Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher. ~ William Wordsworth
Like many gardeners, I am fascinated with nature. What is that high up in the tree singing gleefully? Is that a rat snake or a garter snake over by the pond? How many different bees visit my flowers? What are those strange cuts in the leaves of my plant?
These and many other questions are asked by many gardeners, but only if one is observant enough to even notice nature; the nature that is all around you. It is there at all times morning, noon and night. You just have to listen carefully to notice new songs, strange sounds in the night or favorite songs of familiar birds like the first robin singing in spring.
Stop, look and listen….. long enough to gaze at flowers to see who is visiting them besides you. Maybe a new bee or is it a bee. And who lives in that web? Being quiet so critters will stop by, or fly by on their way to some nectar. And some even bring their youngins.
And when I hear or see something new, I must watch. I abandon what I am doing and stay still to see all I can see. Drink it in, memorize the sounds. Sometimes I have a camera, and many times I do not. But that doesn’t stop me. Because I make sure I run to my books, apps and the internet to discover what I saw or what I heard. I want to know all I can… my thirst for knowledge kicks in. I must know it before I can share it.
I think most gardeners are life long learners. If not we would surely abandon our gardens as plants died and problems arose. If we tried we could never learn all nature has to teach us, but I thought I would share a few things I learned this past year.
What have I learned in 2012:
Robins stay around, and show up in my winter garden if the weather is mild. What a treat to watch these birds feed on worms and insects lurking beneath the leaves I did not clean up in fall.
Watching geese can actually be a pretty accurate indication of the winter. Every year I watch geese in the fall to see when they move and in what numbers. This past year they left in mid fall, and 2 weeks later came back by the hundreds to stay for the very mild winter we had.
Adding natives will bring in more butterflies. I saw more species of butterflies in the garden this past year. Without the use of chemicals and providing more host and nectar plants, these beauties were my constant companion.
Ponds are a breeding ground for so much life, and they certainly add excitement. The snakes were busy around the pond in 2012 as witnessed by the picture of the rat snake above. And of course the frogs were busy all spring and even in summer as you can see from the egg sack. The frogs seemed at ease with us as they wandered around the garden more. They adapted to the fact that the hot summer brought too many aphids which destroyed the lily pads. But they found refuge in amongst the shore and garden. And even in winter we see deer tracks to the pond.
Wildlife gardens are noisy places, and it is important to get to know the voices so you can attend to them and welcome them. The pileated woodpeckers live behind us and seem to enjoy venturing into the garden. We know them by their loud drumming noises. If you want birds in the garden, you have to be prepared for the drama and the noise. I find it is more like music on a soap opera.
Planting herbs can bring a plethora of interesting critters like caterpillars. I found many swallowtail butterflies on my dill this year. I plant some just for them in containers, and they enjoyed the herb as much as we did. It is easy to share your garden with wildlife if you just add a bit more so you can have some too!
Things may be all they appear to be. When we spotted this brood we could hardly believe our eyes…triplets. Or are they? Yes white-tailed deer can have triplets which is unusual, but maybe this mama was babysitting. We just don’t know. But whatever the case they were just too cute. We were in our garage hiding to take the picture, but somehow they spotted us. They kept watching us and we kept watching them as they played. Pure joy!!
Some critters are not always considered a plus. While some folks do not like all critters we do. Yes even the voles are tolerated as they are food for others. We just wish the fox would eat more of them. But whenever we see fox, we watch them with awe. They are special, and we know they are keeping the ecosystem balanced. It is sad to think they will take the cute rabbits, chipmunks and squirrels, but without the fox and birds of prey we would be overrun, and that is not a good thing.
So what lessons did Nature teach you this past year?
Don’t forget The Great Backyard Bird Count is coming. This year it is an international event. I can’t wait!!
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