This week, I spent some time with my friend Jeffrey, who is an environmental scientist specializing in plant identification. He and I buried our noses in our phones as he suggested to me a huge variety of native flowers that I should plant in my garden (we are really fun at parties). Then, later that week, I went to a native plant sale at his suggestion. My tax return funds, now greatly diminished, have been put toward a good cause.
I planted brown-eyed susan (tall back row) and big leafed aster (short front row) in my shade garden in the front. Slugs were in evidence under the mulch I had laid so I had to make a trip to Leitner’s for more Sluggo. As an aside, I also bought ant granules which I dreamt about extensively last night. Unpleasant, that. At any rate, I really enjoyed planting these and I’m hoping they will root well and bloom before summer is out. (It would be really convenient if they would bloom around the time of my wedding, hint hint.) It got very hot the day after I planted and the heat wave, which lasted into the weekend, wilted some of the brown-eyed susans pretty significantly. But since then some of them have perked up nicely so I think that they are hopefully going to take root anyhow. I am as previously stated a terrible gardener so it would serve me right if some of them died.
My mother told me that I have to stop talking about how all of my plants will die, especially not in front of the plants. So when I planted these I sang, “Take off! To the Great White North! Take off! It’s a beauty way to go.” The whole concept behind buying native plants was to give my babies a fighting chance against my decidedly brown thumb. These plants are adapted to our climate and soils; in brief, they were made to grow here. If anything can resist my particularly haphazard gardening style, it’s native plants.
We really enjoyed the plant sale, which was very much more than a plant sale as it turned out. They had crafts, tours of the gardens they planted at the park, and a band!
Native plants are defined by the Minnesota DNR as plants that interact with each other and with their environment in ways not greatly altered by modern human activity or by introduced organisms. Fourth Corner Nurseries in Washington State discuss the history of native plants and further describe them as plants that are native to an area before European contact (with a variety of other stipulations – it is very difficult to nail down a solid definition for native plants). My great-grandmothers probably would not have been cultivating native plants as a general rule. Many of the plants I bought would have been considered weeds, ha ha! But they are the kinds of plants GG Louie might have encountered in farm country growing up or that GG Irene might have seen when she rode west across the prairie. In 1910, she and 72-year-old woman from Rapid City names Mrs. Miller rode out to Montana to homestead. In a postcard she sent back to her mother, Irene (who was 21 at the time) said:
Well here it is Friday. We made pretty good time today. No bad luck and good roads, but the wind sure blew some. My face and hands are as sore as can be. We thot it was going to rain this evening, but it hasn’t yet. We are about fifteen miles out of Belle (Belle Fourche, South Dakota) – don’t know whether we will get to Alzada (Montana) tomorrow or not. The ponies are doing fine. Teddy’s foot is healing. Well, so long.
For our honeymoon, my fiance and I will spend a week at the house Irene built with her second husband, William Frink, in the Black Hills and I can’t wait. I know there is going to be lots of photos and information there (at least there were albums and stuff when I was there 10 years ago) and I’m looking forward to gathering more information about her. She is the person about whom there is the most information but to whom I have the least access because we are not terribly connected with the extended family on that side.
The rest of the garden is doing well. Let me take you on the tour: