Friday, October 05, 2018

Sustainable Jazz Comes to South Brunswick October 5, 8-10

Graphic by Phil Orr

Posted this last week at, but want to mention it here for anyone fancy free on a Friday evening. My Sustainable Jazz group will be performing a two hour show of all original compositions this evening, Friday, October 5, 15 minutes from Princeton, at the South Brunswick Municipal Complex. For those unfamiliar with South Brunswick, there's an address below, but here's a musical version of directions based on some of my compositions: It's not Lejos de Aqui (Far From Here) at all. Just take the Princetonian Thoroughfare over the Funky River (and Route 1), and you'll find yourself In the Company of Friends, with lots of Ruum to Rumba. For videos of Phil and me performing, one of my favorites is Cheery in Theory, along with Funky River.

Our duo of Phil Orr on keyboards and myself on sax and clarinet will have the added dimension of Lars Wendt, with his big sound on trumpet and trombone, and Jason Harris on upright bass. Should be a fun show featuring our newly recorded original jazz, latin, funk, tango, and a rumba thrown in for good measure. Copies of a new recording, Until I Find the Words, will be available at the performance.

Details: Friday, October 5, 8-10pm, South Brunswick Municipal Complex
540 Route 522, Monmouth Junction

Admission $6 at the door - Light refreshments included
Doors open 7:30pm – No reservations, no advance ticket sales

Monday, September 24, 2018

Sunchokes--The Native Sunflower That Stirs Gratitude and Grief

Sunchoke, aka Jerusalem artichoke, or Helianthus tuberosus, is such a neat plant that I never quite manage to eliminate it from our yard. That may sound strange, but the combination of opulent flowers, edible tubers and, less wonderful, a habit of spreading every which way from where they're planted, makes for a mix of affection and exasperation.

This year's unsolicited crop included a plant that grew to 11 feet, holding its flowers high and proud, as if defying autumn's inevitable dousing of summer's riotous blooms. The sunchoke's brilliant display is appealing yet feels a bit out of place, like an overly-enthusiastic late-comer to a party everyone thought was over.

Here's a way to enjoy all that sunchokes have to offer while containing their spreading habit: Get a really big plastic tree pot. Fill with soil, buy some sunchokes at the local healthfood store (Whole Earth has them sometimes through the winter). Cut tubers up into chunks and plant four or five pieces in the pot. Place in a sunny place, either on asphalt or on the ground with a piece of plastic underneath to prevent the roots from spreading into the garden. Keep watered. After the plants have grown, bloomed and died back in the fall, cut the stems and turn the pot upside down, leaving the pot on. You now can lift the pot, pluck a few of the 40+ tubers to eat raw or in a stir fry, and put the pot back on to protect the soil from winter weather. I haven't tried the part about turning it upside down and taking a few at a time, but it would likely work better than harvesting all the sunchokes at the same time and then having to store them.

Other places in town where sunchokes thrive are Chambers and Robeson,

and also Harrison Street Park, where they have taken over a raingarden we planted in a swale at the end of the field. The sunchokes are outcompeting two other species of sunflower we put there, and in a couple years may well swallow the bench. Each year I think of covering the sunflowers over with big sheets of cardboard, to eliminate all the aggressive spreaders while saving what few JoePyeWeeds and other non-aggressive natives may still persist, but I don't get around to it. One has to be scrupulous, persistent, eschewing all sentimentality lest some little sprig of sunchoke survive to reassert utter dominance over time. In the wild, sunflowers do not dominate like this because they are growing amongst other native plants just as aggressive.

In other plant news at Harrison Street Park, a couple rare native trees called butternuts are thriving, if not as yet bearing butternuts. They've been laid low in the wild by an imported disease, and our local nut tree expert, Bill Sachs, is working to bring them back.

The two at the park have an interesting way of splaying out around six feet high into multiple stems of similar strength, rather than maintaining a strong central trunk.

One survivor from the older generation of trees in the park is hosting a dense vertical stand of English ivy. Like the native poison ivy, English ivy doesn't bloom unless it's able to climb.

The flowers provide nectar for the monarchs migrating south, but any resulting berries probably get delivered to neighboring yards by the birds, making for yet another plant that, whatever its charms, must be deterred from its relentless spread.

Friday, September 21, 2018

August's Peak Bloom of Native Wildflowers

It's been gratifying lately to hear testimonials from friends and acquaintances about the joy they've found in replacing some of their lawn with wildflowers. Though we have a few non-native flowers in the garden, there's a predominance of local genotypes of native wildflowers found growing wild in Princeton. The ones shown here are well adapted for wet ground, so have flourished in this summer's consistently recurrent rains. Here are some photos from the peak bloom in August, when the garden was positively rocking with flowers.
Autumn Helenium - Helenium autumnale

Front to back: Cutleaf coneflower, jewelweed, wild senna, Joe Pye Weed

Front to back: Boneset, rosemallow hibiscus, Joe Pye Weed, boneset, wild senna

Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis), Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)

A mix of Joe Pye Weed and cutleaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata)

RoseMallow Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos)

Wild senna (Senna hebecarpa)

Hibiscus and cutleaf coneflower

Cutleaf coneflower, Hibiscus moscheutos, Joe Pye Weed

Boneset, Hibiscus, Joe Pye Weed

Monday, September 17, 2018

Oh Great! A Rice Weevil Infestation

They first appeared as specks on the floor when I was cleaning up the sunroom, which functions as a sort of mudroom where we store garden supplies, boots and charcoal. I had been cleaning out a plastic bin that held bags of long neglected birdseed and potting soil, plus whatever shoes and other items that had gotten thrown on top. The bugs looked harmless enough--small, slow moving--but they were a strange shape. For a moment I entertained the possibility that we were hosting a newly imported species, potentially invasive, that somehow had found its way into our house. But that thought seemed far too dramatic. I shrugged, figured they'd go away, and moved on to other tasks. A week or two later, my daughter found one climbing on the kitchen wall. I squashed it and continued cooking.

Then, one evening, a few of them appeared on the surface of a pot of hot water that I'd just poured a box of pasta into. That was the wakeup call. The pasta got thrown out, and an internet search began. They had weevil-like snouts, which was just enough information for the internet to work its magic. A search for "weevil, kitchen" instantly provided the answer: rice weevils.

That precipitated a closer look at the bag of birdseed that had sat largely unused in the sunroom for many months. "Economy mix," it said on the label, clearly one of those false economies where you get lots of birdseed for the price, and they throw the rice weevils in as a bonus.

The weevils had had abundant time to lay their eggs in the seeds, which provide the nourishment the larva need until they are ready to emerge as adults through holes in the seed coating. The bag should have been labeled "Rice Weevil Feed."

It was unnerving to learn that the weevils can fly, which may explain how they got up to the cupboards, where they infiltrated various boxes and bags of food.

There our detailed instructions on the internet for dealing with a rice weevil infestation. In my case, the bag of birdseed was poured into a vat of water outside to kill the weevils, then added to the compost with the food from the kitchen, far from the house; the packaging was put in a plastic bag and put in the trash.

All in all, it was a good motivation to clean the cupboards after years of accumulation. Haven't seen the tiny weevils since, but for the time being, all food in paper packaging is being stored elsewhere in the house, away from the kitchen. We were never very good at keeping the birdfeeder filled. Better in our case to keep feeding the birds indirectly, through all the seeds generated by the wildflower garden.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Great Princeton Garden

Update, Oct/2021: The life of Dorothy Mullen, 1955-2020, will be celebrated at Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville on Oct. 30, beginning at 10am. Here's a link to watch via zoom. I wrote a song called Dorothy's Garden after seeing Dorothy for the last time. The song on the video starts about two minutes in. 

Update, August 18, 2019: Dorothy tells her story in a wonderful article in US1, and gets honored with a proclamation by the Princeton school board, starting at about 26:23 in this video. It's very moving, as many people speak of the impact Dorothy, her gardening and the Suppers program have had on their lives. As reported in the article, Dorothy has been diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.

One of Princeton's great gardens is Dorothy Mullen's. For many years she managed the educational gardens at Riverside Elementary, which eventually became integrated into the school's curriculum.  Now she focuses on her own garden, using its produce for her Suppers program. Many people dabble in gardening, but Dorothy is hardwired to care for gardens, keeping them in beautiful shape year after year. The more she vanquishes weeds one year, the fewer seeds in the soil to sprout new weeds the next. Eventually, the soil loses its "memory" of weeds.

