Hell Strip to Esplanade

Planting the roadside strip

Lisa & Myke at work, photo by Margy Dowzer

Last month, Margy and I were talking about the crabgrass that has overrun the lawn in so many places, including the strip between the sidewalk and the street. This strip seems to be referred to by many names–from “hell strip” to “esplanade.”  She is working on other strategies for other places, but I had the idea (after some internet research and an appreciation of what someone in our neighborhood had done to theirs) to see if hardy perennials might eventually outcompete the crabgrass and solve the problem. Then it truly would be shifting from a hell strip to an esplanade!

I started off by moving some turkish rocket from our backyard garden to the front. Turkish rocket is a fast growing perennial vegetable with beautiful yellow flowers. I had planted some last year, excited to try it, but this spring discovered that I didn’t really like the taste of the greens–they were too sharp and bitter for me.  But the flowers were amazing.  So I decided that I’d move it from the food forest to the strip.  Another friend came by and transplanted some yellow day lilies and blue cornflower that needed a new home!

I put out a call on our permaculture meet-up, and was gratified when another member, Sandi, responded by saying she had a lot of perennials that needed dividing and we could have them. That’s the thing–so many wonderful perennial flowers multiply of their own accord and expand out of the area they are originally planted.  So why not use that spreading habit to achieve a better use of the roadside space–for pollinators and for beauty. So I went out to her house and we dug up a whole bunch of plants.

That weekend, our friend Lisa was visiting, and she jumped in to help me with the transplanting effort.  And it was a big effort!  In the end, we had 24 new plants along the strip, mostly with blue or yellow flowers, which we tended to alternate.  Several patches of Siberian iris and several patches of allium; anise hyssop, heliopsis, calendula, white ruffled iris, goats beard, astilbe, mallow, and lady’s mantle.  The other day, I added some catnip–another plant that can spread, but hey, maybe it will outcompete the crabgrass, and we’ll also have catnip for the cats.  The whole thing doesn’t look like much yet–a bunch of scraggly transplants, only a few with any flowers right now–but we’ll see how it goes next summer.  If we can get a load of wood chips, we may put down some cardboard and wood chips between the plants.  But that can happen later too.  I will let you know how it goes.

IMG_7917

Advertisements

Herbal Gifts

St. John's Wort DriedToday I finished the harvest of St. John’s Wort–all from plants that grew up wild in our yard, or down the street from our home.  I had cut the flowers with a little bit of plant attached, back when they were in full bloom, in early July.  I dried some of it in tied bunches hanging in the garage, and some of it in loose bunches on an extra window screen laid flat in the basement. (Take note: I definitely preferred the screen method for later processing ease.)

So today, I spread out some paper on the kitchen table, and put all the bunches onto it.  Then I sat and rubbed the leaves & flowers off the stems, stem by stem.  I was listening to podcasts about healing and self-care, which somehow seemed appropriate to the task.  Two hours later, I was still at it, and then I listened to a few short podcasts from an old friend, Lee Ann Hopkins, with whom I recently reconnected on Facebook.  I am not much of a podcast listener, (I usually like to read instead) but working with my hands in these herbs while listening to uplifting messages seemed just right.  The purpose of Lee Ann’s website, Hooray Weeklyis “to encourage and lift up individuals and communities in this time of resistance and change, both collectively and personally.”  She is a kindred spirit still.

It seems particularly apt since St. John’s Wort is an herbal remedy for depression and other mood difficulties, along with several other uses.  According to WebMD,

St. John’s wort is most commonly used for “the blues” or depression and symptoms that sometimes go along with mood such as nervousness, tiredness, poor appetite, and trouble sleeping. There is some strong scientific evidence that it is effective for mild to moderate depression. St. John’s wort is also used for symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and mood changes.

If you are interested, there is a lot more information on that website.

With the cruelty and destruction we observe every day in the wider world around us, those of us who are sensitive to it can find ourselves very weary and down-hearted, heavy burdened by it all.  Isn’t it amazing that nature offers these bright yellow flowers in the midst of high summer, to bring with us into the long dark of winter?

St. John's Wort drying

St. John’s Wort plant freshly cut, hung to dry.

Threads of Connection

I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you’ve found It.
                                                                                                 Alice Walker

Daffodils Early MJ DSC03512

We’ve finally arrived in April. In a couple of weeks, the daffodils will begin to bloom in our front yard, and the first bright yellow dandelions will pop open behind the house. The forsythias will be first–maybe as soon as next Sunday?  But I can’t wait for the moment when the first daffodil breaks through its luminescent green casing, opening up pale yellow to reveal an orange center.

In spring, I keep taking short walks around our yard and down the street just to see what will happen next. The small wild strawberry flowers. The green buds of bushes opening into curled leaves. The leaves of the violets coming up out of the bare ground where I thought they might have perished in the fall. And down the road, the first fiddleheads of the ferns beginning to poke through the ground that a day ago had been fern-less.

This awakening seems to happen all at the same time. This week there are the bare branches and brown grasses, and then suddenly, everything will be green and lush and colorful. How do they know to break through, all in the same week? It helps me to understand what I have read about evolution—that species co-evolved with each other. That flowers emerged along with their pollinators, and each flower with its particular pollinator, so interdependent that we do them a sort of injustice to think of them as separate entities.

And of course, the insects will also come out with the flowers here in the spring, small ground bees hovering over the grass as if waking from a long sleep. The hummingbirds will arrive when the pink flowers of the viburnum open near our kitchen window. When the buds begin to get ready, it is our signal to put out the feeder, so we can join in.

All around us, like a choreography of dance, like a vast symphony, the beings of the earth move in harmony. And in this particular time of the year, this beautiful season of awakening, we can see it and hear it and smell it and feel it, if we pay attention. We can feel the threads of connection that make of many beings, one indivisible whole.

Fiddleheads DSC00234