Monday, January 26, 2015

LEAP into Landscapes

If your idea of a perfect snow day includes browsing seed catalogs, we must be friends.  Back in the days I ran a greenhouse, Stokes was one of my favorite catalogs.  It offers extremely detailed information on seed germination and is an excellent resource for planting information. If you have ever pondered the terms "scarify" or "stratify," Stokes is for you.

Plant like the professionals!
It is never too early to think about planting.  However, January is too early to actually plant, unless you have access to grow lights or a green house.  Raising your own flowers and vegetables can be very therapeutic. You can even grow them in the same beds, or try adding berry plants in your landscape.  Here at home we have blueberries and strawberries festooning the shrub bed. What could be better than having your landscape and eating it too?

A good variety of potted plants from Native in Harmony nursery.

 Once I became more interested in growing native plants, I found it was harder to find native plants and seeds to purchase.  In the last ten years, this has become much easier.  If you are looking for a place to purchase native plants, plan to attend the Midwest Native Plant Conference in Dayton.   They always offer a great variety of native plant vendors and many plants from which to choose.  You should also continue reading this blog, at the bottom of the page is a link to many native plant sources.

Weedpicker- planting native plants in the Lakeside landscape.
Planting a native plant garden is not very different than planting any other garden.  You should assess the soil, day light and water available to the garden. A native garden is more likely to use plants that will thrive in the local soil, where horticultural gardens often amend soils to nurture plants that would not be native.  For example in  mid-Ohio clay-based soils, we would have to add peat-moss and acid to grow azaleas.  Or, we might add sand to our soil to grow succulents. 

Native plants host native wildlife, like this moth caterpillar.  
Anyone know what moth this will become?

The landscape we planted last fall in Lakeside was comprised of Ohio native plants.  These plants are suitable for the soil along the lakefront and were chosen for their durability and sun tolerance.  The grasses were used to stabilize the lake shore and reduce erosion.  Many were one gallon potted plants, but some were even smaller.  I prefer using younger plant material and allowing it to become established in situ.

The LEAP (Lake Erie Allegheny Partnership) has developed a new interactive map where you can find the location and information about many of Ohio's native plant nurseries.  Just click on this link to visit their website.  It is important to use only reputable vendors who do not wild collect plants. This map will make it easier for you to find those reputable dealers.

Do you know of other nurseries specializing in native plants,which should be included on this map? Or do you know of seed vendors who supply the native plant seeds we might like to grow?

Leave me a note in comment section below and I will be happy to pass the info on to LEAP.

Now, back to my seed catalog...

Friday, January 23, 2015

LEAPing into 2015

Some of the best meetings I attend are at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.  The have a working group called: Lake Erie and Allegheny Partnership for Biodiversity.  We like to call ourselves LEAP.

 LEAP members are involved in identifying, protecting and restoring ecosystems and habitats.  They also actively try to help educate about native plants.  Each year they come up with these fabulous cards with a tree, shrub and forb you can use in your home landscape.  This project is sponsored by the Cleveland Metroparks.

Pawpaw is the tree of 2015. If you like to see butterflies in your yard, think Zebra Swallowtails! Pawpaw is a host plant for Zebra butterflies and is a deer-resistant plant for your yard and garden. This is one of my all-time favorite plants.

Buttonbush is a shrub that loves wet spaces and would be perfectly suited for you rain garden.  Bees and butterflies love to nectar on Buttonbush. You will be helping our pollinators by planting this shrub.

Stonecrop is an easy-to-care for flowering native that thrives on drier soils and neglect.  It makes a great ground cover. To see past year's selections go to the LEAP website.

Renee Boronka  of CMNH heads up the meetings.

These meetings gather a diverse group of land managers from Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and many Land Trusts and Conservancies. We struggle with the difficult problems of land management.

                   Like this one....

White-tailed  Deer
White-tail deer, a.k.a.  Bambi, Botany Browsers, and last but not least, Tick Transporters.  Nothing creates a bigger stir in land management.  They are sooo cute but they create so much damage to the land, ecosystems and the other inhabitants in the woods.  A few deer are a wonderful addition to the landscape.  A few too many? Deer are the enemy of biodiversity, and left unchecked, quickly become the scourge of all lower life forms, except ticks.  Ticks love 'em.

 These gatherings are the Who's Who of Land Management and attended by some of the finest land managers in the state of Ohio and Pennsylvania.  We look closely at a potential problems and assess them from all angles.

 i.e.: Could birth control be used on deer?  Unfortunately, we know it would have a trickle-down effect on the reproduction of Bald Eagles and other scavengers as well. It is just not that simple.

To learn more about LEAP, the conservation problems we are currently tackling and helpful tips about native plants-   is the link to click.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Enchanted Forest

The sun rose upon this magical sight, illuminating cotton puffs of snow against the blue sky.

 It looked like a fresh coat of snow had fallen during a windless night. But on closer investigation, it had not snowed at all.

The entire woods was covered. 