An unsuspecting passerby on Patton Avenue will be greeted by a figure enrobed in runner beans who seems to take the leguminous embrace well, with a gesture that says "Why not?"

Why not, the statue seems to say, why not convert your whole lawn to garden?

Why not mix raised beds of vegetables

with wildflowers beds?

Why not grow fig trees that actually bear figs?

And why not invite passersby to help themselves to a sample of food or flower? Forgot your scissors? There's a pair provided, protected from the elements by a plastic bag. Like a screened porch that has elements of indoors and outdoors, the garden mixes elements of private and public. Dorothy does gardens right.

(photos taken in mid-August)

Saturday, September 01, 2018

In Memory of a Man Who Maintained a Nature Trail

This post is dedicated to the memory of Henry Tuliszewski. I never met him and just learned his name, but for years he made possible my and others' enjoyment of nature down along Carnegie Lake. A resident of Princeton, he was the man who remembered to mow the nature trail loop that branches off of the DR Canal towpath near its Harrison Street crossing.

A recurring theme on this blog is the importance of something that too often goes unsung: the ongoing maintenance that quietly sustains the quality of and access to urban nature. We tend to take many aspects of civilization for granted, but nothing lasts without care, and the same pertains to natural areas whose balance often now depends on human intervention. Many examples have been given here, of how interventions that are minimal, yet strategic and informed can sustain beautiful, diverse habitats.

The loop trail that Mr. Tuliszewski mowed is one of the success stories. For twelve years, its meanders have provided a diversion from the straight and narrow of the canal's towpath, on a 6 foot wide mowed path bordered by native wildflowers, grasses, and all the insects and birds they attracted.

Part of the trail's beauty is how it came to exist. Owned by Princeton University but maintained by the staff of DR Canal State Park, the broad fields there along the towpath were getting mowed weekly during the summer. When I pointed out that the area being mowed was actually packed with native wildflowers, the state park staff shifted to annual mowing, allowing the wildflowers a chance to grow and mature each year. The staff then created a lovely trail through these meadows, and installed a sign.

The trail is as old as this blog, whose first post had a picture much like this one, taken of the cutleaf coneflowers bordering the towpath in their first year of bloom near the nature trail's entrance. The many species of wildflowers growing here, their flowering due largely to thoughtful maintenance, have provided seed to expand their populations to other areas of Princeton, most recently at Herrontown Woods.

Thoughtful mowing's as important as the blooming, since only regular mowing keeps the towpath and nature trail passable. Over the years, the nature trail loop's meanders have deepened, to dodge newly fallen trees. Each shift, I noticed, was done in such a way as to make the trail more interesting.

Dropping by a week ago, for the first time this summer, I was surprised to find that the nature trail loop was not getting mowed. Though hikers and joggers have still been trying to use it, one section has nearly been swallowed by the fast growing porcelainberry, underscoring how invasive species can increase the effort required to maintain trails.

I contacted Stephanie Fox, a resource interpretive specialist who supervises care of the DR Canal State Park, and she responded with the sad news that Henry Tuliszewski had died.

Instantly, the meaning of the flowers blooming along the unmowed trail changed. With gratitude for his many years of quiet service, anonymous until now, these photos of Joe-Pye-Weed and ten foot tall Cutleaf Coneflower are for Mr. Tuliszewski, affectionately known to his coworkers as Buzzy.

An obituary can be found here.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Writings from Durham Days--Rain ponds, live stakes, and falling leaves

Googling myself, I found some published writings from my days in Durham, NC, where I founded a nonprofit called the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association. Published in the "Front Porch" section of a news magazine called Indyweek, they make a good entry for this website's 1250th post.

