It’s November and the internet is jam packed with gratitude gifs and memes, on a wide spectrum from saccharine to sincere. I’ve seen so much beauty and positive changes in my own life’s trajectory over the past calendar year that the only sane response is to express gratitude whenever and wherever possible. Here is a summary in list format of my summer’s most photogenic moments, or if you prefer: November gratitude, wildlife gardening style.
A Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly landed on my foot this summer. This happened on a property where this butterfly’s host plant- Viola rotundifolia thrives at a wooded edge. From my research I gather it was probably a female, because the males of the species are shorter lived and disappear by later in the season, and she was probably interested in gathering salt from my sweaty foot. Whatever her reasons, I feel expansive gratitude to be in magical enough locations where the butterflies land on your feet sometimes.
It rained pretty much every day for two months in upstate New York this year. Late May, early June and even into July, we thought it was monsoon season. This made conditions tough for butterflies, who are sun worshippers. There were, on the other hand, more dragonflies around than I ever remember seeing before anywhere. I think this happened because dragonflies need a vernal pool or pond to spawn in, and there was just no shortage at all of puddles. Though I missed the bumper crop of butterflies and I hope next year is easier for them, I did find some gratitude for the graceful (and difficult to photograph) ubiquitous dragonflies, and their voracious appetites for other insects.
Again, we hope next year offers better conditions for all members of the Lepidoptera order of insects, and I am grateful for all the butterfly habitat gardens and Monarch waystations people have given me the privilege of creating for them. Shown here, adjacent to the hot tub, is a fully operational Monarch waystation with Asclepias incarnata for the larval host use and Eupatorium maculata as a long lasting nectar source. Wildlife gardening gratitude mixes with daydreams of future joy when I look at this photo and think about all the acres of pristine wetland and forest habitat that surround this property from all sides. The Monarchs are coming, I just know it.
This year I’ve experienced an abundance of gratitude for other people’s creativity and the secret pocket glimpses I get into their wonderful little worlds. The above photo was taken at a landscaping client’s home; at the time her family moved into their two acre ranch there was a defunct hot tub on the wooden platform shown. They got rid of the hot tub and dragged the wooden platform into the center of their huge yard, creating an outdoor living space with furniture and living wall style gardens. My suggestions for her included additions of prairie native plants like Vernonia noveboracensis and Eupatorium maculata, and subtracting the Daylilies, but her bold, recycled material, do-it-yourself hardscaping style did my heart good. I’m so grateful for all the other people out there using creativity and imagination, all of you are such an inspiration.
Finally, I’m grateful for the continuity of my wildlife gardening education, more and more it becomes clearer that it will be impossible to ever stop learning in this realm, because there is so much, so much content to learn, and it’s all so endlessly fascinating. I find mental flexibility to be essential, because lots of times I’ll hear or read misinformation about wildlife gardening, or I’ll think I know something that’s actually not exactly right on. The Angelica gigas in the above picture is a nice, and recent example of this learning curve. I’ve used this plant in my landscape designs for clients a number of times, believing it to be a New York native species. But I was wrong. Angelica gigas, or Purple Angelica is native to Korea. There is a species native to New York state, it’s called Angelica atropurpurea, and being a member of the carrot family it’s the larval host for the Short-tailed Swallowtail butterfly. So I change my behavior to allign with the new information as I come across it in this way: in the future if I use Angelica in a garden design it will be the native atropurpurea. (I’ve gone through similar awakenings with Buddleia and Buphthalmum). I’m grateful for this process of wildlife gardening learning and changing, whether it unfolds in a choppy or graceful way there’s no room for arrogance, because there’s just too much I don’t know and given the wonderful, mysterious planet we inhabit that will always, always be the case. November gratitude, wildlife gardening style is a cinch to generate, because wildlife gardening is astonishing, and we who do it are the lucky ones.
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