by Christine Maccabee

Vitamin “N”

Spring is springing! All the dead looking trees and shrubs are budding and leafing, as are the multitude of wild plants. My specialty is habitat for wildlife, and so this is my time of year to be outside observing as much as possible. Today was no exception.

Thinking I would take a short walk down my lane and back, I became immersed in everything natural. I picked up some really nice dry kindling wood for my fire while listening to the excited calls of hawks, which are busy mating and/or hunting. Both of us are hunting in our own ways.

On the way back to my gardens, I checked on young saplings  of dogwood, hawthorne, and others growing in my field, which I am protecting from the nibbling habits of deer with chicken wire fences. Reaching the garden gate, I entered the inner sanctum of my gardens. I knew of one area where I needed to pull the wild ground cress before they go to seed and before the coming storm. Using the wild cress as an excuse to stay outside to get some more Vitamin “N”, I procrastinated going into the house to type this. Thanks, cress!

I knew my wild black raspberries were inundated with the cress, so after spending a little time in the gazebo with my garden cat, Golden Boy—who loves me and whom I love—I stretched and readied myself to weed the cress. I love its tiny white flowers, which are some of the first wild flowers to bloom in the spring; but, it matures quickly and spreads with equally tiny seeds that fly off  two- to four-inch stems like little bullets. So, it needs controlling, like many other problems in or out of the garden. Luckily, land cress is very shallow rooted and easy to pull.

I love the spicy flavor of cress leaves in salads or eating it straight; yet, today, I felt an urgency to pull it before it went to seed. In some ways, certain wild native plants can actually become invasives. I leave land cress and the violets and clovers in my lawn and pathways, but not in my vegetable and berry beds! Finding a short stool, I began pulling and made some discoveries. New raspberry shoots are growing and must be protected. I also found the rosette of a rare plant, the wild native mullein, which I love. I do allow certain wild plants to grow wherever I find them, especially endangered ones.

The wild native mullein has been loosing a foothold in our landscapes due to roadside mowing and gardeners weeding them out. They are in peril, but not in my sanctuary. It does take research to discover what wild natives look like in early spring, or by someone like me, who has been studying and saving wild plants for most of my life. I consider one of my highest callings to be  a plant savior and a caretaker of wild things. Not everyone can do this—or even cares to—but it is not just curiosity that gets me exploring, though that is a big factor. As anyone who reads about habitat loss and the crisis our pollinators and birds are experiencing, I also am very concerned, so that is a primary motivator.

I take my care-taking calling very seriously, and encourage others to grow wild native plants as well. It is not as hard as one might think. The key is to get outside and get curious. It is also important to get regular doses of Vitamin “N”, as Richard Louv puts it, to increase our own health as well as one’s appreciation of  and empathy for all living things.

I welcome this lush spring, and summer coming, as a cure for depression, for leaving behind the noise of machines, as well as the fast-paced life on the road and indoor activities behind a screen. Please do watch for my invitation in next month’s article for you to come to an event at my hideout in the Catoctin Mountains, as a chance to immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of my Mystic Meadows. Or, be in touch with me if you want to come by at any time to get a dose of Vitamin “N”and learn more about native plants as you immerse yourself in the wonder and beauty of the natural world!

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