Prospect Gardens Summer Time

Prospect Gardens Summer Time
Summer Scene

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A Prayer and Preparations

Tonight, October 3rd, the temperatures will drop into the high 40's after a balmy eighty degree day and rain will return. An unsual day weather wise.  Another reminder that climate change is a reality.  Here are pictures of Asters and Bottle Gentian from a few weeks ago when Prospect Gardens were still alive with color.

These two purple gems reminds me of Ronald Wallace's poem "Prayer for Flowers."  Wallace is the Felix Pollak Professor of Poetry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He also has a forty acre farm in Bear Valley, which is in Richland County. This poem is from his 2003 book "Long for This World."

Prayer for Flowers

Show me the disguises of coral root 
That I may go unnoticed among enemies.
the tenacity of columbine
that might thrive in the unlikely place.

Teach me to climb higher than envy,
to trust my own colorful seasons. 
Let the wind move me; let me keep my roots.

Like a pitcher plant, let me store up rain 
against the dry season, surviving with patience 
whatever comes along. 
Show me the wind's song through lupine
that my blue days may be filled with music.

Teach me the persistent delicacy of glacier lilies
that I might endure winter's cold, heavy foot. 
And, at the end time, 
neither stiff-lipped nor trembling, 
let me go up, like bear grass, 
in a puff of smoke.

Yes indeed, the Gardens and we Madisonians will once again face "winter's cold, heavy foot." Living in an apartment greatly reduces winter's heaviness. Somebody else is now responsibile for snow shoveling. Although occassionally I do miss "Snow Commander", the red Toro snowblower, I used to clear out our front sidewalk and our neighbors. Now I just let these thoughts pass and return to the comforts of home.

October signals drastic changes in Prospect Gardens as plants turn brown and blooms turn to seeds.  October also involves preparing the Gardens for the inevitable winter.

On September 29th, a crew of nine, counting myself and my wife, Ann, begin cutting back plants. I'm the guy with the hat and sunglasses in the front row. To my left is Jessica, and to my immediate right is Joyce and Ann N. Laura and Hanns are in the back row. Hanns could be exclaiming about Ann's homemade treat, rum bars.  Yum.

Gary who joined us for a short while before going to work is not pictured. Neither is Percy who joined us later.

Thanks to all of you. I so enjoyed sharing the day with you all.  Special thanks to Percy for the advice regarding the two cherry trees. The trees need pruning and the lower branches are weighted down so the trees have a rounded appearance, and plenty of air space. A lot of air space helps prevent disease.

Here's Hanns pausing before cutting down the tall Michigan Daisies and other plants on the Regent side of the Gardens. Hanns said that he really liked this work session becasue he didn't need to be concerned about telling the difference between weeds and desirable plants. He commented that it was like a Fall clearance sale with everthing going.

 Joyce and Hanns chatting during a brief break from their labors. We always blend talk and work, catching up on our lives. The wind had a chill as indicated by Joyce's clothes.

We ended about 1pm with another large pile of plant material awaiting pick-up by a city crew.  While we cleaned out a substantial section of the Gardens, more needs to be done so the Gardens can "endure winter's cold, heavy foot."

We will resume the winter preparation on October 13th.  If you are in the Madison area, please join us.  Once again, we will share neighborliness, a homemade treat, and hopefully enjoy a sunny day.  Your time and generosity will be greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

"Staying Put" and Sense of Place

Tending Prospect Gardens causes me to reflect on the value of  "staying put" while feeling the sense of place.  Michael Schuler, now our Minister Emeritus at First Unitarian Society, in his 2009 book "Making the Good Life Last" laid out four keys to what he called "sustainable living."  His second key is "staying put" which means intentionally remaining in a neighborhood while developing deep roots and strong connections.  '"Staying put" is challenging given societal values of picking up and moving for jobs, and the fact that many neighborhoods are bedroom communities lacking amenities needed to develop roots and a strong sense of community.

Fortunately, Ann and I live in the Dudgeon Monroe neighborhood with the right mix of amenities. We have lived in our neighborhood since 1986. In 1996, we intentionally decided to remain after I turned down an attractive job offer in Lorain, Ohio. Two years ago, when we sold our home, we once again decided to "stay put", and we moved to an apartment in the heart of lower Monroe Street.