Rhapsody to a rain pond 

Though the reservoirs that feed Durham's faucets--Lake Mickie and the Little River Reservoir--are still low, I am happy to report that Lake Hiltner is now filled to the brim, thanks to recent heavy rains.
Located on an upland slope in an old city neighborhood, it receives its waters from a nearby mountain range, better known as my roof. Lake Hiltner is what my next door neighbor calls this new, homemade body of water, but at 8 feet across, terracing down to 2 feet deep, it's somewhere between a pond and a permanent puddle. A pondle, perhaps, or a pund.
It needs a good name, because it's such a satisfying thing to have in a backyard garden. In time, frogs will move in, and hummingbirds will find the hibiscus, cardinal flower and jewelweed that bloom along its shores. Most of all, the mini-pond is responsive to the weather and the seasons, slowly diminishing in drought, rising in the rain. Flowers come and go in succeeding waves; the school of mosquito fish--a native of local creeks related to guppies--swells with each new batch of fry. And then there are the distinguished visitors, which in other backyard mini-ponds have included great blue herons and hawks.
For those who seek larger meanings in backyard projects, a neighborhood dotted with Lake Smiths and Joneses will be better prepared for extremes of weather. Drought and flood teach the same lesson: Find a place for rainwater in the landscape. The current practice of shedding runoff quickly from roofs into streets into urban creeks not only creates destructive flooding, but also leaves the rainwater-deprived landscape more vulnerable to drought.
The most drought-resistant landscapes are those where water is allowed to linger, whether in mini-ponds or in absorbent swales where water will seep in over a few days. Water allowed to seep into the ground creates an underground reservoir of moisture for plants to draw on during drought. This has been clearly demonstrated this summer as larger-scale projects like the stormwater wetland at Hillandale Golf Course and the wetland gardens at Indian Trail Park continue to flourish without watering.
The same philosophy applies to the backyard. The way to reduce weather's extremes is to accept the gifts currently spurned. It involves harvesting the rain that falls on house and yard, in rainbarrels, raingardens, grassy swales, mini-ponds and soil made absorbent by mulch. Even the condensate from air conditioners, most abundant when it's most needed, can be directed to a pond or raingarden rather than left to soak into the foundation.
Though droughts and torrential downpours teach harsh lessons, the response can be a rewarding adventure.

Dogwood candles 

It's fun to watch 6-year-olds deal with the concept of spring starting on a particular day. They think something magical is going to happen--all the flowers will burst forth, the temperature will suddenly jump. But the heavens and the trees don't give a hoot about March 20th, the official start date for spring, and kids everywhere are left to wonder what it's all about.
By coincidence, March 20 was the day I went to my daughter's first grade class to do a little planting project. The bushes we were going to plant had no leaves and no roots, but I assured the students that they would grow. That would have to be magic enough to fill the gap between this most ordinary day and the far grander work of their imaginations.
The activity is by now pretty standard. A couple of big plastic tubs--the cut off ends of a donated 55 gallon drum--stand ready outside the classroom. After some discussion about the things plants need to grow, the kids do their best to shovel schoolyard dirt into the tubs. When they're filled to the brim, we add water to turn the dirt into glorious mud. Finally, each kid takes a freshly cut section of stem from one or another native shrub that grows along Ellerbe Creek in Durham--silky dogwood, buttonbush, elderberry--and sticks it deep into the ooze.
This time, though, about when we had 20 stems in each tub, the kids began singing "Happy Birthday." Now the grown-ups were left wondering. In the eyes of the first graders, the tubs of brown mud with sticks pointing up had taken on the look of birthday cakes with chocolate frosting and candles. "Happy birthday, silky dogwood. Happy birthday to you."
In a week or two, the buds on the sticks will open, and the buried portions will sprout roots in the mud. By fall, Forest View Elementary will have 40 shrubs to plant on the school grounds. But more importantly, the kids got to dig the good earth, to learn which way's up on a buttonbush sprig and, best of all, they found meaning in the day. A birthday for spring--maybe that's what March 20 is really all about.

Front Porch 

Rhapsody in leaves

The narrow leaves of willow oak spin earthwards, catching flashes of morning light. In walks along the tree-lined canyons of city streets, we are all victors in a ticket-tape parade. The sun's rays, having lost their summer harshness, now angle into the sheltered air beneath trees, illuminating the languid descent of leaves from the vaulted canopy.
Not all leaves are so elegant. Pine needles plunge earthward like clouds of arrows. The broader leaves of maples fall in rocking zigzags. But willow oak leaves are designed to celebrate their momentary freedom in one long graceful pirouette. They spend summer clustered overhead, anonymous in dense masses of green. Then they become a million individualists in their first and last dance back to earth. In loose embrace with gravity, they fall--each spinning in its own manner, at its own tempo, each captured for a moment by the sun's beaming light. Having reached the ground, again anonymously massed, they mingle and merge and return by degrees to the soil from which they came.
At such times, it's hard to think of leaves as anything but a gift. In the competition for my heart between lawn and leaf, lawn has had to yield. I used to rake the leaves and mow the threadbare grass. But now I channel my yard's sylvan tendencies rather than struggle against them. The leaves fall where they do for a reason: to soften the soil, to catch the rain, to help dogwoods through the droughts and to give kids one more reason for delight. What pleasure to trace a leaf's whimsical flight and find, at bottom, a sense of rightness and rest, rather than impending chore. The Triangle is a forest masquerading as metropolis, and we are the beneficiaries of its golden rain

