Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Nature vs. Garden

My inner naturalist and my inner gardener are at war.
I knew that for certain yesterday when I found a baby bunny in the lettuce, in the greenhouse, and picked up the little critter and threw him outside. Maria, the Great Pyrenees "watchdog," just happened to be there and, well ... you can guess what happened next. And ok, I was sorry, but just the tiniest bit. I was in gardener mode, and the mystery of who was nibbling the chard to the ground had been solved.

And yet ...
I like the non-human world. A lot. Just last week I discovered a new fondness for crows, of all creatures, as I sat on a bench and listened to the assorted cadences of their calls. And I admired the hovering honeybees as the collected water to thin their honey for the young 'uns.

My inner conflict displays itself in other ways too, such as in my fickle relationship with native plants. I appreciate them for their eco-services and their looks. However, when it comes to covering a bank with something beautiful I pick 'Tidal Wave' petunias over fragrant sumac. And yes I understand that robins and catbirds love native viburnums, but when planting my own garden I was seduced by the perfectly elegant way the berries of the Chinese tea viburnum drooped. I'll take tea, please. With a spoonful of guilt.

I learned, in the course of field journaling, that many of the plants I unapologetically rip out happen to be natives. Clearweed is loved by butterflies; Enchanter's Nightshade is a favorite of native bees; Bur Cucumber is a good source of nectar and grows at such an amazing pace that the naturalist in me can't help but marvel ... as the gardener yanks its tendrils from the treetops.

The naturalist and the gardener are working on communications skills. To this end I entered the war zone today with a conciliatory heart to look for the one that got away. He is still in there--somewhere--eating MY chard, I mean nibbling cutely, as baby bunnies do. I did not find him but did uncover another nest of four newborns. After nudging them gently into a box I carried them outside and eased them into a protected hole, covering them with the same straw/fur mix their mother had used ... knowing full well that they would probably not last the night. But it felt, nonetheless, a little gentler.

Keeping a field journal, I find, maintains the conflict. I believe this is a good thing. If you find yourself similarly conflicted please join ne in a three-Saturday "Art of Nature Journaling" class at the Morris Arboretum in June.

And please don't ask me about the fat mouse--the one with the belly full of bean sprouts--that I spotted while looking for the bunny.

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