Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ribbons in the Landscape

Twenty-five years ago when I was studying horticulture in the Netherlands I took a class in roadside maintenance. I thought it was going to be duller than watching paint dry. But, I was very much mistaken. I remember reading the book Linten in het landschap (Ribbons in the Landscape) and my thought pattern was transformed. I had no idea that by adjusting mowing cycles and maintenance routines, you could encourage both native flora and fauna. How had I missed it? With a bicycle as my sole means of transportation I had been riding through these ribbons every single day

Fast forward to today. I just read an article called Green Highways: New Strategies To Manage Roadsides as Habitat by Richard Conniff. “From northern Europe to Florida, highway planners are rethinking roadsides as potential habitat for native plants and wildlife. Scientists say this new approach could provide a useful tool in fostering biodiversity.” 

In Florida agriculture is second biggest revenue stream in the state and there are roughly 100 crops that rely on pollinators. The fact that feral honeybee populations have dropped more that 50% in the last half century is serious business. Florida DOT manages 186,000 acres of land that are either next door to or one lot away from almost every farm in the state. A $90,000 study to determine how changes in the DOT mowing regimen might benefit roadside pollinator populations is now underway. 

In Iowa, there is little left of the original prairie habitat. Farmers who used to set land aside under the federal Conservation Reserve Program have withdrawn more than 1.5 million acres in the last 5 years to try and cash in on the market for ethanol. The tripling of herbicide use since the introduction of Roundup Ready corn and soybeans has eliminated milkweed and other native species and that’s caused monarch butterfly populations to crash, says University of Kansas ecologist Orley Taylor. We have to consider roadsides, there is no other room left!

The idea of attracting wildlife to roadsides isn’t one-dimensional of course, and safety issues need to be heard, as do pollution concerns with storm water ponds.  But, at least, the discussion is beginning. When you look at the big picture like this it can feel overwhelming but it isn’t hopeless. Many of the decisions about roadways will be made at the county level so, there is chance for you to be heard. We can also begin to create way stations for plants and animals in our own backyards and create our own beautiful ribbons running through our neighborhoods.

Bringing Life to your Garden!
Have fun out there,
Peggy Anne

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Live Well Shop Often!

Every spring I go insane lusting after everything in the whole garden center. It’s the only time I ever feel really greedy. If it’s green and alive, I’ve got have it. After the dark days of winter there is nothing more exciting than seeing the bright, shiny faces of anything that flowers. So what do I do? I blow through some cash and load my car to the brim with bags of manure and new plants. The result is a great looking garden in spring.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that there are three more seasons.

I think everyone gets excited when spring comes and we all rush to the garden center and think we’re done for the year. But, my advice especially for novice gardeners is to go to the garden center frequently, at the very least in spring, high summer and fall. Your garden center will have the best looking plants for that time of year. That will help you select an array of plants that will give you color and food for butterflies and birds all year long.

In mid-summer take a critical look around your garden and see where you have some holes to fill. Make a few notes of what is planted around it, how much room the new plants will have to grow and what colors might look best. You can plant container plants all year long. Just be sure to water your new plants well until they get established.

Being a Midwesterner, I really love the long falls here on the east coast and with cooler weather it’s great to get outside, play in the garden and get those last few
Barbeques in. It’s also a great time to plant. Most garden centers have fantastic fall sales. Cooler fall weather with on average more precipitation means less watering for you.

Summer and fall planting have another less talked about advantage called “ It’s spring and I have absolutely no recollection of what plant was where last fall”. I know it’s taboo to talk about it but I have barely any short-term memory left and I’m tired of suffering alone. Oh sure, everything that blooms in spring is a fabulous new surprise but there have been some mistakes too. Stop digging up your tulip bulbs by accident and never plant one plant on top of another again! Say it with me – I will shop for plants once a month until the snow flies! It feels good to be out…
Square Foot Gardening Gone Wrong

Foxglove, two ferns and a primula. I added the foxglove in April. 

Two heuchera, lungwort, white baneberry and a fern. I added the lungwort in early April. I think the fern's winning!

A beautiful garden all year long comes from shopping all year long too!

Bring Life to Your Garden
Have fun out there!
Peggy Anne