Photography by J. Mita Studios

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Messy Yard Corners - A Lazy Gardener's Natural Approach

    Yes, I have a messy corner. It is the spot where we throw all our garden refuse, leaves, branches, and Christmas trees. It is in the southwest corner of my yard, where three other neighbors also throw their garden refuse. We have an unspoken agreement that this is where we all will place our yard waste.
    My yard slopes up, so the area is quite obvious. It does have a few nice points, however. It is the place where the largest white ash tree in the neighborhood grows. It is also the place where maple leaved viburnum has found a friendly place to call home.
    It wasn't always so messy, so back in 2001 I began a natural woodland garden, with the intention of having a variety of native plants well kept and neat, with paths and statuary. The neighbors were quite happy to watch my garden grow, as they continued to place their garden waste at the very edges of where I began the garden.
     I started the garden with a trip to Garden In The Woods in Framingham, MA, better known as New England Wildflower Society. I began with two mayapple plants and one bloodroot.  My darling husband could not see my vision, and started piling tree trunks and branches two years after I started my woodland patch. All the ideas of slate paths statues, and maybe a stream bubbling out of the side of the hill into a waterfall soon were abandoned. I decided what grew there would do so on its own, and die or live as it saw fit.
    Apparently the mayapples love the whole garden idea of piling leaves, branches and trunks,because they have expanded to fill nearly the entire area. The bloodroot has grown into five plants without any intervention from me.

Current mayapple Stand in my yard
Mayapple forming

Bloodroot Leaf

Looking down into my yard

    I would not be entirely defeated, however.  I went and did a bad thing. I decided I wanted to add a purple trillium near the intersection of our four yards, under a barberry bush that had planted itself in the area. Rather than purchase one from a reputable wild flower dealer, which is the correct way to add a specimen, I dug one up from the side of the road. Well, it was just nodding there, year after year, collecting salt and dirt and leaves. I didn't feel taking one would harm anything. Good thing so few feel the need to plant trilliums in their yard. Most of the wild species are quite safe from overharvesting.

    It has taken almost 7 years, but finally I have a second trillium growing next to the the first one I dug up and planted. I did notice some damage on this years blooms. As I photographed my specimens this year, I saw the culprits. Apparently the area is perfect for slugs to live, and they have been devastating my plants this year. I blame it on a very warm and mild winter.
 Some of the natural plants that have added themselves to my woodland corner are celandine and jewelweed. I have used celandine juice to treat occasional warts growing on my fingers. It actually works.


As to jewelweed, since I also have poison ivy growing nearby, I frequently rub the leaves on my
hands and feet when I think I might have touched poison ivy. It may be an old wives tale, but I haven't gotten the dreaded itch for years.

    Through the years, people have given me pieces of their plants when they thin them out. Some of those plants began as one small tuft. Two such plants are European Ginger and Sweet Woodruff. I had no place to put them, so I put them up in that woodland mess in the corner. Now I have a huge amount of the delightful woodruff which serves as a groundcover, and is great for making May Wine. It also makes a very sweet filling for scented pillows and sachets to put in your drawers or closets.
    The ginger is nothing more than just a plant of interest, but it has also spread quite nicely as it grows unchecked by any meticulous gardener.

    Other species that I have thrown back in the area include Jacobs Ladder and Lemon Balm.  Both are spreading and adding their own touch to this once planned garden that is now a naturalized area. There are ferns growing naturally, along with False Solomon's Seal, True Solomon's Seal, and of course the spring favorite of many people, Jack-In-The-Pulpit.
                    Jacob's Ladder                           

Lady Fern

False Solomon's Seal
Jack In The Pulpit


    A patch of Grape Hyacinths poke up amongst the piles of cut stumps in a little depression that was formed when I removed a very large rock. They finish off my spring display of woodland plants, and this year I even discovered a new neighbor has moved into the rich dirt of this woodland corner, my favorite fruit of all, black raspberries. I don't know if I will ever get any berries from them, but I will let them grow as they will, which is the kind of gardening that I find suits me best.


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