Well, well - rejoice! Another "Earth Day" has fallen upon us like a crashing meteor of discarded plastics, and... Wait! I promise not to express cynicism about this day, and all of the environmental posturing that ensues, like I did HERE.
Just remember, every day is Earth Day on this here blog!
Our botanical protagonist is the lovely Common Blue Violet, Viola sororia. This is the same species that comes up in your yard, too, although probably not in these numbers. The violet is more native here than you or I, and in this case is easily holding its own against the VERY nonnative turf grass. Go, violets!
It was the scope and scale of this violet-covered field that made me detour off the road for an inspection. There were several acres of the plants, and I utterly fail to see how anyone could pass by this scene and not briefly fall into a contemplative revery over the lush lavender-misted meadow.
Why and how we've developed a turf grass metality is beyond me. The ideal in this grassy world is to create a yard that resembles the emerald felt of a pool table. Then, lurk along its edges just waiting for any other type of plant to surface. When one does, the indignant homeowner runs out and bayonets it with a ramrod full of toxins.
But why? To my eye, the violets in these photos are one million (to the 3rd power) more interesting than a flawless monoculture of grass. I think that most people, at least subconciously, feel the same. If this four acre field were perfectly manicured green grass, I doubt if it would elicit even a comment from the numerous passersby. However, filled with violets as it is, I am sure that I am not the only one that reacts favorably, and I'd bet two irises and a wood betony that others have u-turned and whipped out the camera.
This photo shows, with striking clarity, a very simple change that anyone with a yard can make to truly help the environment. Banish the turf grass mentality, and allow some diversity to creep into the yardscape. Better yet, plow up a good chunk of grass and plant it to native plants. The choices are myriad, and nearly all of our native plants are a million times (to the 3rd power) more beneficial than the nonnative stuff.
In fact, to help get the native plant message across, we started the Midwest Native Plant Conference back in 2009. This year's event will be held on the weekend of July 26, 27 & 28 in Dayton, Ohio. You'll find it to be a treasure trove of information about native plants and the good that they do, courtesy of a fine lineup of expert speakers. Keynoting the 2013 conference is Mr. Native Plant himself, Dr. Doug Tallamy. His book, Bringing Nature Home, has done as much as anything to open people's eyes to the value of conserving and encouraging native plants.
The complete scoop on the Midwest Native Plant Conference is RIGHT HERE. I hope you can make it. We have a blast, and even have some awesome field trips where you can see lots of cool native plants (and animals) with your own eyes. CLICK HERE for registration info.