Among the amenities within are neighborhood are a bike/pedestrian path, a lake, several coffeehouses, a library, our bank, a bookstore, Trader Joe's, a public high school and elementary schools, a private school (Wingra), churches and restaurants all within walking distance. Equally important are residents who willingly volunteer and work to preserve and enhance community life. We are fortunate to have an active neighborhood association and a strong Monroe Street business association. I would be remiss not to mention volunteers who care for the prairies along the Southwest Bike/Pedestrian Path and especially those who show up regularly at Prospect Gardens.

On a personal level Wendell Berry's poem "A Standing Ground" suggests a value of "staying put". Wendell Berry is a poet, essayist, novelist and farmer, born on August 5, 1934, in New Castle, Kentucky. His literary works reflect his deep agrarian Kentucky roots and his keen sense of place.

A Standing Ground  

However just and anxious I have been,
I will stop and step back
from the crowd of those who may agree
with what I say, and be apart.
There is no earthly promise of life or peace
but where the roots branch and weave
their patient silent passages in the dark;
uprooted, I have been furious without an aim.
I am not bound for any public place,
but for ground of my own
where I have planted vines and orchard trees,
and in the heat of the day climbed up
into the healing shadow of the woods.
Better than any argument is to rise at dawn
and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.

This poem points out the healing quality of solitude and how peace is gained through being grounded in an environment you create. Berry seeks refuge and finds peace on his farm with its vines, orchards and woods. He has "stayed put", planted and nurtured the environment. The result is savoring the peaceful moments of life, may these be as simple as picking "dew-wet red berries in a cup."

While I am a city dweller, I too have savored peaceful moments while caring for the Prospect Gardens along with  volunteers who are my neighbors. To refresh your memory, the Gardens are along the Southwest Bike/Pedestrian Path, commonly referred to simply as "the path." The path is more than a means of transportation.  It's a corridor teaming with life including human beings like this one speeding towards his destination. Perhaps unrecognized by him, are the countless daily human interactions taking place along the path, such as those that happened at Prospect Gardens during our August 25th work session.

Sharing food is an interaction that builds community. Once again my kind and generous wife, Ann, offered her homemade cheesecake tassies topped with currant jelly.

Ann bakes for every work session. All volunteers always leave after the work session with a treat to take home and enjoy. 

Ann does her fair share of weeding and taking care of the Gardens. She also often pays attention to the ramps, clearing them of leaves and other debris, making them safer for the bike riders.

Here's Steve, Laura (upper left), Ann N., and Joyce (in the middle) caught enjoying the cheesecake tassies. Joyce looks like she is in the middle of a bite. I too enjoyed one during the break and afterwards snitched another. The tassies were so delicious.  The standing joke is that these core volunteers only show up because of Ann's treats and I am starting to believe it. Regardless, their continued support is greatly appreciated.
Here's Jody relaxing in her comfortable chair while chatting  with Laima and UW student, Jessica(on the far right). Chatting always happens during breaks as well as while working. Through these chats we get to know each other and are informed about what's happening in our lives.

I feel very bonded to our core regular volunteers and of course, to Jody.  I have known Jody for at least a decade and served on committees that supported Jody during her studies to be a Unitarian Minister and chaplain.

This was Jessica's first time. She learned of us through Dane County United Way's website. I post announcements of work sessions on the site.  Thanks for joining the crew. You worked hard and we enjoyed getting to know you.  I hope you return and become a regular as you complete your UW studies.

Here's Ken in one of our "Stewards of the Path" t- shirts, having one indicates he has been volunteering, when he can, for several years. A few years ago the Dudgeon Monroe Association provided funds for the bright green shirts. I plan to ask if we could again get t-shirts for those who have volunteered since the t-shirts were first distributed.

When Ken first volunteered he was concerned about his ability to distinguish weeds from flowers. I assured him not to worry because the Gardens would always fill in any flowers he accidentally pulled.

Ken has a sweet and lovely granddaughter who he regularly cares for. It's always a pleasure seeing him and his granddaughter. She always greets me warmly and with a big smile. During Halloween's trick or treat time, she now comes to our apartment with her loving grandfather, instead of our former house.
Here's Jessica and Laima removing the tenacious and persistent Bishop's Weed. The stripes in the right hand corner are from Laura's back. All season we have been waging battle against Bishop's Weed and I think the weeds won. Laura reminded me of this fact. Perhaps using Round-Up is next. Yet I am reluctant to use a herbicide.

Here's four crew members tackling weeds on the upper section of the Gardens located in the Regent Neighborhood. Purple Cone flowers were once abundant in this section.  This section hopefully will be replanted this fall. Purple Cone flowers will be included.

