Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Green and grey,red and gold, light and shadow, the changes in the garden brought on by lower light levels and cooler temperatures lure us out to admire nature's artistic hand. Close to the earth enjoying soil warmer than the air and radiated heat from stones and pathways many plants take advantage of micro-climates created by lush planting and hardscape.
Dried flowers and seedheads create movement in light, depth in shadow.

Combinations overlooked in summer suddenly stand out.

The cool green backdrop for summer becomes autumns heat...

Researching a pollinator habitat.

Librarians are trained to help you find resources. Those at my local library are well worth their taxpayer dollars. Also our community has an online library catalog from which to order books that are then sent to the library where I am registered.
I read 'Noah's Garden" by Sara B Stein
'The Forgotten Pollinators"by Stephen Buchmann,
and several books by
Sally and Andy Wasowski including 'Requiem for a Lawnmower'
While Sally Wasowski is an advocate for the use of native plants she states that you should enjoy the rich diversity that native plants have to offer, but when you have non-native plants that do well in your area, by all means use and enjoy them too.

Without the help of the librarian it would have taken ages to learn about the book that has had the most influence on my gardening style.
'The One-Straw Revolution' by Masanobu Fukuoka,
the Japanese farmer that spawned the interest in sustainable land use.

The internet has been an invaluble resource. So much data is available online, I use reliable sources such as universities and government agencies like Fish and wildlife, The Department of Agriculture, etc. Not only do they link you to their own work but also to current work of other reliable studies in the field.

You can google up a lot by searching for native bee habitat...

If you are interested here are a few sites to get you started.

Predicting Habitat Size Needed for Pollination Services
January-March 2005 (Vol. 6, No. 1)

Planning your wildlife habitat
Attracting bees
In the United States, there are nearly 5,000 different species of native bees. Most of them are solitary, friendly bees that nest in holes in the ground or burrows in twigs and dead tree limbs.
These bees do not have hives to protect them, so they are not aggressive and rarely sting.
Bumblebees, carpenter bees, sweat bees, leafcutter bees, digger bees, and others pollinate many different kinds of plants. They play a critical role in healthy wild plant communities and gardens. About 30 percent of our diet is the direct result of a pollinating visit by a bee to a flowering fruit tree or vegetable plant.
Providing bee habitat in your yard can increase the quality and quantity of your fruits and vegetables.
Bees are extremely sensitive to many commonly applied insecticides

What's the Buzz on....Planting a Bee Garden by Stephen Buchmann of The Forgotten Pollinators Campaign http://www.enature.com/articles/detail.asp?storyID=641
Apart from bountiful flowers, all bees require places to hide from predators, to locate and court a mate, and establish their nests. Thus, they need you to help provide safe havens from predators, parasites and chemical insecticides.

Guidelines for Providing Native Bee Habitat on Farms.http://www.xerces.org/pubs_merch/Farming_for_Bees.htm

Wild bees make honey bees better pollinators
By Liese Greensfelder, Media Relations 28 August 2006

Bee Powerline Habitats: Making Habitat Out of Junk Land www.pulseplanet.com/archive/Dec05/
We would prefer the method that is less invasive, in the sense that they're just cutting down the tall species and topping the vegetation and using selective herbicides."
Dr. Russell says that this kind of management practice creates a unique sort of habitat. Instead of a grassland, you get an area of low-lying shrubs, vines and flowers, where the vegetation stays under six feet tall. In studies, she found that bee populations liked making their nests in this "scrubby" habitat.

Though written in 2001, the following excerpt from Ecology and Society, still holds much of interest.
The studies to which it links and the conclusion that futher study was needed, has been heeded.

