Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Successional Forest

Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone,Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design, Garden Blog,Northern New Jersey Landscape Designer, NJ Garden Coach and Speaker, Lodestar Park, Successional Forest

Hello fellow readers,

Over the weekend I participated in a Family Holiday Program for Comfort Zone Camp (CZC), a bereavement camp for kids and young adults. It’s their twentieth anniversary of serving families who have lost loved ones too early in life. The holidays are especially difficult, no matter how recent the loss, or how young or old a loved one was.  It’s especially isolating for kids, who often suppress grief and turn to destructive ways of coping.

Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone,Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design, Garden Blog,Northern New Jersey Landscape Designer, NJ Garden Coach and Speaker, Comfort Zone Camp

During Comfort Zone Camp’s Family Holiday Program, children prepared a centerpiece in memory of their loved one.

After the families left, the volunteers gathered, and the CZC facilitator asked for a pulse check. We went around the room and each gave a word of how we felt after the day. Words like Grateful, Inspired, Loved, Connected, and Thankful were shared. Then one volunteer candidly added -Tired. True, it was a packed day of activities but more, a day of sharing heartfelt emotions which can be exhausting yet freeing at the same time.

The next day after driving Curt to the train for a week on the road, I felt a heightened sense of gratitude for him, his family, and our canine kid. On our way home, Miss Ellie and I stopped at Lodestar Park in Fredon NJ.  As we roamed through the woods, I came across a sign titled Successional Forest, a term not familiar.  Basically, it means an ecological process of recovery of land impacted by a fire, logging, or farming, for example. Through a succession of stages over time, the land returns to an ecologically balanced state given no other man made or natural setbacks.

Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone,Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design, Garden Blog,Northern New Jersey Landscape Designer, NJ Garden Coach and Speaker, Lodestar Park, Successional Forest

Lodestar Park Successional Forest

The forest at Lodestar Park, the sign explained, has an assortment of hardwood trees including red cedar, black birch, and black cherry that populated the beginning of the woods indicating the area was a farm field not long ago. The trees are known as “pioneer” or “opportunistic” species, often fast growing, and the first to populate the vacated field until they shade the under-story not allowing their own saplings to survive. Then, shade tolerant species become introduced. Deeper in the forest there are older trees, many more black birches, but also others “characteristic of a mature Appalachian forest”, the sign explained, such as red oak, sugar maple, and hickory.

As we approached the ravine of the Paulinskill River we were welcomed by a healthy stand of Canadian hemlocks that thrive in shallow soil near water. They reminded me of the domino of fallen hemlocks that toppled last March in our woods. One was two-hundred years old which started the chain reaction. Heartbreaking, though I understand the cycle of life and trust Mother Nature knows what she is doing.

Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone,Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design, Garden Blog,Northern New Jersey Landscape Designer, NJ Garden Coach and Speaker, Lodestar Park, Successional Forest

A “Christmas tree” of hope and new beginnings among the dormant forest floor.

As we made the turn to head back to the open field, I noticed a baby hemlock, as cute as can be, among a carpet of fallen leaves. The young hemlock looked like a Christmas tree of hope and new beginnings among the dormant and brown woodland scene. Just like the kids of Comfort Zone Camp whose spirits shifted as they shared and learned they are not alone; beginning their journey of healing and growing.

As you prepare for the holidays remember the most remarkable gift is being present in the significance of the season being Grateful, Inspired, Thankful, Connected, and Sharing Love.

Garden Dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary
  1. April Fisher Reply

    Truly lovely, Mary! Thank you for sharing your experience.
    Merry, Happy, & Grateful,
    April

    • Mary Stone Reply

      Thank you April, it means so much that you take the time to read my column. Merry, Happy, Gratefulness to you too! Mary

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