What Sustains You?

What Sustains You?

Gardening for nature also sustains me.

I wrote and narrated that line for the ending of WILD in the Garden State, my documentary about transforming a typical suburban lawn into a native plant habitat. But the line deserves its own documentary… or at least a blog post.

Native plant gardening is good for the health of the planet, your community and your personal well-being. Yes to all that, but it’s more than that.

Witnessing the moment a chickadee lands on a shrub to pluck a fat-filled berry is a bit beyond words.

Chickadee on Northern bayberry ©Janet Allen of https://ourhabitatgarden.org/

I first planted a Northern bayberry years ago when it was a pencil-thin, bareroot. I was unsure if the Northern bayberries that grew along the coast more than a mile away would waft enough pollen to reach my bare-root twig so it would fertilize, flower and bear fruit. Now, years later, the clusters of berries entice a chickadee down from the sky.

That first bare root twig is now the center of a thicket of Northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) in the WILD Garden

Chickadees hunt for caterpillars and other insects throughout the summer for themselves and their young. When temperatures drop the tiny, non-migrating birds favor high calorie seeds and berries that are just beginning to ripen. I’m astounded by the evolved fit between bird and berry. Chickadees load up on fats and starches to get through the winter.  Northern Bayberries are packed with both [50.3% fat; 41.3% carbohydrates. Source: http://cels.uri.edu/docslink/McWilliams_pubs/Smith_etal_2007_(WJO).pdf .]

The flash of the chickadee stopping in mid-flight to eat from a shrub that I planted as a thin twig …. sustains me during this long Covid winter.

What sustains you?

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