Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In Praise of the Untidy

 Yes, I know.  My garden's a mess.  Rather colorful now, with the neighbor's maples ablaze and my Monkshood exploding in radiant blueness, but it sure wouldn't win any prizes for tidiness.  And that's exactly the way I like it.  More importantly, that's the way the wee creatures like it:  those micro-insects that munch away underneath the unraked leaves, turning them into nourishing mulch and drawing new nutrients into the soil; the various larvae that burrow into the dead flower stalks where they'll spend the winter and then serve as food for baby birds next spring; and the wintering birds that will feast on the seeds of spent asters and goldenrods and sunflowers, whose stalks I won't be cutting down until spring.  My garden won't be featured in Better Homes and Gardens, that's for sure, but it does meet the standards the National Wildlife Federation sets for establishing a Certified Wildlife Habitat.  I even have a plaque to prove it.  (Your garden can meet those criteria, too.  Just go to their website to learn the easy instructions.)

Since my Certified Wildlife Habitat pretty much takes care of itself, I'm free to go visit Mother Nature's gardens more often, and today I went out to the Gick Farm section of the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park.   I love the many muted colors of various grasses that thrive in the sandy soil of the oak/pine savannah habitat here.

The trails also move through a conifer woods, where the dim understory is brightened by the golden leaves of many baby beeches.   When I look around, I can find only the dark trunks of mature White Pines and not a single silvery trunk of a mature American Beech.  How do these little ones get here?

This patch of Black Raspberry puts on quite a show of dazzling red each autumn.

The Hazelnut shrubs have all shed their leaves by now, the better to see the little greenish male catkins.  These catkins will hang on the twigs all winter before expanding to shed their pollen next spring, when itsy-bitsy red female flowers will emerge to receive that pollen.

I kept seeing these tiny fuzzy blue dots wafting about in the air and finally managed to capture one in my hand.   Remember that fluffy white clump of Wooly Alder Aphids I pictured a few posts back?  This is the winged form of those same aphids. 

When the wingless aphids have depleted the resources of the alder twig they are feeding on, they will sprout wings to go in search of fresh twigs.  Somehow they must shed quite a bit of that long-stranded wooliness, since all that remains is a trace of fuzziness on its tiny rear.  Wooly Alder Aphids are not considered to be serious pests of alder trees, since they only weaken a few twigs at a time.  I'm glad to know that, so that I may more freely delight in their absolute adorableness.


Andrew Lane Gibson said...

All your recent fall posts have me salivating to pay you a visit in the fall too! I swear, I just can't get enough of your home area; it's just too darn gorgeous!

I LOVE the monkshood plants! I've yet to see any of our native species but they are all high on the list.

Seema Patel said...

great fact most of your pictures are so breathtaking that I have to save them for later viewing pleasure..

Ellen Rathbone said...

Nice shot of the WAA! I know how hard they are to capture!