Back in the very old days, after people learned about making maps but way before satellites, there were maps that clearly delineated the known parts of the coasts and mountains. But quite often, out in the blank areas that were over the horizon of the sea or behind the snowy mountains inland, the map would be marked with the legend, “Here there be dragons.”
I often think about this legend when I go back to the corner where the pond is.
Just a reminder. Back in 1996 or 7 I decided that what this place really needed was a water source for the wildlife and a spot where I could have lovely water plants. My desire was to create a haven for the birds in the area, a place they could drink and bathe and rest. I thought this corner would be perfect.
I had a lovely young assistant in the project. With nothing more than a desire to produce a nice hole in the ground and a couple of shovels, Sunny and I dug a hole which would ultimately hold water, once I lined it with a (rather expensive) rubber pond liner. I also created a little water fall, installing a pump, and my beautifully handy husband established an electrical source out there. When we were done with the project, and had planted it with a few water lilies and other things, it looked like this:
The cat in the foreground of the next shot is Bonnie, Smokey’s sister. A long time ago a great horned owl had her for dinner. I wasn’t too happy about that, but it was poetic justice of a sort, since she was a grand hunter of birds, which I also was not too happy about.
These photos are interesting because they were taken before the privacy fence was complete. They also illustrate a few truths about planting gardens. We gardeners like to think that we are in control, but nature will take a hand in any project of the sort laid out above. This is especially true when we are trying to create an area for birds to live. Birds will plant all the things they love to eat in the course of living in an area, and this is exactly what happened here.
I went to quite a lot of trouble and expense, acquiring native prairie plants to populate my pond with: prairie coneflower, ox eye sunflower, willow leaved sunflowers, primroses, plus other plants too numerous to mention, some of which did not survive. For the life of me, as I had just finished weeding out an established patch of vinca in the front garden, I cannot figure out why I thought it would be a good idea to plant the same invasive thug plant out by the pond. But I did, and not only did I put vinca out there, I also planted violets and mint (THREE kinds of mint, for God’s sake — I must have been certifiably insane). And spiderwort. I also planted a forsythia bush, on purpose. You can just barely see the twig of it angling off in the far left bed by the waterfall in the second picture above.
The birds have planted grape vines, cherry trees, poke weed, mulberry trees, honeysuckle and blackberries, in multitudinous numbers. I also received yellow flags, creeping jenny, and jerusalem artichoke, courtesy of their auspices. A whole lot of things have blown in in the interim as well.
This is how it looks this morning.
There really is water in there, and the waterfall is still there along with the little bathing pool. Ruby knows there is water.
Not that you can see those features, they are back there in the dark shadow under the ginormous forsythia grove, which is just how the birds like it, by the way.
Here there be dragons.
Yes, there actually is a path back there. With flagstones.
If you walk back there, in the corner that the fence makes, there is a sassafras tree that the birds planted for me, as well as a pipe vine, bittersweet, possum grapes, and other plants too numerous to mention. It is a shady spot, the chocolate mint has pretty well taken over back there, at least in what space the violets have allowed it. This is looking out from that back corner. Notice the enormous thriving stand of chocolate mint, which occupies most of the central section of this view.
You can see the table grape arbor back there, and the vegetable garden fence. If you walk out and stand by the garden fence, and look back, this is what you will see.
Look there, at the bottom of the picture in the middle: there, that’s a flagstone at the beginning of the path. I often feel like I might find Dr. Livingstone back there when I venture into the jungle in order to clean the filter on the pond waterfall.
My dilemma is this. I feel like I need to establish some semblance of order back there, and yet every time I walk out there and look at it all I can do is sigh and go put the shovel away. Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Remember, what I wanted was a wildish area that would be a haven for the birds and other wildlife.
That’s exactly what I got, and if you don’t believe me just ask the salamanders, turtles, cats, leopard frogs, american toads, rabbits, owls, hawks, cardinals, skunks, raccoons, possums, robins, grackles, finches, hummingbirds, dragonflies, butterflies, dog, wasps, bees and everything else that is using that area.
Maybe I don’t need to establish order back there.