This week’s photo challenge is Home: “share a picture that evokes HOME for you.“ Apart from my family–the one I was born to, and the one that grew around me over the years–my home is the garden that hugs our house.
When I garden, I imagine myself the Little Prince, tending his planet against the catastrophe of the baobabs. Last year, I joined the Wildlife Sanctuary Program with the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, and that made me more observant and thoughtful about the environment I build. Here is my little planet and the creatures it shelters each year.
February – With the robins back, our feisty mockingbird resumes her war over holly dominance (she usually wins).
March - Couples begin to form, and nests spring up in the oddest of places.
Always within view, the wren nest soon explodes with tiny sounds. Happy story: Last year’s trio survived into adolescence (we lost track of them in mid-summer).
By late April, azaleas are in bloom, and everything around looks new and fresh.
If it is warm enough, a black rat snake slithers out for a sunbath.
And we even get an occasional mammal–in the least cultivated corner of the yard.
May – More nests! More babies hatch, and anxious, frantic parents begin the feeding frenzy.
Always a shock, the mulberry season arrives. Berry stains are a pain, but the birds these berries bring are worth the mess.
Toads and frogs make a gentle, unobtrusive appearance.
And insects come into their own. I am especially happy to greet the lady beetles, my steadfast allies against aphids.
June – Native wildflowers are teeming with bees, butterflies, and a myriad of other winged creatures. Every morning, we awaken to birdsong.
Last month’s chicks are now juveniles and the same size as their parents, but looking decidedly under-baked, haphazard. They cry out for food and are promptly satisfied by their exhausted caregivers.
July - Just as the entire DC area turns into an insufferable sauna, EVERYthing blooms and buzzes in the yard. Charismatic garden visits occur daily.
August - Virginia gardens begin to look a tad tired and thirsty, but many native plants are just reaching their crescendo. A family of ruby-throated hummingbirds–we usually see several in our garden, an unusual sight for these territorial creatures, so we assume they are related–attack the scarlet cardinal flowers twice daily.
American goldfinches and other small birds descend on black-eyed susans and coneflowers, their seeds now quickly ripening.
September - Days begin to cool. Hardy asters take over, but August stars are still present. I watch milkweeds with particular zeal this month: The generation of monarch caterpillars that are devouring them now are the Methuselah generation, the only monarch cohort that lives up to nine months, enough to travel across the country to the same oyamel fir grove in Mexico. You can help this grand migration, so vulnerable to habitat loss, by supporting The Monarch Watch and joining its Monarch Waystation Program.
Chipmunks, whom we’ve hardly seen through summer, are now back in view, swift and gratuitously cute.
October - Rough clouds of white snakeroot flowers swathe my garden, still bright and buzzing with activity–the last hurrah before the cold season.
November - A trace of winter is in the air. The leaves are falling, flowers turn brown, and we come to know the squirrels by name.
Migrants from the north stop by. We are grateful to get a glimpse of them, if only for a few days.
And we get to see our regulars at a far closer range.
December - The garden sleeps. Bright holly berries are the toast of winter.
As it gets cold, a hawk begins to pay menacing visits.
We peer out, restlessly, counting minutes to spring.