Thank you to all who shared August 25th with me. Because of your generosity, I experienced the joy of being connected with you that results from "staying put" in our neighborhood. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Generosity, UW Badger Volunteers, Blooms and Monarch Butterflies

The Prospect Gardens work session held on Friday (August 3) was one of generosity,  summer blooms and a visiting Monarch. Babatunde Aremu, a Nigerian Poet, says this about the quality of being kind and generous.


Open those tight fists
Do not hold back
Make your palms transparent
Release that dime
Be a blessing
Wipe tears away
That little drop
Is what someone desires
Be an answer to someone's prayer
Be an instrument of succour
Sow that seed impartially
Don't delay, cease the moment
Be an angel to that poor soul
Remember, whatsoever you sow
Shall return to you in folds

John Imes, Executive Director of the non-profit Wisconsin Environmental Initiative, answered my frequent prayers for volunteers. John's organization sponsors a team of UW Badger Volunteers, a program sponsored by the University's  Morgridge Center for Public Service. John generously provided his team of students for an afternoon of weeding the shade garden. Thank you, John.

Badger Volunteers usually work once a week with John on various tasks including those supporting the mission of the Wisconsin Environmental Initiative. John has over 25 years of experience creating and managing programs for improving our environment and economy. See for more information about WEI.

Here's the team who did not hold back their generous and energetic spirits as they cleared and hauled away weeds from the shade garden. Starting on the left is Claire, Patricia, Cloris, Xiyu, and Evan. The Hostas, the Jacob's Ladders, Ferns and other plants in the shade garden are now more visible as a result of the team's hard labor.

I am grateful for their generously offered labor and for the opportunity to share our lives during a most pleasant afternoon. I so enjoyed a discussion with Cloris, a student from Southern China, about Christianity and it's many branches. Our discussion was prompted by us noticing the stained glass windows of the nearby Blessed Sacrament Church, after a bathroom break. I pointed out a window depicting a pope. Her questions about being a pope led to the topic of Christianity.

Here's Claire pulling weeds. She knew her weeds and worked rapidly. In the upper right hand corner, is Patricia hauling a basket of weeds to the pile.  During the following Monday morning, once again, staff of City Engineering picked up the pile of plant material. Another generous act.

Patricia and Evan, both Wisconsin born, also worked diligently. I liked Evan's overalls. As a kid I reluctantly wore bibs while being envious of kids with jeans. Now occasionally I consider buying a pair at Farm and Fleet because they strike me as being comfortable. At my age, comfort beats fashion.
Here's Xiyu, another student from Southern China, demonstrating her Badger weeding skills. Another diligent worker, Xiyu is just starting her UW studies. I will be proud to count her, as well her other four team members, as Badger Alumni when they graduate.
Colectivo, our neighborhood coffee shop and gathering place, once again provided chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies. Thank you, Nelson, the manager of the Monroe branch, for this generous deed.
Here's Patricia, Cloris and Xiyu enjoying the cookies during a well deserved break. We all agreed that the large cookies were delicious. I especially liked the oatmeal raisin cookies, one of my favorites. Another favorite of mine are Colectivo's scones. Always fresh and yummy.

Here's the rest of the team enjoying Colectivo's generosity. Just before our time together ended, a friendly dog came by and attempted to benefit from Colectivo's gift. He managed to get his nose into the bag of remaining cookies, but only got a small piece of a cookie.  Generosity has its limits.

As a result of the Badger Volunteers hard work, I feel that we are finally ahead of the weeds, although Bishop's Weed still plagues a few parts of another section.The August 25th work session will knock back this tenacious weed.

A few days after the Badger Volunteers left I returned to the Gardens and enjoyed the summer blooms. The blooms testified to the generosity of many volunteers since the Gardens started nine years ago. As the poem states :

"Remember, whatsoever you sow
Shall return to you in folds"

Here now are five pictures of the summer blooms. These should keep returning as the years slip by. This soul will keep praying for volunteers while recognizing the impermanence of gardens and life itself.

Here's a stand of Joe Pye Weed that continues to thrive. Filling the lower right had corner is Brown Eye Susan, a species of Rudeckia. They too have thrived. Unfortunately, this species spreads rapidly to the point that some must be periodically removed. Pretty to look at, easy to grow and yet aggressive.
An assortment of summer blooms in this picture along with a colorful birdhouse. A wren comes visiting. I am unsure if it actually laid and hatched eggs. Wrens like to build several nests and then pick one out for raising their brood.

