Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sowing’s Harvest

When we built our Michigan house in 2005 we had to decide what to plant over the septic field. Grass is the traditional answer; its roots pull some of the moisture from the leach field to let it evaporate, while the rest of the water percolates through the soil. We chose wildflowers. We liberated plants from the surrounding woods and trails and transplanted them.

Lesson 1: Invasive species grow best. Well duh! Since I am not a wildflower cognoscenti we went for pretty—and some of the invasives are gorgeous. Fortunately, soon after I transplanted purple loostrife and spotted knapweed I discovered my error and ripped them up. It took three years to get rid of the spotted knapweed because some had gone to seed before my weeding.

Lesson 2: I didn’t want to mow a lawn. It seemed antithetical to living in the midst of the Northwoods. What I didn’t count on was that the maples, birches, aspens, pines, hemlocks, cedars and spruce thought the meadow belonged to them. Of course they were right; the territory had been theirs since the melting of the last glacier. I traded a periodic lawn mowing for pulling weeds—in this case thousands of treelets every year.

Lesson 3: Not all transplants live. The columbine I found has struggled to survive and I’ve had zero luck with jack-in-the-pulpit.

Lesson 4: Nature has her own ideas. I didn’t plant everything now growing in the meadow. Volunteers showed up, brought in by the wind and bird poop and animal fur.

Lesson 5: It takes time to transform bare dirt into something presentable, but given time it will happen.

Lesson 6: I’m not the only one to enjoy the wildflowers.

Lesson 7: If you’d like, this blog could be an allegory for writing, or you can simply enjoy the pictures.

~ Jim


Cheryl said...

This is a good lesson for my writing life. Start with a blank page. Draw from what you already know. Unplanned words will surprise you. What you meant to do may not work. It takes time. Thanks, Jim, for a thoughtful post.

Gloria Alden said...

Loved the blog and especially the pictures, Jim.

I agree with Cheryl. It could be an allegory for our writing life.

I plant flowers like coneflowers and others considered wildflowers in my gardens. Even some of those I planted can become invasive like black-eyed Susans and trumpet vine. The biggest bane of my life is not what I've planted, but the wildflowers that take over like goldenrod, Queen Ann's Lace and buttercups. Even ox-eye daisies can become invasive. Still, when I'm not pulling them, I use the flowers in flower arrangements.

As for Jack-in-the-pulpet, it'sa woodland flower. Did you plant it in a woodland setting? I have a lot in my woods, and I've transplanted some in my shady areas and they've done quite well. I had an amazing one this year that grew thigh high. I've never seen something like that before.

Jim Jackson said...

cheryl -- Glad you enjoyed the post.

Gloria -- I did transplant the jack-in-the-pulpet in a shady area, but it just didn't work out. I may try again if I stumble across a large patch to "borrow" from.

Invasives are, of course, like weeds -- all in the eye of the beholder. I love black-eyed daises and since they are bi-annuals have some for each year. I even have a small area I allow common tansy to grow. But I pay the price when I need to continue to weed them from "forbidden" areas.

~ Jim

Linda Rodriguez said...

Jim, I love this as an allegory for writing. True wisdom!

Taking it literally, though, is a lot of fun for me. I have been transforming my front yard into a native plant/herbal/drought-hardy perennial garden for years. It's so beautiful in spring with tons of various blooms that cars slow down as they pass to take in the garden. My newer neighbors hate it, though, and consistently call the city on me, trying to force me to get rid of it all and go to grass.

Purple coneflower can be invasive, at times, but I love it. I have a bed just for native goldenrod. They are beautiful and don't seem to invade anywhere else. What I find the worst invaders are plants people have bought at nurseries and let go--Virginia creeper (which can be as toxic to some, like my husband, as poison ivy), euonymous, Japanese honeysuckle.

Tansy, yes, and lemon balm, even fennel can become invasive, as of course, do mints. It seems as if I'm fighting a different battle each year, but the major problem is the vines I mentioned earlier.

In a shaded part of my front yard I had a woodland garden that was just wonderful--columbine, mayapple, yellow bells, wild ginger, crane's-bill, etc. It's thrived for many years, though folks told me it wouldn't in our climate. This year, though, has been so brutal that I've lost most of those plants. I'll have to start my woodland garden over next year.

Your garden looks and sounds wonderful, Jim. And I know what you mean about the treelets. Mulberry, black walnut, need I say more. Loved this post!

Kaye George said...

Leaving my flowerbeds and veggie gardens behind is always the hardest part of moving! I'm SO looking forward to our next move, which should be our last, and being able to cultivate a lasting yard. Yours, Jim, is looking gorgeous already! May you be spared drought, both in your plantings and in your writings.

Jim Jackson said...

Linda -- so sorry the weather did in your woodlands garden. Isn't is a sad commentary when neighbors are upset because instead of a "pristine" lawn maintained only with massive doses of chemicals, fertilizers and water one of their neighbors enjoys a natural flower garden needing mostly TLC?

I remember a few years ago walking in St. Paul, MN and seeing a front yard garden with all kinds of veggies and berry bushes and even a patch of corn!

The flip side are some developments with covenants that forbid brown spots on lawns. In the middle of a drought people are being fined for not watering their lawns enough -- talk about a bad policy.

~ Jim

Jim Jackson said...


After a number of years of drought conditions up here and a very dry spring, we've been blessed with adequate rainfall. It's not enough to make up from prior deficits, but at least we're not going further in the hole.

And thanks for the good wishes regarding my writing.

~ Jim

Warren Bull said...

We couldn't grow grass in our shady back yard so we planting "creeping jenny" AKA 'creeping charlie." The rabbits love it and it smells great after an occasional mowing.

E. B. Davis said...

Around the Potomac River, we have nothing but clay. Your environment looks beautiful, Jim. Thanks for posting the pictures when most of the country has a sever drought. It was a sight for sore eyes for many people.

Jim Jackson said...

Hey EB -- It was interesting watching them excavate the basement. They found mostly clay and "pea gravel" (boulders dropped by the last glacier) except for in the SW corner, where they cut across a stream bed worth of grey sand.

The sand was about eighteen inches wide and six inches tall. I wished I knew enough geology to understand when it was deposited.

Between three and four feet below the surface they hit hardpan. I knew of the term, but was amazed as a big backhoe scraped across it as though it hit bedrock.

Eventually backhoe beat hardpan, but it was a hard battle for a while.

~ Jim