The Journey Begins

Selwyn Elementary School nature trailMy understanding of the natural world began to expand when my youngest child was in second grade. In an attempt to keep me out of PTA politics, I was placed on the Nature Trail committee at Selwyn Elementary School in Charlotte, NC. A lovely trail wound down from the classrooms to a rocky creek, where you felt as though you were in the mountains rather than 3 miles from the downtown of a rapidly growing city. Committee Chair and friend-to-be Carla Vitez infected me with her excitement about the unusual native species found on the trail–Pinxter azalea, bloodroot, Paw Paw trees, wild ginger…. But some of the greenery was not so fine. The trail site was infected with invasive species, plants that had no natural competitors here because they had been brought to North America from other continents.  These “green invaders” threatened to overrun the landscape, overwhelming the natives.

While native plants provide food and habitat for local birds and animals and support a healthy, balanced ecosystem, invasive plants upset that balance. And when birds eat the seeds of invasives, they spread the problem to neighboring areas when they eliminate them in their far-flung flights. Seeds can also be picked up on shoes and tracked far and wide as well.

Thus began my relationship with native plants and with the “conservation gardening” practices of the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill. My understanding of eco-systems grew, I started putting ponds (mini-self-sustaining ecosystems) in my backyards, I had my property certified as a National Wildlife Federation Backyard Wildlife Habitat. When I moved to the Triangle are of NC, I enrolled in the Certificate of Native Plants Studies Program at the Botanical Garden.

My second-grader has now graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill and I have opened my store Nature’s Way to share what I have learned about practices that promote a healthy relationship with the planet that sustains us. I look forward to continuing my journey in partnership with the NC Botanical Garden and with all who come through the various portals (“real” shop doors, this blog and web site, my Etsy store, classes I plan to sponsor) to join me on this path.