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Feeling of August

Is it me, or the month of August, when stagnant, humid air seems to seep into the soul? Yes, for those who stick it out and remain in town through August, there are glorious flowers and a few things done that needed doing, but still the month is like a remembered dream in which the desire to run, run, quickly, is foiled by legs too heavy to move. I look at these slow-growing shrubs along Hamilton Ave, buried beneath a sea of bindweed that, as relentless as time in its ambition has begun to engulf the house as well, and know the feeling.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Rogers Refuge and the Importance of Stewardship

Looking out on this wetland, you would understandably think you aren't in Princeton anymore. But this broad and beautiful marsh, the centerpiece of Rogers Refuge, is just a short drive upstream from Alexander St, off West Drive.

The Friends of Rogers Refuge (FOHR), which has been quietly caring for this renowned bird sanctuary, turns 50 this year. Comprised mostly of devoted birders, the Friends group grew out of actions by the Princeton Environmental Commission in 1968 to halt filling of the marsh. A prominent ornithologist named Charles H. Rogers was among those who led the campaign.

A conservation easement renewed every ten years has helped to protect the wetland since, but no habitat is protected by a paper agreement alone. Though auspiciously located in the floodplain, between the Stonybrook and the Institute Woods, the habitat benefits from a collaborative effort of the landowner (NJ American Water) the town of Princeton, and the Friends group. For instance, though the wetland receives runoff and groundwater seepage from the Institute Woods, and occasional floodwater from the Stonybrook, the habitat benefits from a steady input of water pumped from the river during the summer months. The water company pays for the electricity to run the pump, the town helps with repairs, and the Friends keep an eye out to respond quickly to any breakdowns. The Washington Crossing Audubon Society not only leads walks there during bird migration in May, but has also funded much of the Friends' efforts to restore habitat and build observation towers. They also funded an ecological assessment and stewardship plan I did for the Friends in 2006.

Talk to members of the group and they will tell you excitedly about the kinds of birds they see at the Refuge. Since birds require habitat, much of the group's active stewardship centers around controlling invasive species. Though the native cattails can be a little aggressive, its the nonnative Phragmitis that poses the greatest threat to a balance of plant life in the marsh. In this photo, the cattails show as dark green, with wild rice appearing as light green in the distance. In the foreground and to the left is the browned remains of Phragmitis reed, killed with low-toxicity, wetland-safe herbicide. When a similar treatment was applied 12 years ago, the void left by the Phragmitis was quickly filled with a great diversity of native wetland species.

The same can be expected this time. Hopefully, another such large scale treatment will not be necessary if there's sufficient followup to prevent the few remnants of Phragmitis from rebounding. It's human nature to shift attention elsewhere when a threat has been greatly diminished, but when dealing with invasive species, that's when vigilance is most needed.

Another example is chocolate vine, which I discovered growing next to the small parking area at Rogers Refuge. This is the only location in Princeton where I've encountered chocolate vine, yet its behavior suggests it could quickly become a problem if left to grow.

Its rapid expansion at Rogers Refuge, up trees and over bushes, should make any homeowner think twice about growing this nonnative species, lest the birds carry its seeds to a nearby nature preserve.

Porcelainberry is another invasive plant that has shown up at the Refuge in recent years, and has quickly begun dominating woodland edges. A look behind the Clark House at the nearby Princeton Battlefield shows how dominating this vine can become if left unmanaged.

Further evidence that a wildlife refuge doesn't take care of itself came a few years ago, when I discovered a third nonnative vine with highly invasive behavior, appropriately named Mile-a-Minute, growing along the driveway that leads to Rogers Refuge. A thorny annual with a distinctive triangular leaf, it too has proven extremely aggressive elsewhere in NJ. We've been fortunate to catch it early in Princeton, and respond quickly before it produces seed and spreads around town.

