The Bluff Thicket

Fewer deer live out here on the bluff than in some parts of town, so it’s mostly a privilege to see them so close by. They eat pineapple weed and cat’s ears from the lawn, and offerings from the bluff thicket. A doe and her fawn visit nearly every morning – the fawn all gawky exuberance – the mother more cautious. Skittish sometimes – a sudden noise leads to a deer exit offstage, head nervously bobbing in a back and forth loop.

When we bought our property the lawn edged right to the bluff and then fell over. The bluff is undercut in places, but it isn’t a sheer drop all along – from the beach you can see clumps of stabilizing trees and shrubs.

The first sight of the bluff scared me. My thought was “Oh no, not a cliff, that’s not what I had in mind.” But I returned the next morning, sat on the picnic table at the bluff’s edge, drank a cup of tea from a shop in town, and thought “Oh yes.”

We built a fence the first year – one of those ubiquitous green-metal-wire with white-topped-posts fences, and placed it back from the bluff with the hope that plants could fill in, and it would disappear.

The abrupt and naked edge became an impenetrable blockade the height of the fence – a tangle of salal, wild roses, honeysuckle, ferns, vetch, and native blackberry. (This year a single stalk of Columbia lily with spotted and reflexed petals emerged above the thicket.) We can trim the thicket a little, by reaching out from this side of the fence. When sheared this way, the ocean spray blooms in a froth – and looks just like its name.

Later, when the thicket is full of salal berries, a deer will jump the fence – daintily leap from a stopstill and land carefully – wallow in belly-high berries, eat its fill, and jump back.

Pleasures outweigh any loss of view – bees at work become the sound of the thicket, and hummingbirds hover near vetch blossoms. Birds perch on branches near three wooden chairs in a small, well-mowed spot. Last summer when my young friend and her mom came to visit, we sat happy hours there, listening to songs of sparrows, drinking tea, and taking turns reading a book out loud. Summer!

Sara Stein, in her book, “My Weeds: A Gardener’s Botany,” muses about leaving her gardens: “If I have to abandon them, I would like to abandon them to a natural succession for which they have been prepared, and to which they will take gracefully.” She continues: “It occurred to me that there might be a way to mimic natural gardens so that, as neglect becomes necessity, their character will carry them with dignity through their advancing years.”

When recent visitors asked if the thicket was all natural – meaning did I plant any of it – I wished I could take credit, because it answers Stein’s hope – a lovely jumble of favorite natives – supporting wildlife – giving pleasure – and lasting for a long time.

1 thought on “The Bluff Thicket

  1. Lovely, Katy. Nice to know that the vegetation of the bluff edge not only rebounds, but thrives when we relinquish our need to tame it. You did your bluff and the native critters a real favor. You have inspired me to do the same….



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