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Do you have a wet spot in your yard you just don’t know what to to do with? Over the year you’ve tried all kinds of things with no success. It’s not always wet- sometimes during the summer the area is dry and during those times you've tried planting lots of things in that spot: flowering perennials, bushes, even a tree - but, sadly, your plants always die as they sit with wet feet!

You've found a. perfect spot for a wonderful deciduous shrub filled with colorful red (or or yellow) berries in the fall that last all winter long. It's the striking and bird loving Winterberry! It’s so cheerful and adds color and texture to your yard during the long winter months.!

But the best thing about it is that in late winter when you least expect it you’ll begin to see the birds eat the berries! Robins and catbirds, cardinals and mockingbirds and you might even see an occasional overwintering bluebird nibbling on one. And then of course you’ll get a sweet flock of cedar waxwings that will make your day!

To get a gorgeous crop of berries you'll need to plant a male and female plant close to each other, but both bring interest, The leaves are a wonderful shade of green that contrast with the red berries!

And now, during the fall, is the time the time to plant this sweet addition to your yard!

One of the real joys in my garden has been the addition of honeybee hives. It has made me so much more aware of pollinator needs and how to make my yard a better space for all pollinators. From having water available, to an ongoing awareness of when my flowers are flowering, when bees are visiting them, which flowers they visit, and what wildflowers they are attracted to and I should nurture!

Visiting the hives always teaches me something new. My daughter and I inspect the hives together and this builds wonderful memories!

Here’s a short video of a queen emerging from a queen cell! We saw this together! And in just a few weeks we’ll be harvesting honey and beeswax!

But most important of all keeping bees makes us better at creating pollinator- friends spaces!

Take the time to really fall in love with your land/outdoor space(s)! One of the first things we recommend when you begin your gardening adventure is to pause, take a deep breath, and just take the time to revere your space. Your space might be a balcony, a tiny little urban plot, a half acre lot, or a ten acre piece of land. It really doesn't matter the size. You just want to get to know it. I mean really know it. And to do this, you'll need to give it your time, love, and some undivided attention.

Revere your land by getting to know it intimately

How do you get to know your space? Here are a few ideas for you to consider.

  • Know the history of your space. Do a little research and find out the history of the land you are making your home in. Who has lived on your land in the past? How has the land changed? How has the land been treated? How has the land surrounding your space changed? What is the history of the communities who lived here before?

  • Give it your time and get intimate. How does light, rain, and wind impact your space? Where is the soil wet and swampy and where it is dry and arid? Sit in your space. Exercise on it. Have lunch on it. Make some art on it. Feel the sun in the morning, at noon and in the evening. Go out in the rain and watch what happens. How does the light travel through your space? When it is pouring see where the water goes. What do you hear and how does it change during the day and during the seasons? Get to know the critters that use your space. If your outdoor space is a balcony-take time to get to know it! How does the wind hit it? Is it harsh or is it gentle? If you have ten acres of land, it may take a bit longer to get to know your home. Make intentional paths through your land so you can spend time in each corner. Tease out each microclimate.

Balcony with flowers
Loving up your balcony by planting flowers! Photo by Marilú López-Fretts

  • Divide up your land into imaginary rooms or sections. Explore them! What is your favorite room in your space? Are there secret rooms? Are there rooms that are brighter, quieter, alive, meditative, energetic? Are there rooms that just feel magical or special?

  • Keep a journal, Begin to document what you see in each room and how it changes over the seasons. Draw what you see, take pictures and add them to your journal, take time to write and be inspired on your land. Record plants, birds, and other critters and add the dates when you first see them. Pick a few favorite rooms. Spend time in them. Visit them often. Make them cozy by clearing a nook to place a bench, chair, and/or fire pit.

  • Search for sources of water and watch how water interacts with your land. Is your space wet and moist? is it humid? Dry? Arid? What differences do you find each of your rooms? What happens if you dig? Is there water near the surface? How does rain travel through your soil in each room? Does the moisture stay or does it quickly dry up?

  • Watch the light in your rooms. Watch it change throughout the day, throughout the months, the seasons, and throughout the year. Watch the light during the day and at night. Watch it as it filters through the trees and buildings. Watch it as it reflects nearby water.

  • Who uses your land? What critters eat, find shelter, find water, or travel through your space? Are there certain plants that attract particular wildlife? Do Bluebirds gobble up your Gray Dogwood berries every fall? Do American Toads call from the same spring pools? Do chickadees build nests in the little cavity in your Hawhthorn tree by your back porch? Do you get Monarchs on the milkweed next to the sidewalk? Does the clover on your overgrown lawn buzz alive with bees?

  • Begin an inventory of plants and get to know which are invasive and introduced and which are native. Begin an inventory of the wildlife that use your space. Remember this will change with the changing seasons! Make a promise to yourself that you'll identify one plant/tree/shrub/bird/insect/mushroom/wildflower etc.. per week. Just one! There are great apps out there to help you do this! Seek from iNaturalist, Merlin (bird id), Forest Tree, Shroomify, etc..

Are there any wildflowers on your land like this Trillium?

  • And finally... give back to your land. Help heal the soil, manage your water runoff, create pollinator gardens, plant native plants, compost, make a pond, add nest boxes, have some brush piles, leave dead trees, plant more trees, rewild it, revere it, just love it up!!!

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