Filling the top left quarter of the picture is Sweet Black Eye Susan, another species of Rudeckia. The droopy yellow blooms to the right of the birdhouse are Yellow Cone Flowers.  The splashes of purple are from the rod like Liatris (Prairie Blazing Star) and Purple Cone flower.
Featured in this picture is a red Lobelia or Cardinal flower. Look closely and you will notice the blooms are past their peak, an early sign that summer is passing. I noticed in another section of the Gardens, two less majestic Cardinal flowers than those pictured. I didn't plant them.  Ah, the wonders of Mother Nature.
This picture reminds me of Claude Monet's gardens. Monet is famous for his gardens as well as for his French Impressionist paintings. The weathered picket fence, installed years ago, marks the northern border of Prospect Gardens. The small yellow blooms on top of tall stalks are a species of Daisies. Filling out the area behind the fence are Joe Pye Weed and the golden yellow Japanese Sumac.

I don't know the name of the dark purple plants in front of the fence. Neighbors bordering the Gardens planted them several years ago. The contrast with the fence is quite pleasing.
If you were a Monarch Butterfly, you would love the nectar of this Milkweed plant. Monarchs also lay their eggs on its leaves. This Milkweed is food source for the current generation of Monarchs and the start of future generations.  In return the Monarch pollinates the Milkweed.  A perfect symbiotic relationship.

Planting Milkweed, as we did, is part of a national effort to help Monarchs survive. Monarchs have dramatically decreased in the last two decades. A September 2017 article notes a decline of 84% between the winters of 1996–1997 and 2014–2015. Equally alarming, the article warns that Monarchs face near extinction in the next 20 years. (

Monarchs are in trouble for several reasons. The destruction of forest in Mexico's mountains, where Monarchs reside during part of their live cycle, is a major contributor.  Generations of Monarch find their way to the Upper Midwest and to places like Prospect Gardens. Contributing to the Monarch's decline is the rise of industrialized farming. Planting row crops such as corn and soybeans along with heavy herbicide usage destroys needed habitat including Milkweed. Milkweed was plentiful growing in fence hedgerows or in fields before the widespread use of herbicides.

When I see a Monarch in Prospect Gardens my heart goes out to these delicate beings.  I realize that it has taken 2-3 generations to get to Prospect Gardens. Butterflies that left Mexico’s mountains flew to the southern US in the spring and laid eggs before dying, and those new butterflies matured and  began making their way across the US and stopped to have another generation. That second generation continued, facing daunting challenges as they searched for Milkweed plants to sustain their next generation. With luck and persistence the second or third generation made it to Prospect Gardens, and feasted on this Milkweed.

The Badger Volunteer team contributed to the survival of Monarchs because they helped maintain a green space with critically needed butterfly habitat. I will long remember the team's generosity, kindness and diligence. 


Monday, July 23, 2018

Weeds and a Banner

Last Saturday, July 21st and the day before my birthday, intrepid volunteers joined Ann and I for a session of weeding and removing two aggressive prairie plants, Saw Tooth Daisy and a species of Rudbecki. The two aggressors spread from their initial locations and were crowding out other desired native plants. In short, the two species were no longer valued native plants. They were now weeds.

The morning's session reminded me of Carl Sandburg's poem, Weeds.  It includes a view from the weeds' perspective while pointing out their persistence in the face of societal norms.

From the time of the early radishes
To the time of the standing corn
Sleepy Henry Hackerman hoes.
There are laws in the village against weeds.
The law says a weed is wrong and shall be killed.
The weeds say life is a white and lovely thing
And the weeds come on and on in irresistible regiments.
Sleepy Henry Hackerman hoes; and the village law uttering a ban on 
weeds is unchangeable law. 

This Spring's wet weather followed by hot temperatures made the weeds and aggressive plants "come on and on in irresistible regiments."  More than usual, I would add. Fortunately the volunteer crew had the tenacity of Henry Hackerman, while not being "sleepy" at all.  Here we are cutting up just a bit during a break and after enjoying Ann B's homemade lemon bars.

On the first step, starting from the left, is Joyce, Jody and Larry.  Joyce recently traveled to Easter Island. We heard about her adventure. Jody and Larry were "newbies." In the back row is Laura, me and Ann N. with the blue hat and doing a royal like wave.  Thanks to each of you for spending part of your day tending the Gardens. We made much progress against the irresistible regiments.

Here's Ann N. striking a pose. We have known Ann and her husband, Don, or at least thirty years. Their daughter was friends with our daughter Emily since pre-school. Staying in one place (Madison) overtime has its benefits and this includes the pleasure of knowing the same people through different phases of life.

