Woodland shade gardening with a purpose – pleasure, creativity, rainwater collection!
Carl says ‘drainage ditch’, I say ‘creek’. Actually, it is BOTH! This property is very low, and the natural possibility of a creek exists precisely where it was placed by the builders, or where they left it to be naturally, when the land was being graded and readied for building homes.
In 1999, when we purchased this property, the creek bank was a forest of toothpick-slim sweet gums, with no side limbs, growing tall and seeking sunlight at the top of the dense canopy of larger, stronger deciduous trees. I slowly unwound years of honeysuckle growth from where it had girdled the sweet gums and gouged deeply into their bark, and pulled it from the ground by its roots. I removed the most spindly of the sweet gums that first year, and continued removing a few each year for several more years.
I planted some perennials and a few shrubs, before I realized I wasn’t supposed to improve this area, not simply because it isn’t actually my property, and because it is common area owned by the Homeowners Association, to be enjoyed by all. It is also a controlled wetland environment and cannot be disrupted. That is one of the reasons I no longer prune dead limbs from the trees. Leaving some dead wood provides additional habitat diversity for a great variety of wildlife, from insects to birds, and on up the food chain.
I never know what I will find when I walk the creek bank, and on down to the creek, to pick up debris that appears after heavy rains washing items from the streets and yards that are on higher ground than the creek. Of course I find occasional candy wrappers or soda cans, but often I find a flower in bloom, or a strange item in the wet muck. Could that strange item be a large mushroom that tried to push its way up through the mud?
In autumn, when the forest trees are dropping their leaves, I let them lay where they fall, giving a lovely carpet to the forest floor along the creek. My hours of work on this creek bank make it feel like mine, even if I don’t really own it. And I feel protective of it, and the wildlife that enjoys it – earthworms, anoles, centipedes, birds, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, raccoons, and more. We have been well entertained by the animals and birds that frequent our creek – even the black snake that often spends hours slowly moving up a tree, and out one of its limbs, only to finally drop to the ground from that high limb, making a loud thump noise.
So, call it what you may, I still adore my tiny creek!
Woodland shade gardening with a purpose - pleasure, creativity, rainwater collection!
THE JOY OF GARDENING IN THE SHADOWS
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