The area I'm headed for is the inside of the curve in the path, on the right side of the next photo.
Here ... though this may look a mess, gets to the heart of the kind of gardening I'm doing at Federal Twist. There isn't much open ground in my garden; I've planted to try to prevent that, using plants as a living mulch to limit undesirable self-seeding, to suppress weeds, to control how the garden grows and how the planted areas interact, to the extent that's possible.
But here I created a small piece of open ground--originally to raise the soil level so I could grow Eryngium yuccafolium (Rattlesnake master). I also wanted to try using Bergenia and a European bunch grass, Sesleria autumnalis, as groundcover. I can't say that was successful, not yet anyway, so I decided to see what I could do with seeding. I like the early umbelliferous flowers of Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) that grows along the roadsides nearby so I collected seed and scattered it here. It's the plant with lacy, carrot-like foliage, in its third year now. (Yes, this is the same plant used to put Socrates to death, so it's of alien origin.) Then Ironweed started to self-seed. And thistles, and other interlopers.
Not wanting to replace this natural mechanism entirely, wipe it out and put in some plant combination that I know will dominate and rule the area (though that option remains open), I'm letting the self-seeding continue, but managing the process by weeding out plants I find pernicious or otherwise undesirable.
Unstable and subject to continuing change as this area is, it requires management throughout the growing season. The Poison hemlock, for example, grows rapidly and blossoms in June, then promptly dies and becomes a rather unattractive, brown skeleton. I cut and remove it, and let the later blooming Eryngium and Vernonia take over the space. I'll eventually want to find a stable condition, but don't yet know what that will be. The goal will be to cover the ground with only desirable plants.
Above are the early flower spikes of a hybrid Petasites I use massed in two large areas. Not much can compete successfully with Petasites. Below are the flowers of Petasites japonicus, similar to the hybrid, but with round rather than angular leaves.
These willows, Salix sachalinensis 'Sekko', through shading and root competition, also dominate their ground.
Some other plants seem to dwell undisturbed above the competitive fray, peacefully apart from a kind of warfare that exists at ground level. Lindera benzoin (Spice bush) is one such plant. It fills the woods around here, and now as you drive along the roads or walk, you see clouds of Lindera blossoming, almost like yellow flurries of snow.
It's another kind of actor, seemingly able to adapt successfully to just about any kind of competition. If you follow the rule that there are three kinds of plants--ruderals (pioneer plants that quickly cover bare ground), competitors, and stress tolerators--this must be a stress tolerator.
Here, the field of battle.