Not the spring awakening, which is slowly happening up here in the north, but my awakening to a new way of gardening…Ever since I started reading Colette O’Neill’s Bealtaine Cottage blog, it’s as though a curtain has been lifted from my eyes. I’m not sure what combination of things coalesced to activate this awakening — the right frame of mind, the perfect, green lushness and tranquility of the photos from Bealtaine, and/or my maturing as a gardener (heading into my 5th season) — but now when I look out into the expanse of my acreage, although beautiful, I see so much more potential.
While a year ago I would have been planning and planting informal, cottage garden “rooms” around the property, now I see spaces to plant permaculture guilds. Guilds, as used in permaculture vernacular, are nothing more than harmonious grouping of plants (trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals) that will work together to ensure their health and productivity. Guilds can also incorporate animals, wild or not (placement near a chicken coop, bird feeders or pond, for instance).
Guilds allow you to work in conjunction with nature, rather than battling her. I’m now looking with fresh eyes at the young orchard and thinking about how I can inter-plant black currants, “insectary” plants (such as yarrow, lavender, bee balm, etc.) and mulch plants (such as comfrey or borage) that will work in concert to attract beneficial insects, feed the soil, feed the birds, butterflies and bees, and feed the humans, all preferably with less daily pest hunting (the voracious Japanese beetles love the fruit trees, especially the plums).
Where I once would have considered a formal hedge of yew or holly to create a new garden space, now I’m going to plant willow, which will thrive in the moist soil of the location I have in mind much more so than any other shrub. Not only will this create a living fence that provides shelter for wildlife, but I will also be able to use it for plant support structures around the garden, as well as basket-weaving.
This is the type of multi-function, coordination with nature that permaculture represents. It’s magnificent, and I can’t wait to try out the wealth of ideas that have been swirling around my head for the past few weeks.
…on a totally different and depressing note, it snowed yesterday afternoon into the overnight and we have 3″ or so on the ground. Sigh.