Blog Posts, Native Plants, Wildlife

Walk With Me: Week of August 1, 2020

Hello! Did you think I gave up this blogging thing already? Life has been crazy for quite a few weeks now and I’m finding it difficult to carve out the time to write. Mostly because some exciting projects are underway! I can’t wait to share them with you, but first things first: let’s take a quick walk.

A misty morning.

Right now, it’s early morning and there’s a brief respite from the heat. The air is cool enough I actually need a jacket and mist rises from the pond as I walk by. It almost feels like autumn! There are lots of creatures out and about enjoying the much-needed break before the scorching summer heat barrels through later on this afternoon. Along the outskirts of the pond, many late-summer flowering natives are finally beginning to bloom! Ironweed, Wingstem, and Monkeyflower are looking particularly beautiful this morning.

Do You See What I See?

We’re going to skip the Elderbrook Garden tour today. I’m anxious to get to the bottom of the hill to reveal my news! Currently, on one side of our long private driveway is what some might consider a weedy mess.

We started grading a steep bank and didn’t get around to completing it yet. There’s also a small temporary brush pile that birds and rodents have decided to use for a hideout. Lots of “weeds” have been growing up through it all summer. Jamie recently remarked that it makes the place look messy. I glanced around in confusion after he said it. Sort of like a kid does when Mom is standing in the doorway of their bedroom wondering why it isn’t cleaned up yet. What mess? The Horseweed, Pokeweed, Solidago, Fleabane, Evening Primrose, and Asters? Well, I’ve got to admit it doesn’t look “tidy” at the moment. There are such wonderful native plants here though! His next comment caught me off guard. “People don’t see these things the same way you do. To them, this stuff just looks like weeds.” He was right. It sort of caught me off guard. Not to mention it made me sad! Allow me to show you why…

I’ll use just one example from this “weed” patch. Here is Common Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis). It is a unique biennial whose blossoms open, you guessed it, in the evening. The flowers are a light yellow color. This allows for better night-time detection by night-flying moths. The primary pollinators are Hawk Moths. Large day-flying Clearwing Moths (shown above) may be mistaken for hummingbirds as they search for nectar deep within the flowers. However, on a hot July or August afternoon you’ll likely find one particular species of moth sleeping among the blooms: the Primrose Moth (Schinia florida). It is a delightful pink and white creature with bright green eyes. The adults feed on the flower’s nectar and use it as a host plant, meaning they will lay their eggs on it. When the larvae (caterpillars) hatch, they feed heavily upon the leaves until they are ready to move on to their pupal stage. Sometimes, there are so many of these beauties resting here that it looks like our Evening Primrose has pink flowers instead of yellow! Another added benefit is that Hummingbirds may also visit the flowers. Goldfinches and other birds eat the seeds from interesting chalice-like seed capsules from fall through winter.

This is just one example out of thousands that reveal how important native plants are to local insects and wildlife. You will not find a Primrose Moth successfully reproducing on Chinese Wisteria or an invasive Burning Bush. As a matter of fact, it’s caterpillars absolutely cannot be sustained by the leaves of just any flowering plant or shrub. The very survival of this species depends on an extremely limited array of specific host plants. Native host plants.

Growing together in harmony.

I think the entire concept is a marvel! The wonders of nature are found in the intimate relationships between plants and the creatures that are uniquely adapted to use them for food, shelter, and reproduction. How fascinating! How incredibly exciting! Are you excited yet!? Do you see what I see?

Does that mean I think everyone’s front lawn should look like my little unkempt weed patch? I doubt your neighbors or HOA would approve. I mean, in an ideal world, a jungle-like front yard would be seriously fantastic. We don’t live in an ideal world though. However, we do live in an age with information and resources at our fingertips. It is my goal with this blog/website to continually show new ways that you can incorporate important native plants in your own garden designs. Amazing biodiversity can be achieved without your yard having to look like an unkempt wilderness. Even formal gardens can be full of native shrubs, trees, and flowers to suit every need. And here is where my exciting news fits in…

A Girl Can Dream

Future site of Arcadia Natives Plant Nursery and Gift Shop

If you have perused the “About Me” section of this blog, you may already know that my dream is to start a native plant nursery. As it turns out, my husband has been constructing a large building on our property. He’s like a one-man army tackling this beast of a project all by himself. It’s truly impressive! We’ve decided to join forces and try to make this desire of mine a reality sooner vs later. Thus, the future home of Arcadia Natives is officially under construction!

