Golden currant (Ribes auereum), a native shrub that blooms early, produces berries birds love, and turns orange to crimson and fall.

Easter/Earth Day Dirt Work

Golden currant (Ribes auereum), a native shrub that blooms early, produces berries birds love, and turns orange to crimson and fall. Golden currant (Ribes aureum), an early blooming native shrub that produces berries birds love, and turns orange to crimson in fall.

Happy Easter& Earth Day! I celebrated with dirt work. Specifically, making progress on transforming the once junky industrial parcel that is my new yard into a wildscape, habitat for pollinators and songbirds, as well as a beautiful and nurturing place for people.

It’s early yet to do much planting—our last average frost date is Mother’s Day—but the native sand cherry and golden currant that Richard and I planted along the creek are in bloom, much to the delight of early flying butterflies and bees.

Sand cherry flowers abuzz with native bees and one early-flying painted lady butterfly. Sand cherry flowers abuzz with bees and one painted lady butterfly.

Their flowers let me know it’s time to plant other native shrubs in the yard, along with the dwarf conifers I’m using as the backbone of a small rock garden. (Lauren Springer Ogden‘s photos of the dwarf conifers in her rock garden in the  Wildscape 101 workshops we presented together this spring inspired me.)

Picea pungens 'Mesa Verde' in front and 'Procumbens', the bluer one, in back, with a Physocarpus 'Summer Wine' not leafed out on the left. (Physocarpus is a native shrub with flower clusters like spirea, crinkly leaves and lovely peeling bark for winter interest. Picea pungens ‘Mesa Verde’ in front and ‘procumbens’, the bluer one, in back, with a Physocarpus ‘Summer Wine,’ a spirea-like native shrub, not leafed out on the left.

I started with the dwarf conifers, since they required the biggest holes and thus, the most effort. (I didn’t shoot any photos when I was digging with my heavy mattock and grubbing out those rocks around the plants. I was too busy sweating.)

Teucrinum, a succulent, astragalus and other rock garden plants wait their turn to be planted. Teucrinum, Astragalus and other rock garden plants wait their turn to be planted.

In another few weeks, I’ll fill in around the dwarf conifers with the creeping Teucrinum and other rock garden plants I bought at Sunscapes Rare Plant Nursery in Pueblo. They’re currently basking on the plant shelf in the workshop off my garage.

Once I had the dwarf conifers and Physocarpus (ninebark) in the ground, I planted the other shrubs I have on hand: three shrubby cinquefoils and a currant a friend dug up and potted for me last fall (thanks, Ellen!), plus a big sagebrush I got at Bradys West where I bought the dwarf spruces and the Physocarpus.

Big sagebrush, the fragrance of home for me, newly planted in my side yard meadow-to-be. Big sagebrush, the fragrance of home for me, newly planted in my side yard meadow-to-be.

After digging eight holes (two of them large enough to plant trees—those dwarf spruces may be short, but their root balls are big!), I decided to take it a bit easier for the rest of the weekend.

The 20th annual Border Book Festival opens next week in Las Cruces, NM. The 20th annual Border Book Festival opens next week in Las Cruces, NM.

Wednesday, I head south to Las Cruces, New Mexico, for the Border Book Festival, which novelist and playwright Denise Chávez and I started an astonishing twenty years ago.

I am not looking forward to the drive, although I am looking forward to seeing La Denise and other friends from our years in Las Cruces.

I dislocated my collarbone last year doing the finish work on Terraphilia, my old house. Thanks to weeks of physical therapy, it’s finally healed well enough that I can wield a mattock without pain, but I cannot drive without pain. I have to stop every hour or so and do my PT exercises, and I can’t go far in a day. It’s going to be a slow trip.

Scarlet Bugler, my favorite native red penstemon--a hummingbird magnet. Scarlet Bugler, a native red penstemon and hummingbird magnet

When I get home from Las Cruces, I will rest and write. Come the next weekend, I’ll head back into the yard for more dirt work, restoring life and the hope that springs from its blooming, singing, pulsing energy to this once-abused piece of earth. To me, that’s the spirit of Easter and Earth Day.

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