CLICK BELOW for the full inventory of plant species identified to date and the stories behind each discovery.
History of The Eco-Garden Project
Weeds to Wildflowers
In 2020, I began an exploration that had intrigued me since I moved back to the family homestead in upstate New York.
Every spring throughout my childhood, my mom and I would pull every weed in the vegetable garden in preparation for planting. We would always have a beautiful garden, bordered by bee balm, chicory and a milkweed or two.
I was always curious about those weeds. What were they, really? Could some of them be wildflowers?
When I returned to the homestead after years of traveling and tending many gardens, I once again knelt in the garden of my childhood to pull weeds. The question of what they were came back to me. I stopped weeding, stood up and decided to let them grow.
By summer the garden had become a wild field of fleabane, red clover, apple mint, wood asters, brown-eyed Susans and more.
I also noticed an abundance of bees, dragonflies and butterflies returning to the garden – some of which I hadn’t seen since childhood.
The discoveries prompted a summer of winemaking using only the plants found in my yard. The abundance of flowers inspired the construction of a Flower Wall as a natural “fence” along my property line.
Expanding Beyond the Garden
As I began researching the plants I was using in these projects, I decided to explore ALL the plants on the property.
In 2022, with the help of iNaturalist, I began identifying each new plant species, allowing sections of the yard to grow wild as I chronicled my discoveries as well as the stories and memories behind each plant. In the course of my explorations, I discovered an American elm tree growing underneath the porch (that Mom repeatedly tried to remove) and field pennycress that later became part of a national research project on climate change. To date, my inventory has reached well over 50 plant species.
This prompted a multi-year project of transforming the entire yard into a biodynamic eco-garden.
Deepening the Research through Art, Wildcrafting, Foraged Food and Wine
Being an artist, I didn’t stop at the science of identifying plants, I started asking, “What can I create from this?”
My discoveries prompted a summer of winemaking using only the plants found in my yard.
The abundance of flowers inspired the construction of a Flower Wall as a natural “fence” along my property line.
I started making homemade jelly from roses, apple mint and other foraged plants.
And in 2023, I will begin creating artwork from each of the species I discover. One piece will reflect the “spirit” of the plant through traditional wildcrafting, using foraged parts of the plant for dyes and papermaking and materials that will be integrated into a bowl or basket.
Subsequent sculptures will be larger, more contemporary mixed media pieces that might reflect the plant’s provenance and history, its interactions with animals and insects and/or deeper insights into its relationship with humans and symbolic life lessons as well as environmental concerns.
I am not a trained naturalist. I am simply an artist who has been gardening since childhood, an observer of nature exploring the history of my little garden and yard as I contemplate much larger questions about humanity and the future of our environment.