Here's Larry pulling aggressive plants. The pinkish plants are Joe Pye Weed. Friends from West Bend donated them several years ago and they are thriving. Larry, before he retired, grew and sold flowers. He still has a small greenhouse. Larry told me that he sold Joe Pye blossoms to florists.
Here's Laura and Joyce teaming up clearing out weeds from a section on the Regent side of the Gardens. They also  removed the two aggressive plants.

The two working side-by-side represent the partnership between Dudgeon Monroe and Regent Neighborhood Associations that supports Prospect Gardens. Joyce lives in the Regent Neighborhood and Laura is a resident of Dudgeon Monroe.
There is always time to talk with neighbors or those just passing by. Here is Joyce talking with a neighbor she knows. I stopped to admire the baby in the stroller. She has wonderful long eye lashes. She did not pay much attention to me.

Earlier in the day I enjoyed an exchange with a stranger entering the ramp on his bike. He stopped and we chatted. I learned that he knew Clifton Hillegrass, a Nebraska native, who started CliffsNotes in 1958. The stranger explained how different professors working on CliffsNotes editions would meet in his home and how Hilegrass made millions while increasing the income of other professors.

We also shared our fondness for Burlington, Vermont, a place he once lived. I often traveled to Burlington when I was an educational consultant for The Network Inc, an educational consulting firm located in Andover, Massachusetts. This was my first position after earning a doctorate in education from Indiana University in 1983. I traveled throughout the New England States and occasionally New York and New Jersey working with primarily staff of state special education agencies.

Our daughter, Emily, was born in Lawrence, MA a town bordering Andover. The New England states have a special place in my heart. We moved back to Wisconsin in 1986 so Emily would experience her grandmothers, and her many aunts, uncles and cousins.

We all have our stories to tell and I enjoy hearing them from those passing by as I tend the Prospect Gardens. Story telling along the path shows how green spaces promote human connections. Sometimes, instead of a short story, the connection is a heartfelt "thank you for your work" from a walker or a biker whizzing by.

By noon our efforts resulted in this large pile of plant material. This morning, July 23rd, I returned to the Gardens for another two and a half hours of weeding. The additions to this pile made it the largest of the season. Perhaps a candidate for the book of Guinness World Records?

A city crew will do a pick up sometime this week. Thanks Ryan, City Engineering, for arranging the pick up and to the the crew who always follow through.

I also enjoyed this morning's chats with Ed, Derek, Richard and Susan. I very much enjoyed Richard's and Susan's singing of Happy Birthday, as they came up the bike ramp.
It's so nice to continue in a birthday celebration mood.
Finally, we come to the banner. This is just one of the ways I am trying to recruit more volunteers and especially those that are younger than me and the age of our regular volunteers. Most of us are over 60 and I just celebrated my 74th birthday.  I hope to have a few more good years of gardening.  Yet, inevitably I will need to give up tending the Prospect Gardens. Aging is a process of letting go.

Aging volunteers coupled with the challenge of recruiting younger ones is an issue faced by other lead volunteers heading up other prairie gardens along the Southwest Path. I'm spending more time this season on this issue and will in the near future.

If you are in the Madison area and not a regular volunteer, please consider volunteering. If you have any ideas about recruiting younger volunteers, I would like to hear from you.  

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Tour of Five Gardens: "One Vast Garden"

Prospect Gardens is just one of several gardens along the Southwest Bike/Pedestrian Path. Get ready for a tour of five other gardens. These gardens, along with others not part of the tour, make the Southwest Bike/Pedestrian more than a transportation corridor. Each of the five is unique with its own history. All depend on dedicated volunteers. Their time and energy has resulted in colorful prairies, places for human connections, habitat for birds, butterflies, insects, animals, and pleasing views for all who use the path.

Furthermore, volunteers have restored plots of what a spiritual leader and one of the great Hindu saints, Sri Ananandamayi Ma (1896-1982), referred to as "One Vast Garden", a metaphor for our universe. Here are her words. Please note two male pronouns in the original have been replaced with gender neutral terms. Changes are underlined.   

 "I find one vast garden spread out all over the universe.

All plants, all human beings, all higher mind bodies

are about in this garden in various ways ,

each has their own uniqueness and beauty.

Their presence and variety give me great delight.

Every one of you adds a special feature to the glory of the garden.”  

Our first prairie is the furthest one west of Prospect Gardens covering areas along both sides of the Hammersely connector to the Southwest path.  Laura from the Midvale neighborhood seeded these areas mostly on her own in 2001-2002.  Laura also tends other prairie gardens between Midvale Boulevard and west towards the Beltline.  She affectionately refers to one section just west of the Midvale as "the big ditch."

I estimate that the pictured prairie is at least 300 feet long and 60 feet deep. I stepped it off with my Fitbit. Across from it and on the east side, is a long stretch of mostly cup plants. Bikers, runners and walkers use the bridge in the picture to cross over the busy four lane beltline.  Further down the path and just past the Allied Neighborhood, the path connects with several other trails including the Capital Trail that takes you around Madison through the Nine Springs area. About a block from our apartment, I can get on the Southwest Bike Path and do an 18 mile loop that includes the Capital Trail.

 Here's another view of the prairie surrounding the Hammersely connector. Pictured are some usual prairie plants such as native Bee Balm, Purple Cones and the tall Cup plants. These will have large yellow blooms in late summer. The large leaves form a cup which catches rain water.

A few weeks ago Laura emailed reporting several discoveries while pulling hedge parsley and wild parsnip in the "big ditch" west of Midvale Boulevard. As Laura hoped, over the small pools created in the ditch bottom by erosion from flood waters, she noticed tadpoles and damselfly nymphs in the pooled water. In the bottom of the ditch she also discovered swamp milkweed and wet tolerant grasses. These discoveries are worth celebrating. They are also are a testimony to Laura's seventeen years of persistence caring for the "big ditch", the Hammersely connector and other prairie sections along the Southwest Path.

Traveling east from the "big ditch" on the Southwest Bike/Pedestrian Path to the intersection of  Odana Road, takes you to the magnificent Dudgeon Monroe Prairie. It's on the southeast corner. I consider this the crown jewel of the all the prairies along the Path because of its diversity and size. This gem spans a total of 6,490 square feet.

Sue and volunteers began planting in 2000 before the Southwest Path formally opened on July 28, 2001. The first plantings were 320 forbs and grasses from Agrecol, a commercial supplier near Janesville.  Much of the seed came from Audubon's Goose Pond in Arlington and Pleasant Valley near Black Earth. 

Sue, Laura, caretaker of the "big ditch, and others were the initial members of the Friends of the Southwest Bike and Pedestrian Path, formed before the path opened. A 2000 article by Bill Jordan states their aim:  

"to foster a sense of community along the bike/pedestrian corridor, with due regard for plants and animals as well as for the human community--a sense of the cultural commons that includes goldfinches and walnut trees as well as people. " (see   

Sue and her volunteers through hard work have achieved this lofty aim drafted nearly 20 years ago. This picture is just a glimpse of the beauty and majesty of their creation.  You must visit this prairie to fully appreciate its beauty and what Sue and other volunteers under her guidance have achieved.

The prairie was the staging area used to construct the path.  As a result, underneath this prairie is crushed asphalt, the remains of the staging area. Heavy equipment was parked there plus two work trailers. Soil, including four tons of sand in the front third of the main prairie, was trucked in to cover the asphalt.  According to Sue: " the plants are thriving in spite of it all." Among the thriving plants are several species on state lists as either endangered or of special concern.

Sue continues caring for the Dudgeon Monroe Prairie. She is still deeply committed to the aim for the entire Southwest Path corridor that she helped set in 2000.

Bonnie, Chair of the Westmorland Greenspace Crew, and volunteers also have achieved the 2000 aim. Ten years ago Bonnie and her stalwart volunteers took on the challenge of restoring a ravine on the north side of the path at the intersection of Glenway Street. The site,  sometimes called the "Glenway Gulch", is east of The Dudgeon Monroe Prairie and is in the Westmorland Neighborhood.

Initially, City Engineering helped the crew to eradicate a carpet of garlic mustard and then established prairie/native plantings. City Engineering contracted for both tasks. 

Bonnie's crew manages the almost half acre site. This includes yearly burns, seeding and planting.  Also required is frequent removal of  aggressive species such as garlic mustard, dame’s rocket, motherwort, ragweed, Canada thistle, and Japanese hedge parsley.

Bonnie says that because of its difficult history:  "We are happy with nearly anything native that grows there; the goal is not necessarily diversity or a particularly garden look." This picture shows that Bonnie and crew have succeeded and can be very happy with the results.  A once weed infested ravine is now a space of beauty and a natural habitat.

Across the street from the Glenway Gulch and in the Dudgeon Monroe Neighborhood is the Glenway Area Prairie. The north section covers 3,267 square feet in 3 sections separated by grassy strips. Another south section of 566 square feet is bordered by grass and private property which includes woods.