The idea is to go beyond a typical retail nursery. I want each visit to be an educational experience! Where you can learn about the birds, butterflies, bees, and furry creatures that will use the plants you take home with you. A beautiful place to explore year-round with stone paths and vine-laden trellises. The sort of environment that calms the spirit, but awakens the senses. Maybe even a sense of adventure!

The objective is to propagate straight native species from local ecotype seeds. In other words, from seeds collected within our region. These are best suited to thrive in our climate as these plants occur naturally here. Ideally, one day I’ll expand our inventory to include bog/aquatic plants or difficult to find species.

If I can figure out the logistics, each pot will have a QR code label. When scanned, it will direct you to the plant’s profile page on our website. At a glance you will know what growing conditions it needs, it’s value to wildlife, and what it will look like spring through fall. There will be display gardens that show how these plants can be placed together so that they are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also combined in such a way that they promote crucial biodiversity.

A Spicebush Swallowtail visits my Monarda patch. These flowers are growing underneath this butterfly’s host plant: Northern Spicebush (Linera benzoin). It’s a lovely combination and native Golden Groundsel (Packera aurea) forms a dense groundcover around them.

Other ideas we’ve tossed around are possibly constructing a walk-through butterfly enclosure, selling potted herbs, having a designated picnic area, creating a classroom for hands-on projects or seminars, and offering guided trail walks through the woods for small groups or nature clubs. The list goes on, but I’ll stop there. Spoilers….

The left corner section of the building shown above will be the Gift Shop. In the past, I have made everything from candles to jewelry to wall tapestries. I’ve also had my artwork printed on mugs, tote bags, stickers, greeting cards, etc. Arcadia Native’s Gift Shop will offer a variety of all those things! The majority will be nature-themed. We may also include handcrafted items from gifted artisans in our community: locally sourced wood charcuterie boards, bird houses, soaps, pottery, artwork, hand-sewn items, baskets, dried flower arrangements, and more.

Outside, a large covered porch will have a convenient checkout counter and comfortable seating. From there, meandering walkways, garden benches, and maybe even a water feature will flow together and create a pleasant browsing experience.

Best Laid Plans

There’s been a lot going on this month “behind the scenes” to begin making this plan a reality.

  • Designing a logo ( Still a work-in-progress, but you can see what I’ve come up with so far at the top of this page.)
  • Completing a general layout concept for the nursery, display gardens, and store.
  • Making preliminary sketches for artwork that will be honed over the long winter months.
  • Writing down new jewelry, clothing, and other nature-themed merchandise design ideas.
  • Nurturing dozens of potted plants for our first Summer Sale 2021! It will likely be a small setup in our parking lot for now.
  • Collecting seeds from a variety of native plant species on our property.
  • Purchasing regional ecotype seeds.
  • Doing hours upon hours of research to learn how to propagate aforementioned seeds!
  • Building new plant profile pages for the website to be linked with QR codes.
  • Blogging until the wee hours of the morning. These blog posts take me weeks to finish. Why? I have no idea.
  • Filling my Pinterest boards to bursting. Arbor/Trellis ideas, Garden Path Inspiration, Water Features, Native Plant Combinations… the list goes on.
  • Scouring the internet to find the best organic potting soil, bulk pots/trays, labels, etc.
  • Starting the application processes for a fictitious name, nursery license, and all that other “business” stuff.
  • Trying to figure out how to keep my household of six running smoothly through all this. Turns out, teenagers need constant feeding. Maybe I’ll enroll them in some cooking classes!
  • Going to bed at 2 or 3am because… see all of the above (and throw in occasional housework)!
  • Creating an online Zazzle store with custom designs featuring native flora and fauna (see below)

undefined A Final Thought

Will all my plans come to pass? Maybe, maybe not. In an uncertain world, all we can do is optimistically move forward with the knowledge that we possess right now. It will take years to achieve all the goals and plans I have for our property. I’m ok with that! As long as my hands are in the dirt and my plants are healthy, my heart is happy! I can’t wait to share them. Native plants for you… and you… and you…. and…. together we’re literally going to make our little corner of the world a better place!

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