This time of year is bittersweet for me, with so many memories crowding my mind.

Saturday was the fifth anniversary of Mama's death, so my emotions are very raw. At the same time, new growth is springing up, reminding me that life goes on. Too much of that life (and its pollen) is in my front yard right now, reminding me that I need to work on that yard, starting with figuring out how to keep people from backing up in it, ruining it even more.

That big mudhole every time it rains is lots of fun and takes forever to dry out. Thanks.

I'm inclined most of the time to let the "weeds" like henbit and clover grow as much as they want, remembering a childhood spent with a backyard full of those (we won't talk about the front yard, which was so full of sandburs that going barefoot was inadvisable).

That yard was a paradise to me when I was little. While much of what we had in the way of shrubbery wasn't truly native--my favorites were the Bridal Wreath spirea hedge at one edge of the property and the japonica (flowering quince) that butted up against it, and the big old lilac bush that was probably 40 years old or older when I was born--it wasn't invasive either. I had a teacher in elementary school we gave some lilac suckers to, as well as some bearded iris rhizomes that had been planted in the wrong place, and I believe she was able to make them grow.

I still miss those plants; they always remind me of spring. Around Easter and Mother's Day (which was Decoration Day at Dayton Cemetery) were when the japonica and lilac were most showy, and the spirea usually started showing out toward the end of May when school was ending.

Once I had moved away from home, visits there at this time of year calmed me, and I started missing those plants more when I was back in my new home. I tried transplanting suckers from the lilac, and also tried layering it as well as the spirea, but wasn't successful (it didn't help that I didn't get to visit often enough to ensure that contact with the ground was being maintained). As time went on and the property wasn't consistently lived on and maintained, those plants I loved died or were crowded out by invasive plants like Chinese privet.

I tried ordering those shrubs (not the japonica, though; as much as I love those flowers and will take pictures of them every time I happen upon them in the wild, the thorns are enough to dissuade me), but I've never been able to get them going long enough here to see the flowers I remember. Our yard back home was apparently the sweet spot, at least till it started getting hotter earlier; now I'm too far south.

I grew wildflowers, perennials and roses in planters for a long time as a renter, but ill health and other issues made it unsustainable. I fully own my own home now, but need to build up a nest egg again to make it really mine in the ways that, to me, count.

I haven't had the time, money or strength in recent years to do all I want, but when I can, I try to pick up native plants. Luckily for me, there's a great source of native plants that offers them twice a year for purchase, wrangling together multiple purveyors from across the state, meaning I don't have to make the rounds of those nurseries and use a lot of gas. Instead, I can just go online and order from Audubon Delta when I get the email telling me ordering is open, then pick them up at a later date.

Audubon Delta will be holding its spring native plant sale shortly, with ordering online beginning at 8 a.m. April 9 and continuing through 8 p.m. April 19. For more information, email uta.meyer@audubon.org or visit delta.audubon.org.

Why use native plants? For one thing, whether truly native to Arkansas or the U.S., they have become acclimated to the area and grow well, and thus tend to be low maintenance. If you choose a native like red buckeye or ninebark, you're not planting an invasive plant like mimosa or (shudder) Bradford pear, so you're lessening the spread of plants that, though they may be pretty, can crowd out wanted species (animal and plant) and damage the ecosystem.

I saw that happen in that sweet spot back home. There were bobwhites and other wild animals aplenty when I was little. But as invasive plants gained control, efforts to contain them meant that shelter for those animals was lost. (When the kids take care of the yard maintenance, it gets harder to do when they all move out, especially when it's not a tiny lot.)

My lot now is small, but in need of a lot of love: a tree or two in front to counter the sun pouring through the front windows and cool the house, some shrubs at the side to replace the hydrangeas that used to be there years before, and flowers that just make me happy. I have friends who have been doing their part to reduce their yards by planting natives and sowing plots with wildflowers, and they inspire me.

It will take time, but I'm determined to remake my yard to cut down on the mowing needed and trash blowing in from elsewhere, and to make it a more attractive to needed pollinators.

It won't be just like that paradise in Dayton, but it'll be my own.

Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at blooper@adgnewsroom.com. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com.

Upcoming Events