Two Bur Oaks and a Crawdad

A group of swamp white oaks Healthy soil is important, but for whom?  In the Garden  The young bur oak would not be kept down. Yet again it revealed itself among the standing dead stalks of a large patch of purple bee balm, a good three feet tall and leafing out. In spring, a bur oak’s leaves look like sharp-edged, glossy cutouts. They are not green, but shade delicately among soft corals, tans and pinks. The green comes a bit later, like a slow-motion wave gently pervading each leathery leaf. The question, as it had been for several years, was what to do with this young newcomer to the garden.  About ten feet away and across the walk from house to garage stands a second bur oak that I’d started from an acorn some twelve years ago. I’ve enjoyed watching it grow its first sets of true leaves, become large enough to attract birds and then mature enough to bear acorns. This winter I limbed it up three feet from the ground, mainly to give the sedges and wild geraniums growing underneath a

The First Post

For some years I volunteered with the Thatcher Woods Savanna Restoration Project and gardened at home. I also trained and volunteered as a University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener, and later worked at an independent garden center. As time passed, what I did in the garden seemed to conflict with what I was learning about conservation and restoration.

Without trying to make my small yard a conservation area, my gardening practices began to change. Without getting rid of the lilacs and peonies, I began to bring in native plants. I stopped using synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Many birds and insect pollinators showed up. I learned about the historic Chicago Wilderness landscape, our region's history, about soil and animals and compost and the virtues of the messy garden. More birds, bees and butterflies showed up. I began to propagate plants and grow native plants to harvest the seeds for use in forest preserve restoration work. I began to understand how my tiny piece of land fit into our regional ecosystem, and selected plants accordingly.

Yet my garden was, and continues to be, a garden in a small back yard on an urban-size lot. I wasn't exactly gardening for wildlife. I haven't removed my well behaved non-native perennials. While informal, it doesn't look wild. I've chosen all the plants (though a few volunteers have shown up). I look after things.

I wasn't sure what to call what I was doing. Yes I was practicing ecological gardening, but it seemed to me that this didn't quite cover the holistic, region-specific aspects of what I was doing. Then I read Win-Win Ecology, by Dr. Michael Rosenzweig. His term "reconciliation ecology" seemed to be the perfect fit. Here in the Chicago Wilderness Region, we have many conservation and restoration areas. Yet hundreds of thousands of acres in private hands are treated as though separate from the ecosystem that contains them, to the detriment of all living species--including humans--who live here.

It has become a great purpose in my life to share what I've learned about how and why to garden with reconciliation ecology in mind. I give talks to garden clubs, am writing a book, and now am writing this blog.

Comments

Dave Coulter said…
Adrian, congratulations on the new blog! I'm certainly looking forward to your insights on the natural world!
Anonymous said…
Thanks, Dave.