This prairie has a special place in my heart. Robin, a Dudgeon Monroe resident, originally did some planting in a smaller area of the current prairie. Sandy agreed to take over when she moved into the neighborhood in 2007. I volunteered for the first time after the initial area was expanded with the help of the city and the Dudgeon Monroe Neighborhood Association. I fondly remember that day when I pedaled my bike to the site. We smoothed out black dirt and planted seedlings, also known as "plugs."  During a break, we enjoyed chocolate chip cookies from the Saturday Market. Since 2007 other sections were added to the prairie.

I continued volunteering at Glenway until 2010 when we (Steve, and his late wife, Peg, and myself) began the Prospect Gardens, and I then became its crew chief or lead volunteer. Thanks Sandy for introducing me to prairie gardening along the Southwest Path and for encouraging us to start the Prospect Gardens site.

This picture is a small window to the beauty of what Sandy started over a decade ago. The north side of the prairie is mostly short grass prairie plantings, with a border of native ornamental plants in an area closest to Glenway.  Small dogwoods and native shrubs are also part of this area.

The native plants were chosen based on Sue's Dudgeon Monroe Prairie, with allowances for more shade and moisture. The south section has wildflowers and a woodland garden.

Our final prairie garden is about three quarters of a block west of Prospect Gardens at the Commonwealth Avenue intersection and is the newest garden along the path. David and his wife, Jeannette, began planting this beauty in 2014 after receiving a Madison Neighborhood grant. The garden is in the Regent Neighborhood.

It's a 1,200 square foot garden with a focus on plants that attract butterflies and native pollinators. The garden has a diverse mix of flowers and grasses that are native to the area. According to the initial grant, the goal was "to beautify an underutilized neighborhood space that can be enjoyed not only by the surrounding neighbors, but also the many people that enjoy the bike path every day."

The goal has been accomplished. The garden includes special seating designed and installed by Peter, a landscape architect. Much of the stone was donated. Another bench is opposite of the one pictured. David applied the finish to the benches.    
This is just one of many colorful prairie plants in the garden.  The garden has 38 different species of wild flowers and 4 different native grasses.  A plastic box on a pole has a catalog showing all the plants in the garden. Check it out if you visit this garden.

Sit quietly on one of the slab benches and enjoy this beautified space. A Monarch butterfly may gently float pass or you may see, in the late summer, a Gold Finch feeding on the Purple Cone seeds. A chipmunk may check you out and Cardinals may fly across the garden.

Rest awhile and contemplate your place in what Sri Ananandamayi Ma calls "one vast garden."  Perhaps you may notice your special contribution to our universal garden and how we are all interdependent and connected. 

This concludes the five prairie garden tour. May these five plots of the "one vast garden" continue nurturing all beings who live in them, live near them, care for them, and travel by or through them. 


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Heat, a Surprise, Blooms & Thresholds

During the last two days Madison residents experienced record breaking heat. Temperatures were in the low 90s, with high humidity and a heat index of at least a 105.  Early morning hours were pleasant as I did my Tai Chi on the deck. I felt the heat increasing as the sun rose higher in the sky.  Each day the temperatures were in the 80s by ten o'clock.

Generally, I like summer heat. Yet on Saturday during my mid-morning walk, which included a stop at the bank, I stayed in the shade as much as possible. On returning home I walked along Lake Wingra. I savored the brisk wind off of  the lake. This poem by the American poet and novelist Hilda Doolittle, who published as H.D., reflects my feelings as the wind cooled my body.


H. D. (Hilda Doolittle) , 1886 - 1961

O wind, rend open the heat,
cut apart the heat,
rend it to tatters.

Fruit cannot drop
through this thick air--
fruit cannot fall into heat
that presses up and blunts
the points of pears
and rounds the grapes.

Cut the heat--
plough through it,
turning it on either side
of your path.

Last Friday's (the 29th) work session with the UW Badger Volunteers was cancelled because of the heat. Fortunately, earlier in the week when Ann and I tended the Gardens temperatures were tolerable. On Thursday morning, I left early to meet Janice, a former colleague. On her way to work, she delivered this Purple Cone flower, along with another bunch and Golden Rod. Thanks Janice. 

Janice is an avid gardener. As a volunteer she also tends a prairie off of Atwood Avenue and on the east side of Madison. Lovely prairie that borders vegetable gardens along a bike path. We discussed the challenges of recruiting volunteers. I offered to meet with her at an Atwood Avenue coffee shop to discuss recruitment. She mentioned developing a marketing plan for the east side prairie. Something to consider for Prospect Gardens. My concentrated recruitment efforts starting in March has not substantially increased the number of volunteers.

