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  • Writer's pictureJean Linville

Build It & They Will Come

It is hard to believe that we have already entered the fifth month of 2019. It seems that the days are unfurling as fast as the ferns in our yard. I am fascinated with the spiraling forms of ferns and over the years I have made an effort to increase not only the number of ferns that we have, but also the diversity. When we first bought our house almost twelve years ago, there were only a few small ferns present, most of which were losing their fight with the phragmites on the lakefront. Now after years of cutting back invasive plants and encouraging the natives, we have ferns sprinkled throughout the shallow edges of our lakefront, the steep bank that rises up from the lake and there is a host of others residing on the north side of our house in an area known as "the fern garden". In these areas healthy populations of Cinnamon ferns, Royal ferns, Ostrich ferns, New York ferns and Northern Maidenhair ferns can now be found. I recently also added two Intermediate wood ferns to an area under my bird feeders that is currently dominated by Creeping Myrtle. It is my hope that in a few years they will colonize this area just as many of the other ferns have throughout our property.

As part of my efforts to continue to increase the overall diversity of native plants that are present in our yard, in addition to the two new ferns, this week I also planted: Virginia Bluebells, Eastern bluestar, Broad-leaved waterleaf, Fringeleaf petunia, Showy goldenrod, Thin-leaved sunflower and Broad-leaved mountain mint. At the edge of the lake, I added Broad-leaved waterleaf, Thimbleweed, Fairywand and White turtlehead. All of these plants were obtained through a pre-order plant sale offered by the Native Plant Center in White Plains, New York, which is affiliated with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Texas. The gradual addition of more and more native plants, combined with organic land care practices, has greatly enriched not only the plant diversity on our little .33 acre plot of land, but also the health of our yard's whole ecosystem.

​​As the diversity of the plants has grown, so to has the number of residents and visitors. There has been a noticeable increase in activity in both the leaf litter and the air with the number of butterflies, moths, salamanders and nesting birds rising each year. Just this week, while doing the breakfast dishes I looked out the window and was delighted to see a Rose-breasted Grosbeak land at the edge of one of our water features for a drink. This is the first time since we have lived here that this bird has visited. Later in the day, I saw it again, this time at one of our feeders. It is amazing how our little ecosystem has grown in a relatively short period of time especially when you consider that most of the properties adjoining ours and on our block are dominated by non-native landscape plants and are regularly treated with chemicals and fertilizers. It is almost as though somewhere underground and up in the ozone there are little insect and bird signs pointing to our yard saying "open for business, safe and welcoming bed & breakfast". I like to imagine how this richness could grow even more if everyone around our lake embraced a restorative ecosystem practice on their properties.

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