downy woodpeckers hang around all year…
…and so do the males, with their bright scarlet splash of color.
Our backyard prairie, lank and leaning after months of weather, gets a facelift with the falling snow. Magical!
Even the pawpaw tree—though leafless—is lovely with its snow-piled limbs.
Temperatures hover around freezing, but our pond remains thawed from Saturday’s wild 70-degree temperature binge.
Gently, I bend the fall-planted buttonbush shoots near the pond. They feel supple, rather than brittle. Tiny buds. A flush of color. It has survived the winter. Last summer, with its drought and weather swings, was a tough year for newly-planted perennials.
My New Jersey tea hasn’t done as well. Under the eaves, close to the house, this native shrub gets plenty of warmth but not as much moisture and sun as it would in the bigger prairie planting. Should it be moved this year? Hmmm.
It’s a stick! Not much to write home about, is it? Every spring I think I’ve lost this shrub, and each spring New Jersey tea surprises me. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
Other natives like prairie smoke….
…and prairie alum root still hold some green. They look alive and ready for the growing season.
We’re one week into the month of March.
A week of blustery wind and snow. A week of warmth and rain. A week of good news, as Covid numbers recede. A week of terrifying events on the other side of the world.
A week of wondering. What’s Mother Nature going to throw at us next?
As the snow falls and ices the prairie with wonder, I remind myself: There’s a lot to look forward to in the new year. Plenty of astonishments and delights ahead that we can’t even imagine.
I can’t wait.
The opening quote is by Benjamin Vogt (1976-) from his book, A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future, which calls us to reconsider lawns, and plant our gardens thoughtfully. Read more about Vogt here.
Join Cindy for a program or class!
See http://www.cindycrosby.com for details.
March 8, 7-8:30pm — Dragonflies and Damselflies: Frequent Fliers in the Garden at Twig and Bloom Garden Club, Glen Ellyn, IL. More information here.
March 9, 1-2:30 pm— Illinois Wild and Wonderful Early Bloomers at Garden Club of Oak Park and River Forest, Oak Park, IL (Open to the public). Details here.
March 26, 10-11:30 am — Illinois Wild and Wonderful Early Bloomers at Brookfield Garden Club, Brookfield, IL. (Closed event for members only)
March 28, 7-8:30pm—Add a Little Prairie to Your Garden at Grayslake Greenery Garden Club, Grayslake, IL. Contact the club here for details.