Heavy browsing from deer has been a problem in past years, but the town's investment in deer culling, since 2000, has not only dramatically reduced car accidents in town but also greatly benefitted habitat at the Refuge and elsewhere. The birders report that the return of a healthy understory of spicebush, previously almost eliminated by the overcrowded deer, has brought back ovenbirds that depend on the shrubs for nesting habitat.

Another challenge that the Friends of Rogers Refuge has faced, as have other Friends groups in Princeton, is vandalism. Again, it's the generosity of volunteers in the community who respond by repairing what is broken, as in this email sent to the Friends:
"I am pleased to report that the informational signs at the Refuge, ripped from their frames on the main platform by vandals a year ago, have been restored. Many thanks to the hard work and generosity of Charles Magee, who remounted them with a more secure system. Visitors can again find pictures and descriptions of some of our most attractive birds close at hand. Thank you, Charles!"
Erich Fromm best captured the ongoing struggle between vandalism and repair in his book, Escape from Freedom:
“The more the drive toward life is thwarted, the stronger is the drive toward destruction; the more life is realized, the less is the strength of destructiveness. Destructiveness is the outcome of unlived life.”

Leading the group in recent years has been Fred Spar (left), with particularly active support from his wife Winnie and Lee Varian (right). Fred reported to me that there was a particularly good spring bird migration this year, perhaps the best they've ever had, due in part to winds that shifted migration routes eastward. From the observation tower can be seen a purple martin house erected in the middle of the marsh by the Friends. It was alive with the comings and goings of the purple martins earlier this summer.

If you stop by this hidden gem, wish a happy 50th to the group that through quiet persistence and dedication has kept Rogers Refuge well cared for.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Monarchs Bring Dance, Delight and Larger Meanings to a Backyard

These are the glory days for monarch watching, with the backyard packed with flowers--a veritable feast that we are grateful to provide.

Lovely as it is, the levitated landscape of pinks and yellows, reds and whites, gains a deeper meaning when a monarch arrives to animate the garden with its fanciful, danciful flight. Brilliance of color is matched by brilliance of movement, with glides and hairpin turns, sudden dips or dartings upward, gracing a garden's contours as if its flight were a form of affection. With an uncanny mix of power and whimsy, the monarch looks to know what it's looking for, as it approaches then darts away or doubles back, each minute of its flight a hundred instant decisions. What makes it land on one flower after approaching and rejecting so many others, seemingly the same, is a mystery.

This morning we saw four at once, two of which flew together, then collapsed upon the carport roof, there to mate for a minute while I ran to grab my camera. The one in front looks to be the female, with thicker veins and no little black spot on the wing.

This one here is a male, judging from the less prominent veins,

and those little black spots on either side of its abdomen.

The monarchs were especially drawn to the joe-pye-weed that with the summer's heat and rain have grown to ten feet high, like a mountain range of flowers.

Sometimes, when a monarch flew and flew around the garden, looking, looking, I thought it might be searching not for nectar but for a milkweed plant to lay its eggs on. Our swamp milkweed disappeared some years back, and this year my wife bought this kind, with orange and yellow flowers. Turns out to be tropical milkweed, native to Mexico but not here. It's pretty, easy for nurseries to grow, and rebounds quickly if ravenous monarch larva consume its leaves. It's also said to have some aspects, given the nature of its more tropical growth, that would make our northern native species of milkweed a better option,

like this butterflyweed that is flourishing in a neighbor's garden.

Most of Princeton's milkweed is common milkweed, which is less ornamental, spreads underground, and can be found in fields, along roadsides, and in this case growing at the nearby Princeton High School ecolab wetland. Other species include purple milkweed, a few of which grow at Herrontown Woods, and green milkweed, found years back in the meadows at Tusculum.

The dominant ideology of our day has deprived us of the satisfaction of contributing to something beyond ourselves. I grow more garden and less lawn because I love native plants, but the monarchs connect the garden to something much larger. Each March, starting out from their wintering home on just a few acres in the mountain forests of Mexico, the monarchs stretch themselves across all of eastern North America, ambassadors of beauty, as if to tell us that all our small efforts, spread across the land, are additive in and to nature, that we can contribute to something profound. May the monarch teach us how to find that satisfaction in other aspects of our lives as well.