Yet, the entire woods was covered.  There was no fresh snow cover on the ground. The foots steps and seed coats from yesterday were still visible. 

There was no fresh snow whatsoever.

Frosted thorn-tree
 A hoar-frost!  Those magical temperatures of  below freezing had frosted my forest with ice crystals in the night.

Look closely at this Honey Locust branch to see it is crystals hanging off the branch, not snow. These crystals of hoar-frost were built from the branch out due to high humidity or fog that occurred in the night.

Ice crystals form in the night
The delicate shards of ice are easier to see against my black glove.  Each is formed like a feather or fern, gently branching outward.

Iced rose hips
 I drank in the iced rose hips suspended in the sky.  This wild rose branches out twenty foot high from the corner of the forest.  Was it ever more beautiful, even in full bloom?

Across the street woodlot

 As I wandered through the enchanted hoar-frost forest, I looked across the field to note not all the neighborhood was evenly frosted.  The fog bank must have centered upon my yard and left the nearby woodlot unadorned.  It seemed so sad and... normal.

All of my woods had been encrusted with diamonds.  Ice formations were everywhere!  This is the  real, natural anomaly to which Disney's Frozen film could only aspire!

All of the ground became a reflective surface.
The reflection of ice crystals on snow made my daily ski even more stunning.  The ground looked as if it were littered with tiny mirrors catching the morning's rays.

While living in frosty Ohio can become most wearisome in the winter, this one morning of hoar-frost has fed my soul with nature's inspiration.

This is an amazing world in which we live!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Corvid Circus

As winter breathes her chill across the country fields, the snow piles in drifts along the driveway.  But we shall find entertainment abounds in the woods beside the cozy house. I have been spending time watching the Corvids, a particularly intelligent family of birds.
The wary American Crow visits.
 Each morning the crows arrive. They have travelled cross country, most likely from the city of Mansfield where they roost by the tens of thousands in the winter. Each morning they disburse looking for food and foraging in nearby fields.

Blue Jay are frequent fliers in the yard.
Generally crows aren't interested in the comings and goings of yard birds, not even their cousin Corvids the Blue Jays.  But snow covered fields makes the winter foraging more difficult.   You can't blame these black beauties for wondering how the jays have trained me to feed them each day.  After all, crows are quite clever.
 And so the crows come to look, and wait.  Soon they have trained me to toss a variety of goods out the front door: corn, small fruits, sunflower seeds... and the occasional pizza slice.  Once the scout finds treats on the sidewalk, the call (caw?) goes out.  It is more emphatic than the normal roadside chatter.  This a serious business, the scout need to alert the collective group. Food  has been found and it will be shared with the whole  "murder".  Crows are highly sociable beasts.

The crows watch as the smaller birds, mostly Blue Jays and American Tree Sparrows work the seed on the ground.  These birds are regulars  and routinely come to the feeders.  They exhibit no fear.  The wary crows watch and wait near the edge of the woods.  American Crows have long been persecuted by farmers and know there is no such thing as a free lunch.
At least that's what they thought.  But look, there is a free lunch! And it is pizza!
Just a word to those who may believe I am harming the crows by offering the occasional left over pizza. Last week the wise guys got tender roast beef.  These boys are true omnivores and are not all that particular about the fare. In fact, the fresh mice from our snap-traps are a particular delicacy. The only thing which could make these meals more attractive would be a trash can spilled over next to the goods.
Then they would believe they were working for their food and it was not just a trap.
These photos are taken through the window.  Crows in my neighborhood are quite shy of paparazzi.  Given time, I believe they will associate me with the goodies and allow me to better photograph the entire group.
But not yet.  For now I am content to watch the "crow show" from behind the window curtains.  They have an interesting pecking order and interact in comic ways.    
American Crows are not your typical bird-feeder birds, but then again, I am not your typical bird feeder.  

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Upcoming Programs

It may be hard to think about getting out these cold winter days, personally, I have been hibernating with some new books I got for Christmas.  But if you are a hardy soul wishing for botany, here are some recommendations:

Three-bird Orchid

If you like orchids, you will love this program offered by Andrew Lane Gibson.  He is one of Flora-Quest's youngest guides, and an excellent photographer I might add.

You'll want to check our Flora-Quest Facebook page for announcements of up coming events:

Showy Lady Slipper, Cypripedium reginae

Better yet, book mark the webpage of our friends at Cincinnati Wildflower and Preservation Society.

They have excellent programs all year long and free field trips.  This is one more reason I wish I lived nearer to Cincinnati!

Another excellent oportunity:

Jim Bissell is Ohio's greatest "un-developer," and my hero. This is certain to be an excellent program and if snow is less than a foot deep in my drive, I plan to be there!  It is always interesting to learn more about Lake Erie wetlands, and Jim is the Sensei of the Swamps.

Hang in there.  Spring has got to be coming and I promise future blogs will be more uplifting. Some of them will be focusing on this year's Flora-Quest! We are formulating some awesome plans.