A few afternoons this summer, I sat in my courtyard with a glass of pastis (souvenir from the Straight Distillery in PEI), drawing the cascade of nasturtiums in preparation for my new silk screen design.

nasturtium plants

It is often in these simple, quiet moments, moments of connection, in spaces we create for ourselves where we find resonance and peace.

When I first moved to my house, the back “courtyard” was actually construed as a tiny parking space with the garbage and recycling bins visible from my bedroom window.

courtyard

I had a vision though, and when spring came, I set about building a barn like storage shed for the bins, cleared the space, and filled it with plants of all sorts.

herbs

Over the years it has grown into a modest oasis of flowers, edibles and herbs.  It brings me such pleasure to dress a home baked margherita pizza with fresh basil, or infuse a pot of soothing anise or lemon verbena tea nipped from the plants I’ve grown.

This backyard habitat is now a place where butterflies visit and bees feed on pollen.  It’s a place where I feed and where I feed my friends.  It’s a place where I create.

bumblebee

A healthy habitat, to me, is a place of layered voices and conditions that support life both cultural and natural. It enlarges the scope for co-mingling, cross-pollination and well-being.

I often bring to this backyard habitat of mine, plants that I have foraged, from which I create botanical dye vats.  Once the fabric is dyed, printed and laundered, the pieces are hung to dry and I watch the shades of colour transition from purple greys to golden depending on what I’m working with.  I’ve always loved the look of laundry hanging on a clothes line, form, composition, colour flow…

screen printed scarves on clothes line

I sense that many of our basic aesthetic decisions, relationship to ourself and our space could have a profound impact on ecological outcomes.

What ways do you create, sustain and participate in backyard habitats in your own lives and in the larger community?