“In our best moments, we are no less than a garden that serves life, not ourselves.” – Benjamin Vogt, “A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future“
I stand in awe at the spent seed head of a sunflower, watching as birds peck at the seeds lodged in the black and russet heart of the flower. Some gardeners would have pulled out these sunflowers long ago, seeing them as unsightly, not conforming to the neat and standard garden idyll. Others may choose to see what I see, that spent seed heads are just as beautiful as fresh blooming flowers, as they feed a cycle of life, bringing birds nourishment.
Gardens are rarely perfect spaces, and the messy and unkempt corners are often the most interesting ecological spaces and, thus, for me, the most beautiful. When soil is lavishly mulched with garden leaves rather than raked away, I understand the intention of covering the soil. While some would see this as messy gardening, I see the benefits to soil moisture, diverse habitat niches, and aiding the decomposition cycle. Likewise, I am overjoyed when I see stray branches and logs left in garden corners, as beautiful as any garden rose in my eye. Some would interpret this as garden debris; in fact, logs can serve as habitat opportunities for invertebrates, perching spaces for birds and lizards, and a slow decay of carbon that feeds the soil and its fungal networks.
Surrounded by my own messy garden with soil mulch and spent flowers, I notice only the happy songbirds and bustling bees. At this moment, I forget how depleted our natural world has become of wildlife when I am surrounded by a garden that is brimming with life. Although I’m released from my grief momentarily, there is no ignoring the devastation of our environment. With all that is at stake, I realize how vital garden spaces are as habitats for wildlife. I choose to do all that I can to prioritize the soil health in the garden, and from this, the entire ecosystem is enlivened and kept healthy in the diverse cycle of nutrient feedback loops. I leave garden clippings on the ground and lovingly layer leaves onto the garden soil; I ignore the urge to clip untidy spent seed heads, choosing to leave them for birds.
I have learned to find beauty in the natural cycles of the garden and joy in native plants that can make lovely additions to gardens alongside ornamental staples like lavender. This intentionality and attention to the process of life have helped me slow down and observe all the life that a garden sustains, including my own.
Farm to Table
This month, our tasting room menu features the following items from the Brooks Estate Garden: cherry tomatoes, zucchini, Jimmy Nardello peppers & roasted kohlrabi, jalapeño, red onion, cilantro, shishito peppers, garlic, heirloom tomatoes, kale, basil, cucumber, parsley, and beets.
– With Love from the Garden, Shannon