I started learning about propagation because I wanted edible and medicinal perennial plants for my budding homestead and I quickly realized that buying them in any kind of quantity would cost more than I was prepared to pay. So my adventure in plant propagation began. I set up a little nursery of desirable species by sourcing cuttings from friends, grafting onto the wild crab apples on my land, and planting seeds. It took way more time than the nursery-bought alternative, and it was not always tidy or efficient, but I learned a ton. Helping plants to grow and reproduce uplifts the spirit, induces a reverence for nature, and can even nourish the body. I hope you will seek the magic out for yourself and share the joy with your family.
I grew up barely able to tell the difference between a maple leaf and an oak leaf. I perceived, somewhat dimly, that the crunchy green things I put into my mouth when I ate a salad were plant-related. And now I work with plants for a living. I still have so much to learn in my journey toward plant literacy, but I’ve certainly come a long way. I’m taking my family along for the ride, too. If I’m patient enough, and lucky enough, my kids will not only know the names, biology, and uses of plants in our area, they’ll have a deep and long-lasting reverence for the magic of the natural world. What follows are some of the best tools I’ve made use of along the way:[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240"] Credit: Emma Frisch[/caption]
Learn about (and eat) wild edibles. What better way to learn about plants than to digest them? As we know, an experience that engages all five senses will stick in the mind far longer than a paragraph read on the internet. You’ll feel the texture and taste of the plant on your tongue, and feel the way it sits in your stomach. Go on a wild edible walk with a knowledgeable guide to learn what’s safe and good to eat. Taste the surprising sweetness of black locust flowers, crack open your first shagbark hickory nut, bring home a sack of fiddleheads and sauté them up (as my wife has done the past few springs) for your loved ones. There is a world of gastronomic delight right outside your door. Nature’s Garden by Samuel Thayer is the most enjoyable book on the subject I’ve encountered. Though I haven’t personally taken any, I hear Earthwork Wilderness Survival Training School offers informative classes all through the summer and fall.
Project Native in the Berkshires has a new Native Butterfly House! This new addition will serve as a terrific community-based educational resource to help children and visitors understand the connection between butterflies and our native landscape here in Western MA. Pair a visit with a trip to Magic Wings in South Deerfield and the Springfield Museums’ “Amazing Butterflies” exhibit for a well-rounded educational experience that supplement nature studies involving pollinators & butterflies!