Chittenden couple's wildflowers bring joy, connections and bees
Jonathan Yacko and his wife Natalie Gilliard grew up on Long Island. They moved to Chittenden in 2019.
They loved their big new yard but hated all the mowing.
“To be honest, it was kind of depressing to look out on this sea of grass,” admitted Gilliard.
A friend suggested they plant wildflowers. So they did — eventually, more than an acre's worth.
“I’ve always loved bees and we were like let’s do it; we’re on board,” said Gilliard, “Let’s figure it out!”
“We started, really, during COVID,” explained her husband. “Nat was unemployed. She'd lost her job during that period, and my hours were cut in half. So we had a lot more free time.”
Their first meadow was near the road. “We picked out all the rocks, dug up all the grass, planted all the seeds,” explained Gilliard.
We weren’t sure it would work, she admitted, but they finally started seeing little sprouts come up. “We’d look out the window and be like, 'They're coming! The flowers are coming!'”
It started with an explosion of tiny white flowers. "Gypsophila elegans," says Gilliard, double checking the name on her iPhone, “Yup, baby's breath.”
Then came all the colors: red and yellow poppies, pink catchfly, bright orange sulphur cosmos, red columbine, and purple foxglove.
They were so thrilled with their first meadow, they planted a second even larger wildflower patch this summer.
“So right over here, you can really kind of get into it without stepping on any of the flowers or worrying about disturbing any habitats,” said Gilliard, stepping carefully onto a patch of dirt between flowers.
“There's just so many bright blue forget-me-nots,” she says, bending down to take a closer look. “And right behind them is all the yellow coreopsis."
"Oh here's something new!" she says pointing to a bright pink star-shaped flower. "That's sweet William."
The colors look like a lacy quilt shimmering with butterflies and the soft hum of bees.
“It's amazing watching them,” says Gilliard with a grin. “It's mostly honeybees and some bumblebees, but a lot more honeybees than I've ever seen in one place, which is so exciting for me.”
“And what’s so cool is every couple of weeks the meadows look totally different,” adds Yacko. “You don’t know exactly what’s gonna come up or when it’s going to come up and that’s part of the magic.”
The other part of the magic is the way the wildflowers have helped the couple become part of their small town community. When they moved in they didn’t know anyone and the pandemic was depressing.
The flowers broke through all that.
“We had such an amazing reaction!” says Yacko. “People brought us bouquets they had made. I've met so many people at the transfer station that have said, ‘I've seen your meadow,’ and I have no idea who they are. ‘We love driving by and seeing it’... and I’m just like, ‘Oh, that's amazing!’”
“When we're meeting new people,” adds Gilliard. “We can just be like, ‘Oh, yeah, we're the house with the wildflower meadow.’ And people are like, ‘Oh, I love that meadow! It's so cool! It made us so happy!’”
“It's been wonderful on so many levels," says Yacko.
He says the second meadow was a collaboration. The land belongs to their next door neighbor and they seeded about three-quarters of an acre. Another neighbor who farms helped them till the soil. "Having people that we’ve never even met stop by or send us cards thanking us for doing that — it’s such the community I want to live in.”
“And it’s nice to be able to give back some of the joy we’ve gotten since moving in,” adds Gilliard.
And what's really cool, the couple says, pointing out beyond their yard, "the wildflowers are starting to spread."
Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or reach out to reporter Nina Keck: