Stone Bunny just loves the woodland flowers. Oh, she loves all the flowers. But she really loves the woodland flowers. She loves how they all grow together and how they all seem to get along. They seem like such a happy, harmonious bunch out there in the woods. Stone Bunny wonders why that is so. She is always curious and never shy of asking her friends what they think.
The gang is all hanging around so Stone Bunny puts the question to them: “Have you guys noticed how well the woodland flowers seem to get along with each other? I mean, just look here how the Dutchman’s Breeches and the Trout Lillies are growing with the Ferns and the others.”
“Oh yeah I noticed it.” Stone Puppy states emphatically. “Oh yeah. I sure did! I noticed how the Trillium and the Spring Beauties always seem to get along.”“Yep, I noticed it and I’ve been thinking about it. I think it’s because they have such a short growing season. MmmmHmmm! They don’t have long to grow, so they have to get along with each other. Think about it! They don’t really come out of the ground until winter is over and they get shaded out once the leaves come on the trees. Wow. They need to do what they need to do in a really short time. They all have to get along, cooperate and be nice to each other so they can all grow and bloom. Thats what I think.”
Puppy smiles at his friends. He is very pleased with himself.
Gnome replies cautiously.“Well, Puppy, I think you’re onto something there. Yes, there is something to that. But we must consider the fact that all the other flowers have to compete for limited resources as well. The big summer bloomers are all competing for the sunshine during their summer blooming season just like the woodland flowers in early spring.”
Puppy retorts, “Yeah, Yeah! But that’s different. There’s a difference between a long summer where the plants have weeks and weeks to soak up the heat and humidity and sunshine versus a short spring when these guys only have a few weeks to come out of the ground and get blooming. Don’t you see? It’s different.”
Stone Turtle comes to Puppy’s defense. “Puppy, you ARE onto something. I think you are on the right track. But you gotta think about it in the context of what a great season it is that they share. Plenty of light in the woods and nice, damp soil, holding the moisture from winter through the gentle spring rains. Its a fine season for growth. I’d say its not just that the woodland plants are nice, but they are smart too, growing in such an excellent season.”
“Ahhh” says Iron Turtle. “Now we are getting somewhere.” Iron Turtle just loves when the critters discuss these things. “Yes, they are smart. They seize the brief moment of light in the forest and make the most of it. Just look at all the light in the woods on this fine spring morning.”
“In few weeks,” continues Iron Turtle “The forest will go shady. By the time that happens, the woodland flowers no longer need the light. They will have gained all the strength they need for their long dormant season. Other natural weeds which might compete with them struggle in the shady forest and can never quite get established. Ah, they are genius! But there is more. Something deeper and more important.”
Gnome sees where he is going. “They are natural.” He says. “They were here long before we came. Long before anyone even thought of flower gardens around here. The woodland flowers have been blooming in these woods for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Unlike the plants which bloom in the gardens, the woodland flowers do it all naturally, all on their own, and they don’t need any help the Human Referee.”
“I see.” says Stone Bunny. “They get along because they are here naturally, coexisting in the peace and harmony of nature. How very poetic. But the plants in the rest of the gardens are introduced by the Referee. They not naturally occurring in this ecosystem. And worse, the Ref tends to overcrowd them anyway, so they become very competitive. I get it. Thank You! I’m glad I asked.”
“Hang on a minute!” says Clay Pig. “Hang on one minute! You guys are acting like the Referee doesn’t interfere in the woods. He does so! He’s been out there pulling Mustard Garlic all week. He got Henry and Anna to do it too. They have pulled so much Mustard Garlic! Why, he’s working more in the woods than the garden. He fills this can again and again and again.”
Bunny and Puppy look to Iron Turtle. Turtle grins. “Nice catch Pig. You are absolutely right. But I must ask you, why does he pull Mustard Garlic?”
Without waiting for Pig to answer, Puppy blurts out “Because its mean, nasty, stinky and down right awful! And it will choke out all the other plants in the woods!”
Bunny is excited now. “Oh, I think I’m getting it now. He pulls the Mustard Garlic because he has to. If he didn’t, it would choke the other plants and all that awesome biodiversity would be lost. BUT, he doesn’t interfere with the other plants. He never moves them. Well, sometimes he takes a little piece to share with friends but he doesn’t try to engineer where they live. He just lets nature be nature.”
“Indeed.” says Iron Turtle. “Mustard Garlic is an invasive species introduced by humans and it must be fought or the ancient woodland flowers will die. This year it is particularly aggressive. The Referee does fine work on that count, but it is good of him to leave the natural plants alone, otherwise.”
The critters look at each other like maybe they figured this out.
Mary notices that Brass Frog has yet to speak. She knows he will have a strongly held opinion on this matter, as he does on all matters. She encourages Frog to share his opinion.
“Hmmppfffff.” states Frog flatly. “Peace and Harmony of Nature, my umbrella!”
“Those plants are fighting for every square inch of rich, moist ground that they can get. You have been fooled again, my friends. Just look at Purple overtake this spot on the edge of the woods.”“And observe Virginia Bluebell duking it out with Purple on this hillside, muscling the others out of the way.”“Need I remind any of you Trout Lilly’s behaviour of late?” Frog continues. “Oh yes! And what about Bloodroot? Sweet, pretty Bloodroot. What do you see here? The harmony of nature or precious Bloodroot gasping for air amidst several aggressive Bluebells with a few Trout Lillies sneaking up from below?”“I tell you, my friends. It is a war out there. The woodland plants may appear sweet, pretty and harmonious but they are gladiators who have survived for thousands of years through bare ruthlessness and gut determination.”
May is sorry she asked. “Thank you Frog,” she says, “That will be quite enough. We appreciate your point. You are, as usual, quite insightful about the competitive nature of plants. However, I think that Bunny made an excellent and accurate observation in noting that the woodland plants seem to exist in a more stable, harmonious condition than we experience around us in the gardens.”
Puppy can’t resist. “Come on Mary. Tell us why you think it is so.”
Mary replies, “I think our discussion this morning was spot on. The light. The season. The ancient, natural rhythm. Yes, I think that is why they can compete” (she nods in a friendly way towards Frog) “without being mean. I think Bunny is absolutely right. The woodland plants are a gentle, harmonious bunch and they are excellent company for the short season in which they are out and about, enjoying the weather. Let us celebrate their ancient, excellent qualities and endeavor to encourage more of that friendly competition in the gardens.”
The critters are excited on this perfect spring morning. They resolve to embrace the positive example of the woodland flowers and go forward as beneficial stewards of the gardens.
Even Frog grins. Curmudgeon though he may be, Frog can’t resist the good energy on this gorgeous day. Ah, life. It is a wonderful thing to behold!