Falling in Love with Grassland

I am finally accepting the fact that winter is coming and I had better enjoy fall (despite all of this horrible rain) while it lasts. One of the gifts gardening has given me is the ability to look at the landscape and plant life around me with new eyes. I started to look with a new perspective as a way to better understand my plants and their needs. I have found that closely observing a plant growing in the wild has lead to really “getting” something that was formerly unclear or missing in my care of a specific plant. And watching the way the plants grow and spread in different conditions has inspired me to rethink the way I design and plan a garden. But over time I also found that a little bit of knowledge can turn a landscape that was formerly dull, overlooked, and taken for granted into something fascinating and full of wonder. Those tiny observations seem to create a domino effect to learn more. I should add that photography has only added to that because as my way of seeing has changed, so has my approach to documenting what I see changed.

It may seem cheesy — y’all aren’t going to laugh at me right(?) — but I have fallen in love with the grassland, beach, and marsh areas on The Toronto Islands and have taken to documenting the changes that occur there with the seasons. It’s fascinating to see how the plants differ growing in such sandy soil. I like the stark, vertical direction of the landscape. Plants seem to grow up rather than overtly puffy or outward. I am slowly learning the identities of some of the previously unknown plants. I took the majority of these pictures on a beautiful Fall day a couple of weekends ago. If you know the name of a plant or disagree with my identification please post.

Panic Grass
    Panic Grass (Panicum virgatum) aka Switch Grass
    I believe this is the same plant, taken last year.
Marsh Bullrush
    Bullrush (Typha latifolia) aka Common Cattail
    It seems like they’ve been revitalizing this beach area. Further up the hill there are several native wildflower species that I don’t recall previously.
    Mullein (Verbascum thapsus). One of my favourite local herb plants used for throat conditions and coughs. It is also a beautiful and very structural plant that looks great in the winter. A few have grown as volunteers in my street garden and I have let them go since they also do very well in drought conditions.
    Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) They grow all over one particular section of the beach, putting out their fluffy seeds at this time of year and then remaining as clusters of sculptural shells. I had pickled, immature milkweed pods a few years ago and they were very tasty.
    Goldenrod (Solidago) These also grow on the beach among the milkweed. They are very short and tiny in comparison to the goldenrod that pops up wild in my street garden.
Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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3 thoughts on “Falling in Love with Grassland

  1. Yea the images are great. I’m sitting here in in an office in the UK, and its just a pleasure to look at these. looking forward to working through your blog!

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