Natural Bridge, NY
Sanctuary Steward: Diane Seufert Tait
After years of checking real estate pages wherever I went, looking for that perfect piece of land and cabin, it was hard to believe the hunt was over when I purchased Eden Hyll in 2007. It comprises a solar-powered cabin and almost five acres of Precambrian shield overlooking an eight acre pond.
My intent was to enjoy a getaway, a haven, a relaxing oasis far from the Toronto area where I live. The land had another agenda.
I had bought my special place in early April, so I had no idea what I would find when the season’s growth began. In that first June as I walked through my woods of white pine, Eastern hemlock, cedar, young oak, maple, cherry, yellow birch, elder and beech, I became aware of some wonderful plant residents. Spread before me as a feast to my eyes were partridge berry, goldthread, clintonia, wild sarsaparilla, pink lady’s slipper and other smaller orchids, three kinds of St. John’s wort and blue flag iris, to name a few. The pond itself has a healthy population of frogs and fish, a wealth of wildlife, including a family of minks along my shoreline and a diverse variety of bird inhabitants. It seems that every time I visit, I’m shown another treasure.
I determined not to engage myself in too much gardening, since I already have extensive herb gardens at home. Nevertheless I was soon enthusiastically thinning out hundreds of young trees, leaving only the larger, more mature ones. This has allowed the plants on the forest floor more space and light. What a difference that’s made in only a couple of years. And it’s allowed new plants, such as cardinal flower and snakeroot to show up!
Later, while walking the surrounding roads, I found bloodroot, eyebright, bluets and Deptford pinks, which have transplanted well and begun to spread. I’ve introduced goldenseal, wild ginger and black cohosh into the woods and made three small trails. Eventually conceding that once a gardener, always a gardener, I’m content to see Eden Hyll as just a wilder kind of garden.
My land and I are still getting to know one another, but now that we are a bona fide Botanical Sanctuary, I’m starting to think about the educational component of my commitment. I think it’s a good time for the local people to learn about the treasure they live on. I don’t preach; I chat and weave my message in as I go. I take people as they are, respecting them for their beliefs, and then I’ve found they usually respect me for mine. A lot is accomplished with a light hand and a friendly smile.
This coming year I’m hoping to bring some of my students to help me in the various projects. It’s so different to work with and around the herbs in their chosen natural habitat and learning by doing is always more effective and life-changing. I’m blessed to have been called to White Pine Pond as steward to this little parcel of the woods and look forward to helping the green folk spread, thrive and endure for those who come after.