 As I waited for Janice's arrival, I happened to glance where the Prickly Pear cacti are located.To my surprise, this one had a delicate yellow bloom. Several years ago John, the Secretary of Legacy Solar Co-op, donated and planted the cacti. Later on I excitedly informed John of this surprising event. John takes care of the cacti.

This is the first year one has bloomed. On Saturday's walk I noticed the delicate bloom was disappearing. Oh the impermanence of beauty and life itself.

I trimmed the Forsythia that was shading the cacti. Sometime in the Fall I may move the cacti to a more sunny and prominent place in the Gardens. Perhaps this will encourage more blooms. John thinks this a good idea and he has recommended it for several years.

Here's a close up of the showy bloom. Like a happy and proud adoptive parent, I made sure Janice saw the bloom before she left for work as well as another neighbor and her three friends who were passing by.  Laura B., another volunteer working on a prairie further down the path, stopped as she was biking. We both admired the blooming cactus. 

In 2000-01 Laura B.,with some help from her husband and minimal help from another volunteer, planted a prairie west along the Path and near the Beltline, a highway bypass around Madison. She shared how she seeded the Prairie and the challenges of maintaining it. Her husband was initially very involved in developing the Southwest Path. 

It was good to visit with an experienced and dedicated restorer of prairies. Laura tends what she calls "the big ditch." A few days later Laura emailed that during weeding the ditch she noticed swamp milkweed, boneset, cord grass, and other wet-tolerant natives. She added: "This is with no burns and very little maintenance since it was seeded in 2001-2. It’s rewards like this that keep me coming back." The blooming cactus is one my rewards for coming back to Prospect Gardens. 

Last Monday, the 25th, I completed the rock removal project, which I commented about in my last blog entry. Here's a portion of the new bed with fewer rocks, new and more soil and various kinds of native prairie grasses donated by Nate, a nearby neighbor. Thanks again, Nate.

Redeveloping the bed took time, patience and involved much sweating. Pushing a wheelbarrow full of rock down the path and up the ramp to a temporary location tested my endurance. It's a task that I don't want to do for awhile.

Here's a close up of the newly planted native grasses. As they grow they will fill-in the entire bed. Rocks still cover the adjoining area west of this new bed. Removing these and planting more grasses, perhaps, is in the future, but not this summer. My rock days are over for this season.

To close I share with you four pictures of what is now blooming in Prospect Gardens and another poem. Like the blooming cactus, their return are the rewards for tending the Gardens.

 Here's a showy Lily up against an old white picket fence on the south side of the Gardens. Love the pale and vibrant yellow. A former neighbor now a resident of Oakwood, a west side retirement community, donated these several years ago. Every spring they have shown up.

This patch needs to be transplanted and moved up front so more folks can enjoy the splendor of these returning beauties. Another task for the Fall. I will subdivide the bulbs. There  will be plenty to share with Dianne, a neighbor near the Gardens.
Here's a Pale Purple Cone.The Gardens have fewer of these  compared to the more hearty and deeper colored Purple Cones. The Purple Cones are thriving compared to their pale cousins and I really don't know why. Something to look into during the winter months.
 Behind this butterfly house is the marvelous and delicate Queen of the Prairie. This year the Queens are making a come back. Last year a disease or fungus attacked the leaves before the blooms could appear. I cut the plants back rather than spraying. 
This patch of Poppy Mallow or Winecups, part of Peg's memorial garden, returned in all its splendor. What a marvelous ground cover that blooms for a long time and what a splashy welcome to all who descend the stairs or enter the ramp to the path on the south side of the Gardens. These are as vibrant as was Peg's spirit.

On this warm evening I end with another poem. Gardening, heat and summer itself are instances of thresholds. This poem is from our church's recent newsletter, The Madison Unitarian, which is devoted to thresholds. It speaks to me about the significance and power of thresholds we experience in life. They are entrances to truth and the crossing process towards truth includes letting go. 

Entrance by Rainer Maria Rilkg (trans. Dana Goia)

Whoever you are: step out of doors tonight,
Out of the room that lets you feel secure.
Infinity is open to your sight.
Whoever you are.
With eyes that have forgotten how to see
From viewing things already too well-known,
Lift up into the dark a huge, black tree
And put it in the heavens: tall, alone.
And you have made the world and all you see.
It ripens like the words still in your mouth.
And when at last you comprehend its truth.
Then close your eyes and gently set it free.