Perennial. Resilient.
Clockwise, from top left: oldfield aster, butterfly weed, bee balm, and strawberry

Hello, Earth Beings!

On behalf of the Permaculture Department, thank you for joining this journey and helping grow awareness. We've taken a revolution around the sun together, deepening our connection and commitment to Earth learning. It is simply amazing to be living amidst so much diversity ----  full of wonder, growth, and gardens in the smallest and largest sense.

One of the Enactments of the Adrian Dominican Sisters is to help build resilient communities. On this e-newsletter anniversary, I invite you to reflect on what it means to be resilient. One image that comes to mind is the perennial plant. Perennial plants only need be planted once. They can withstand changes in their environments because of the relationships they grow. It is this growth in relationships and commitment to connectedness that nurtures resiliency in perennial systems. Exploring the partnership perennials make with living soil, we notice they offer a commitment to stay rooted. From this seemingly simple commitment grow infinite harmonious opportunities.

In contrast, annual plants live differently. Continually rebuilding from scratch, they hope to make it long enough to seed the next generation of survivors. Annual roots are not living and thriving in the soil community 24/7 like perennial roots.

March brings spring rains and snow melt, washing nutrients through the soil, whispering renewal to those who are here to listen. A perennial root system, deeply invested and rooted, will act as a nutrient net in partnership with living soil to capture spring's nurturing flush. Annuals are simply no-shows, removing themselves from the soil community.

This is not a sustainable partnership. Annuals have little commitment with the community building of the soil, more of a give-and-take transaction. Although annuals' important roles as first responders to disturbed ecosystems should not be overlooked, this very annual partnership strategy should not be our solution or focus in the process of building a sustainable resilient community. The majority of the plants we eat are annuals. What might this say about our relationship with community?

This spring, you're invited to learn about permaculture through observation and interaction. I invite everyone to begin this exploration and contemplation of resilient communities from some of our oldest teachers ----  plants! Walk, sit, stand, stroll the Permaculture Gardens. You're not looking for anything in particular, as you are simply observing, not interpreting. As a suggestion to start your observation practice, get to know the plants that share this space, dig in the soil and see who lives below, notice which way the wind blows, where the sun shines, how the land slopes, how water moves across the landscape, where the shadows lie. Notice what emotions this evokes. Notice this connectedness.

As always, thank you for this connection. If you would like to explore a topic of permaculture, please share via email, telephone, or in person with Elaine Johnson at, 517-266-3599, Madden Hall Fourth Floor.

Staghorn Sumac

" 683. Staghorn Sumac" by In Awe of God's Creation | Flickr ( CC BY 2.0)
Staghorn sumac is a large, native, deciduous shrub growing up to 20 feet tall and spreading just as far in a short time. Often seen growing along roadsides, staghorn sumac can grow in impoverished soils as well as sandy soils, making it a great plant for early succession regeneration of degraded and eroding lands. Many consider this amazing sumac a weed, although it is a valued member of many ecologies. It is not to be confused with poison sumac, which bears white berries (the only sumac in a family of many to do so).

Staghorn sumac is a showy, edible, and highly medicinal plant that displays beautiful red foliage complimented by a burst of red berries (edible with a lemony, sour taste) come fall. Berries of many sumacs persist long into winter and help sustain birds until spring reveals further bounty. Seeds of wild staghorn sumac growing in Tipton, Michigan, 10 miles north of Adrian, have been gathered to spread in the Permaculture Gardens in May. For more information on sumacs and a sumac lemonade recipe, follow the links below.
Upcoming Events
  • Master Rain Gardener Program classes (ongoing) are offered from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays on the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse campus. You're invited to join us and celebrate the installation of a second rain garden on campus April 28 as part of our Earth Week celebration. 
  • Partake with Permaculture: Join the Permaculture Department in the Madden Dining Room from 11:30 a.m. to noon on Mondays for an informal permaculture discussion.
  • Keep an eye out for Earth Week, April 22-28. Special events include the Earth, Our Home art exhibit reception at INAI: A Space Apart, tea tasting, connecting through food, tree procession and planting to celebrate Arbor Day, and a rain garden installation with Siena Heights University students.
  • Siena Heights and Barry University students will join our permaculture journey this May during the 2018 Environmental Leadership Experience, a two-week, service-based, eco-learning experience. 

For more information on these programs, contact Elaine at or 517-266-3599.

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