Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What a Day

Yesterday afternoon I attended "Beyond My Back Yard", a talk my mentor, Jan Hunter was doing for the Ottawa / Sandusky County Master Gardener group.  This was so good, I sure wish her presentation was available for all on the Internet or DVD.  Even though I've been obsessively studying the subject of Native Plants, I left with my head spinning.  I was so absorbed in the presentation  and the subsequent garden tour, I forgot to take some pictures.   Thank goodness for a handout which gave the bullet points shown in her PowerPoint presentation.  There was no way I could take notes fast enough to keep up.  Here's just a few of the items that really struck me.
  • One picture showed a residential landscape, all with natives, that was as beautiful and striking as any I've ever seen.
  • Wildflower seed mix - NO!  Many of these seed mixes include, exotic, invasive species.  a University of Wisconsin study of 19 "wildflower" packets showed 8 contained 3 to 13 invasive species, 8 had seeds considered noxious weeds, 1/3 had no contents listed, more than 1/3 had incorrect species listed.  And be suspicious of any plant labeled "Wildflower".
  • We import approximately 800 million plants into the US every year.  It is projected that the US horticultural industry will grow to around $30 billion by 2013.   (yes, billion with a 'b').   BUT, we spend more than $137 BILLION on exotic plant and animal management every year in the US.  "That's 375 MILLION DOLLARS PER DAY."
  • There are about 4,000 species of native bees in the US.  Only a few sting.  Most of them nest in the ground, or twigs.  They are much more effective at pollination than the non-native European honeybee.  Ninety percent of flowering plants, including fruits and vegetables, are pollinated by insects.  One third of human food crops are insect-pollinated.  Many of the chemicals and other pest controls used on grains, migrate by wind to flowering plants where they kill insects.
  • Native Plants add color, structure, and texture to the landscape, while providing valuable benefits to both wildlife and people.
  • Native Plants can provide Wildlife Habitat, Color, Erosion Control, less lawn maintenance, water management in Rain Gardens, and attractive landscaping in problem areas. 
A small section of
NNN display garden
Given the pictures I saw of marvelous home landscapes, the wonderful variety of native plants available, and the benefit to our ecology, I'm beginning to think I may start replacing those Hostas I've featured in our landscape for so long. 

Regretting my absence of pictures, I drove back to the nursery in the early evening to get some shots of the display gardens.

Raised beds ready for more soil
And my head spinning day wasn't over.  I met Paul at last week's native bed maintenance volunteer session.  Late in the afternoon, He was kind enough to spend several hours with me, guiding me through his personal backyard native nursery and answering my never ending questions.  Paul has a chemical engineering background and he's taken a somewhat scientific and experimental approach to his gardening.  Paul utilizes raised beds, allowing him to cram a lot of plants into a relatively small space.  I imagine his entire garden is about 20 feet by 20 feet.  He combines some vegetables, and some commercial cultivars with his native plants.  Given the amount of time he spends studying, volunteering, and otherwise working with native plants, no wonder he is replacing at least some of his hybridized plants with natives. 
Paul told me he's gotten his native plants from both Lucas and Wood county sources.  He pointed out to me some dramatic differences in some Cardinal Flower.  Two from Lucas County, and the other two from Wood County.  Based on this distinction, he's decided to concentrate on genotypes native to Wood County because that is where he lives.

In addition to getting plants, Paul also starts native plants from seed using his own soil mix of 1/3 sand, 1/3 commercial potting mix, and 1/3 compost.  Some of the seed comes from his own plants.

One of his raised beds is all sand, simulating an environment only found in a few areas of Wood County.  Here in this special bed, he's been able to raise Wild Lupine.
Wild Bergamot
His Tall Coreopsis was taller than me (6 feet), the Wild Bergamot was dense and colorful, 3 patches of Butterfly Weed were buzzing with insect life, the Tall Ironweed was growing tall in the sunny location, the Purple Coneflower was strikingly beautiful,  and the Joe-Pye Weed was just getting ready to bloom.  

Inspirational Paul.  Thanks for sharing.

No comments: