Archive for invasive plant removal program

In Which I Decide To Be Thankful

Posted in garden essay, green gardening, native plants, Uncategorized with tags , , on November 22, 2011 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

All photos in this post were taken in and around Cliff Island, Maine, U.S., in summer or fall.  Click on any photo to enlarge.

This is my 2011 Thanksgiving essay.  Last year in My Thanksgiving Oak Forest, I described why my husband and I decided to transplant native red oak seedlings to a waste area filled with invasive plants.  If you haven’t had a chance to read it, I hope you will click here because I think it is my most important post. This year’s essay is a glass-half-empty, glass-half-full kind of story, which ends with me deciding to be thankful, always a good result at any time of year.

Frequent readers of this blog will know that I spend a lot of time on a small island seven miles off the coast of Maine called Cliff Island.  The island is a very special place for many reasons.  Physically, it is achingly beautiful, surrounded by rocky shores and ocean and with acres of woods, marshes, and beaches created by nature and for the most part preserved that way, although it is all private land. 

Our family has no vehicle so I walk three to four miles every day often to get places but predominantly for pleasure.  And while I walk I think.  In the midst of all this beauty I am often sad.  Aside from public land, few places remain in the eastern U.S. like Cliff Island where the ecology is not rapidly changing for the worse.

Surrounded by a close to pristine landscape, I mourn for what southeastern Pennsylvania, where I live, must have been like and how it has been changed beyond recognition and probably beyond redemption.  As Heather from Restoring the Landscape with Native Plants says: “Although many of our woodland landscapes have been invaded with invasive species and altered by humans, diminished representations of the former plant community still exist and provide us with a window of what the woodland used to be [emphasis added].”

I think about how most people don’t know, and many of them don’t care, what a real native landscape looks and feels like.  How will we preserve the precious areas that remain if people have no context within which to appreciate them?  Jill on Landscape Lover’s Blog describes a noted French landscape architect as pointing out that “most people prefer highly-managed places – pleasurable gardens and efficient landscapes – over raw nature, which is increasingly perceived as distant, unpleasant, almost repellent, with its insects, bacteria, and disorder [emphasis added].”  Is that true?  I am afraid so.

Even Cliff Island is under attack with invasive non-native plants making their way out from the mainland and displacing the island’s delicate native ecology.  We currently have a full scale battle going on with Japanese knotweed, purple loosestrife, oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose, Japanese barberry, burning bush euonymus, and Norway maple.  These plants have only started multiplying invasively on Cliff Island in the last 20 years or so and yet the rate of increase is exponential.

On better days, when my half-full attitude takes over, I am deliriously thankful that I get to spend time on Cliff Island.  I stare at the landscape trying to burn it into my memory for viewing during the rest of the year.  I find it so beautiful that it seems unreal, like a movie set.  I never get tired of it.  No designed garden can compare with what nature has created.

I am also eternally thankful that I am able to appreciate this natural beauty.  That I don’t prefer highly managed landscapes and that I love being outside.  I am grateful that my training enables me to understand how the plant communities on the island work and to appreciate the ornamental characteristics of the native plants.

I am thankful that Cliff Island’s balance has not been destroyed.  In Pennsylvania, any unplanted area is soon filled with invasives.  On the island, the regenerative power of the native plants remains in tact.  An area of abandoned lawn will quickly be re-colonized by blueberries, goldenrod, bayberry, asters, and other natives.

I am also thankful that, four years ago, I was able to launch a non-native invasive plant removal program on Cliff Island.  Volunteers from the community are working hard to remove invasives before they become established like they are on the mainland.  I am happy to report that the program is a huge success.  If you would like to know more about the program, please feel free to email me at  Nothing would make me happier than to help others preserve their native landscape.

Readers of my 2010 Thanksgiving post will be pleased to know that we are continuing what will now be our Thanksgiving tradition and have planted three more native red oaks at the bottom of our property.

Happy Thanksgiving, Carolyn

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

Nursery Happenings:
The nursery is closed for the year.  Look for the snowdrop catalogue (snowdrops are available mail order) in January 2012 and an exciting new hellebore offering in February 2012.  If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

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