Providing winter hospitality to both vertebrate (birds mammals, lizards, etc.) and invertebrate (insects, spiders, worms, etc) wildlife is an important consideration when tidying the garden at the end of the season.

Unlike the other plants in my garden, turf grass has always struggled to get my attention. Compared to my knowledge of food crops and herbaceous perennials, I know next to nothing about turf grasses…and I would prefer to keep it that way. Some would find that hard to believe, but it’s true. Identifying turf is like complex math to me…I can do it, but I don’t want to.

When I look at turf, my eyes only see two types: good turf and bad turf.

I admire the knowledge of plant biologists, especially that group of expert botanists who make me feel like a novice in comparison…those are the people I love to hang around with at any given opportunity to improve my own skills and knowledge. Every time I look up a plant description, a little place in the back of my mind remembers that someone or a group of someones very similar at some point in history discovered my exact plant of interest, describing it in extreme detail and giving it a scientific name for the first time.

How perfect for Punxsutawney Phil to predict six more weeks of winter on the day when snow was falling heavily in the St Louis Metropolitan. School would have been cancelled when and where I grew up in Indiana on a day like that. But because of COVID-19, snow days for students are coming to be a thing of the past with our increasing ability to switch rapidly to remote learning. Remembering my growing up in the 60s and 70s, one of the local banks maintained a phone service that provided the time and temperature, plus any announcements of a school delay or closing.

The impact of nature upon our well-being is truly amazing. The morning before Thanksgiving, I stepped outside to walk the dog and was met by the most glorious sky. Immediately I thought of the old saying “pink sky in morning, sailor’s warning,” but I shrugged that off immediately because I already knew rain was not in the forecast and Mother Nature was just showing off. As I continued to walk, enjoying the dog frisking in the breeze and the unusual light, a rafter of nine turkeys strolled out of the nearby woods to make the morning all the more beautiful.

It’s not until their dainty little blooms appear that I can more easily differentiate a patch of Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucularia) from a patch of squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis). The flowers of Dutchman’s breeches are often described as looking like “a pair of white pants hanging by their legs on a clothesline”…but to me, they look like upside down, yellow-waisted M.C Hammer parachute pants. And when the wind makes them dance, even more so. Squirrel corn looks like traditional little white hearts, oftentimes touched by pink.

What comes to mind when you think of your garden or the landscape in the fall? Not including all the work gardeners do in preparation for the coming winter, sit back and just meditate on all the things you associate with fall. My list was amazingly long and looking at it as a whole, it brought a rather peaceful happiness to me. Leaves played a very big part in my association with fall, as I expect the same will be true for others.

There are just some native plants you just don’t want to cultivate near well-traveled paths, and most especially if you have a dog. I ’m talking about native plants that have developed a seed dispersal method that involves hitching a ride on any animal passing by. Just a few that I regularly encounter include begger-ticks (Bidens sp.), sandbur (Cenchrus longispinus), stick-tight (Desmodium sp.), snakeroots (Sanicula sp.) and stickseed (Hackelia virgiianum).