Gifts That Keep On Giving

Gifts That Keep On Giving

Crabapple, showing off. Go


for more. 

Ever been to a garden show with a mad gardener? No? Oh, you really should. They want EVERYTHING.  Or give them a new plant catalog, if you enjoy watching someone torture themselves with what she can remove from her yard in order to make room for this One New Thing.

Which is quite fun, actually. But what about all those neighbors you have with almost nothing in their yards? Who are depriving themselves, their neighbors and thousands of pollinators of the joy of a blooming yard? Is there any way to convert them?

I think there is, and it smacks us in the eyes every spring. How many of you have had folks pull over their car, or stop on their walk and ask: "What IS that? It's gorgeous!"

This is what is known in marketing circles as an Opportunity.

"Why, it's Celandine Poppy! It loves shade. Would you like some? I've got plenty!"


or Wood Poppy (

Stylophorum diphyllum)

, overachieving.

It's not like pushing drugs. Really.

You have to prepare your new garden convert, of course, because you know that as soon as they put your gift in the ground, it's not going to look nearly as good as it does in your garden in its undisturbed state. "It may look a little rough this year, but by next spring it will look fabulous!"

This is how we suck them in. Get two or three blooming things into their yard and it's all over.

Think on this for a moment. What in your yard is replicating itself thoroughly enough that you could easily share the bounty?

Mt. Airy Fothergilla, making the bees ecstatic.

This year we have already dug up for the benefit of others arrowwood viburnum (

Viburnum dentatum

), lamb's ear (

Stachys byzantina

), bush honeysuckle (

Diervilla sessilifolia

) and black-eyed Susan (

Rudbeckia hirta

), none of which are blooming, yet.  We will also be sharing "Fireworks" goldenrod (

Solidago rugosa

) and perhaps some Green and Gold (

Chrysogonum virginianum

). Oh, and



Both the viburnum and the bush honeysuckle (natives!) are suckering or "thicketing" shrubs, meaning they spread relatively slowly from the base outward to create, with luck, stands of habitat in your garden. When we have a piece of one getting a little further than we want it to, we dig it up and put it in a pot for some lucky soul who wants to build pollinator or bird habitat. This year, we are VERY fortunate, in that an experienced landscaper has moved into our realm of acquaintances--and he needs plants for his yard. Sir, have I got a deal for you....

Green and Gold, breaking through its rock border.

Helping out a fellow gardener in need is a double decker win, because once he gets going, not only does he establish habitat in his own yard, he makes others want to "do over" their own. Which means he'll be able to pass on some of his own plants to others, in good time.

In these photos, you are seeing some of the things in the yard that are putting on a show right now. Most of them are trees or shrubs, which after four years in the ground are really starting to look like something. They are beginning to truly "occupy" the spaces designated for them in the landscape. Our "Winter King" hawthorne is a by-gosh-real tree this year. The crabapple is stopping traffic. And the fothergilla is pulling in bees by the hundreds.

"Forest Pansy" redbud floats over our part-shade meadow area.

If you are a true "support your pollinators" apostle, I want to challenge you to start giving away some plants. Find someone who is subsisting on "lawn" and help them carve out a little spot where they can put something easy. Coneflower. Rudbeckia. Lamb's Ear. Chives. Something that is Guaranteed To Succeed for them. At the early stage, it doesn't even have to be native, if it will make a pollinator happy. Layer a thicketing shrub behind the perennials--a viburnum, or maybe a chokeberry--so that they have a progression of blooms. Let them live with the success for a year, and offer up a couple of other joys the next. Before long, they will be evangelizing, as well. Who can help themselves? Blooming things make us smile--we


they are good for us, but some folks are scared they will kill their plants, that maintaining them will be too much trouble, that they will "do it wrong" and end up with a landscape that will make them look amateur. Give them the gift of certainty--some plants that can't fail.

Red Chokeberry, (

Aronia arbutifolia

) a pollinator favorite.

If you have the opportunity to work with some kids, set up a

Seed Grenade

party--some compost, clay and a bunch of wildflower seeds will turn every child into a Guerrilla Gardener, turning vacant lots and ditches into pollinator hangouts. What could be more fun that chunking seed bombs on your walk to school that turn into monarch habitat in the same year?

Every year, blooming things take over our yard. They delight the neighbors. They delight the walkers who come by with their dogs. They delight the pollinators. They delight the songbirds. And they delight us. They are a gift we have given to ourselves, and the package gets bigger and more beautiful every year. Spread the love!

Big Honking Moth

Big Honking Moth

The Hardest Working Perennial

The Hardest Working Perennial