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Go Eco-Functional! Growing for Regional Biodiversity    

In 2024 we will continue to root for nature and grow our recognition of how our human spirit is such a powerfully interrelated part of that nature. That we always have an option to move toward connection and better understanding.

“The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued"

Robert Frost

One of my first actions this year has been to go within. As the deep cold hits, along with a wrestling match with Covid (yes viruses are part of nature too), I draw deeper inside myself and take time to just lie here without thought. Feeling more deeply rooted in my life and experiencing the wonder of winter’s quiet blanket in mind.  At the same time, I am so grateful the snow had arrived before the Polar Vortex, so that the plants and soils around me have some insulation to protect them as well. The quiet cool emptiness of meditative “No thought”, just being, nourished me. - Julia Bunn, Owner of Spirited Gardener

*First off - Let’s define it:
Eco-functional = Creating a landscape that is a combination of utilizing the power of natural systems to support the functioning of our yards while also serving pollinators, birds and other creatures.  We achieve this by creating a rain garden to manage the rainwater that comes onto our properties and flows from our roofs & hardscapes valuing that resource. And by using plantings and elements of sticks and stones placed to enhance & delight us in our experience of the outdoors around our homes mimicking a feeling of what nature creates, while maximizing its usefulness to the greater ecology of our region.

Left Hamemalis vernalis blooming in late winter to begin the awakening of your system.

Even in winter Nature is doing its thing.  With the mild winter we are having, one of our local natives can start blooming as early as February.  And sometimes if the winter is harsh, it will wait until March to share its early nectar with the world.

As the icy grip of winter tightens, most living things retreat, their life forces dimmed like embers beneath a layer of frost. Yet amidst the winter's embrace a splash of vibrant green emerges, defying the season expectations. This unexpected hero is the skunk cabbage.

Unlike its shy woodland cousins, the skunk cabbage doesn't wait for spring’s gentle coaxing. It burst through the frozen earth in the heart of winter, its thick, spear-shaped leaves pushing against the earth like a battering ram. Even in the grip of winter through a process called thermogenesis, it burns internal sugar reserves to create warmth, melting a pocket in the frozen ground allowing it to sprout.

But why expend such energy in the unforgiving grip of winter? The answer lies in a strategic gamble. By blooming so early, the skunk cabbage secures a vital head start on the competition. When spring finally arrives, it has already established itself, its broad leaves soaking up precious sunlight and its potent odor attracting early pollinators like flies and carrion beetles. This head start gives it a significant advantage in the race for resources, ensuring its survival and reproductive success in the coming season. Skunk cabbage was historically used by Native American tribes for medicinal purposes, including treating ailments like asthma and colds. Additionally, it served as an emergency food source, insect repellent, material for baskets, waterproofing agent, and had ceremonial significance in some cultures.

So, the next time you find yourself bundled up against the winter chill, take a moment to appreciate the unassuming skunk cabbage. This little green warrior stands as a testament to the power of life, reminding us that even in the coldest depths, nature finds a way to thrive, surprising us with its hidden stories and unexpected heroes.

Like the skunk cabbage, we have a little more time to tend to our clients, so if you’re dreaming of growing your relationship to the natural world in 2024.  Now’s a good time to check in with us to get your place in our 2024 calendar.

Join the Ecological (Re)evolution - resourcing and supporting the Homegrown National Parks Movement, local Wild Ones Chapters (in which we are a supporting Business Member!) or County Openlands organizations to become a part of a larger ecological movement to re-wild our region.


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