I am a self-taught naturalist and native plant enthusiast. I serve as the education committee chair on the board of directors at Ruffner Mountain Nature Center in Birmingham, Alabama.

I have spent the last two years spearheading the native plant restoration and rain garden projects at the newly constructed LEED built Center. These projects are part of the larger Integrated Environmental Education Garden plan to enhance Ruffner Mountain Nature Center's campus and its programming. I lead garden programs at the Center, Audubon Mountain Workshop, Birmingham area botanical gardens, and local garden clubs.

When I am not talking, working or thinking about gardening, I am designing and making slipcovers in a studio behind my house. Lately, my business (Coverings) has been taking a back seat to my more naturalist leanings. Writing a blog is a new adventure for me.

 

 

The Winter Browns (Not The Blues)
by Michelle Reynolds - posted 01/03/13

 

From October to January, I love holiday travels and the great outdoors. Not that I go very far and sometimes only in my imagination, but just walking out of my studio into the garden or getting out and going anywhere during my busiest work time is a real treat, so pleasant on the eyes, and calming to my nerves. The bright colors of fall and the earthy browns of the withering winter foliage make me so happy. I love the colors so much, I have painted the whole inside of my house in the hues I see in nature.

 

 

 

During the early fall, when the roadsides begin to change colors, I keep an eye peeled for persimmon trees with their yellow leaves and burnt orange fruit. I look for the beautiful colors of maples, the deep reds of rusty blackhaw, sparkleberry, and oaks. I love the bright orange leaves of the Alabama croton in my yard and the Virginia creeper on the fence. I love the purples of the late asters and ironweed in the fields and in my tiny meadow. I take notice of the grasses that are changing along with the weather as well. Bright colored leaves against an ever-changing multi-brown background are beautiful! 

 

 

 

By November, the fall colors are fading and the tan blooms and seeds of native grasses stand out and steal the show. In the past, I would not have thought of grasses as flowering plants, but now that I have become aware of them, I appreciate them and I want a yard full of them! 

 

 

 

On a warm Thanksgiving Day, a hike with my family and friends is what the soul needs. The crunch of the forest floor, my favorite Winking Owl Rock, and beech trees (that I know are going to hang on to their leaves all winter long) brings me as much comfort as the turkey dinner.

 

 

 

In December, the starkness of the naked winter trees does not depress me. I can see through the trees now to the lay of the land. I can see the terrain, the rocks, the creeks, and understand the function of natural systems. I can see the way water sheds naturally and that I may learn how to mimic the system in my yard. I like to see and smell the richness of the soil beneath the leaves and come home to rake my leaves in a pile under my trees so that I might invite the same microorganisms to richen my garden soil. I like to think of the trees as needing a period of dormancy during winter months, and since I like to be in tune with nature, I feel now I have an excuse to need and enjoy a period of dormancy too. The nights are longer, so it is okay if I sleep a little longer as well. Right? I deserve to take a break and rest from working so hard before the holidays.

 

 

 

The New Year means it is time for reflection and resolution. I tell myself:  Eat less, exercise more, sleep longer. Be creative -- write, draw, sew. Enjoy time with family and friends. Feel hopeful. Be happy and appreciative. Read, think, and plan, but wait for February to do. Do not wish for the arrival of springtime, it will be here soon enough. Take a walk, look out the window, watch the birds harvest the bounty I left for them by not pruning the deadwood and seed heads in my garden. Love winter browns. There is no need for the blues. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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