Last year, I wrote an essay about our initial adventures in growing native plants. The article published just a month after we planted, and we only had small green mounds– and mulched beds– which were a significant feat in our clay-laden Tennessee soil. And even in the heat of last summer, our flowers were pretty, but not overwhelming.
But this year our plants busted out in all their native abandon– bee balm for a couple of weeks in June, followed by blankets of purple coneflowers, and sweet black-eyed susans for more than a month. Unlike last year, the American beautyberry has borne striking violet fruit. I managed to plant some aromatic asters in the spring, which have grown, but don’t seem to be flowering. At least not yet.
As recent New Yorkers and Tennessee transplants, we really didn’t know that much about plants when we started to think about our yard, the blank slate. As a graduate student in Indiana and later on our front porch in Brooklyn, I had tried my hand at growing herbs and tomatoes. And while I made plenty of batches of basil pesto over the years, my tomatoes weren’t always very productive. And other than marigolds or a few other potted outdoor plants, I never really invested the time and effort in making green things grow.
But now that we have a permanent home, we’re making the effort. I spent a lot of time reading up on plants, particularly native species. I spent a day at a native plant symposium in March, and we’ve put a couple of weekends of blood, sweat, sore muscles, and blisters into our new yard.
I still hope to put in a raised bed with vegetables and herbs, but right now I have those in pots on our back deck. This year we’re all about the wildflowers, and I can’t wait to see if the bees and birds show up this summer.