“Wherever you are is the entry point.”
Recently, my husband and I, through a mix of hard work and privilege, were finally able to purchase a new home in south-westerly Connecticut. Our old house was a precious little brick cape with no dormers, placed on a postage stamp of a yard. I tore up lawn and plunked down gardens wherever I could, but our cottage garden style definitely stood out among the clinical crispness of trim lawns bereft of leaf or dandelion. My flowers tangled with one another in a riotous explosion of color and texture. I wanted more property, especially as I learned more about native plants, and the benefit they bring to our local wildlife.
We’ve moved one town away from our little brick cape to a dutch colonial on 3.9 acres. It’s a dream come true – but it will require a lot of work to maintain the vision.
Three of the acres are forested with red maple (Acer rubruum), mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa), black cherry (Prunus serotina), black oak (Quercus velutina), and other hardwoods. Dying below these tall species are many Eastern red cedars (Juniperus virginiana), a pioneer species that tends to colonize open spaces before the hardwoods come in. Below that, you can find spicebush (Lindera benzoin), woodbine (Parthenocissus inserta), and plentiful Christmas ferns (Polystichum acrostichoides).
Unfortunately, dotted throughout the woodland is Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), winged euonymous (Euonymous alatus), and pervasive oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus).
The other .9 acre is a mix of lawn, brush borders, Eastern red cedars, and planted trees. The previous landowner, who was the original purchaser and builder of the house, planted winged euonymous (Euonymous alatus), morrow’s honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii), Chinese privet (Ligustrum sp.), flowering dogwood cultivars (Cornus florida), Norway spruce (Picea abies), Bradford pear (Pyrus callaryana), pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis), lilac bush (Syringa vulgaris), boxwood (Buxus sp.), and a variety of azalea cultivars (Rhododendron sp.).
For my purposes, all the plants that will be taken out within the year are the aggressively invasive plants such as the morrow’s honeysuckle, winged euonymous, and Bradford pear. The pachysandra, boxwoods, and several of the azalea species are also going, because I am replacing them with more wildlife-friendly species.
The place where the forest meets with lawn is a mess of morrow’s honeysuckle and oriental bittersweet. Even though the garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) has died back now, I know there are patches of it everywhere along this edge. This winter, I will focus on taking out the vines of oriental bittersweet, while the garlic mustard will be my focus once it flowers in the springtime. Morrow’s honeysuckle will be taken out and replaced as I find native shrubs to plant.
It’s a long process, but I am excited about transforming this place into a wildlife haven!