Check out http://www.xerces.org/home.htm
Status of Pollinators in North AmericaNew report by the National Academy of Sciences, sponsored by the USDA-ARS and the USGS On October 18, 2006, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released their report on the Status of Pollinators in North America. Status of Pollinators in North America

From ecology and society....
Habitat Fragmentation and Native Bees: a Premature Verdict?
James H. Cane

Habitat for any species of bee must minimally consist of rewarding patches of floral resources plus suitable nesting sites, all within flight range of each other. The suitability of floral resources varies with species. All bee species have broadly catholic tastes for nectar, but many nonsocial species have fixed species-specific predilections or even requirements for pollen from a few particular related genera of floral hosts; this phenomenon, known as "oligolecty," was most recently reviewed by Wcislo and Cane (1996). For these species, adult emergence must coincide with host bloom on a seasonal and annual basis, or the species must be able to switch floral hosts. Multivoltine or long-lived bee species (or their colonies) have a different problem: their foraging seasons typically outlast the blooming period of any one host. Consequently, within the radius of flight range from their nest sites, there must exist patches of various floral species that bloom at different times of the year.
Suitable nesting substrates for bees vary with species, and may include holes of appropriate diameter left by wood-boring beetles, tree cavities, pithy or hollow plant stems of the correct diameter, abandoned rodent burrows, or soils of suitable texture, depth, slope, vegetation cover, and moisture. Additional resources needed by some bee species for nesting include nearby mud, resins, pebbles, or plant hairs, which they use to line, partition, and plug their nests (O'Toole and Raw 1991).
What is "fragmentation" from the perspective of an invertebrate pollinator? Fragmentation describes a patchy distribution of suitable habitats, sometimes thought of as "ecological islands," surrounded by a matrix of inhospitable or inadequate habitats of varying permeability (T. H. Ricketts, unpublished manuscript). Fragmentation means more than the mere existence of isolated or patchy habitats; it also implies that a more continuous habitat has been subdivided or broken up by some (often anthropogenic) process, with the attendant loss of intervening habitat. The distributions and population dynamics of bee species in naturally patchy habitats (e.g., bumble bees in alpine meadows) can yield insights into some, but not all, of the factors associated with habitat fragmentation (Bowers 1985). Naturally patchy distributions are the norm for wildflowers, shrubs, and trees. By viewing fragments as reserves, such studies turn our notion of habitat fragmentation on its head and may generate data and practical insights of "critical importance for pollinator conservation".
In many regions of the world, the opportunities to set aside massive reserves are limited, impractical, or already past, requiring us to either think small or else give up hope (Shafer 1995, Abensperg-Traun and Smith 1999).
There is growing evidence that substantial fractions of native bee communities can persist in habitats that have been modestly, sometimes even drastically, altered by human activities (Reed 1995, Marlin and LaBerge 2001 (Reed 1995, Marlin and LaBerge 2001, Williams et al. 2001).
What is the minimal floral carrying capacity for such bee communities, and how resilient are they in the face of annually fluctuating floral resources (Roubik 2001)?
What is the rate and degree, if any, of genetic impoverishment in such isolated populations when immigration and genetic drift cease (Packer and Owen 2001)?
Can recolonization potential be derived from spatial distributions of nesting habitats, using body size as a surrogate scale for flight range?
Can dispersal distance be derived from the foraging ranges of bees?
Such studies, if not undermined by unfounded beliefs and foregone conclusions, hold promise for insights into the size, management, and spatial distribution of reserves that could support largely intact communities of invertebrate pollinators into the foreseeable future. We are only beginning to understand the possible effects of habitat fragmentation on bees.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A look into the garden...
The Hobbit Garden in fall is covered with tiny little leaves and stems falling from a Honey Locust that shades one end of the garden. Old bricks and stones dug up from other parts of this old place give age to the newer setting. The trellis is a metal t- shaped clothes line dug from the back yard. Chicken wire carries the climbing rose and tendrils of virginia creeper across the opening giving the space a secret garden feel in summer.

Looking toward the bridge.
Can you see the little hobbit hiding?

The Hobbit Garden, as it is playfully named, was inspired by the release of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Having read the books by J. R. Tolkien when younger and captivated by the story I was glad to see a non-animated version created by an obvious fan.
When the fence was put in many holes were dug then filled with concrete. A mound of gravel and clay soil remained. Many suggestions were made, one household member wanting to cart it off. But recent visions of hobbits were in my head so another plan was adopted. On the side near the building where there is green a slightly curving dry creekbed was placed, to guide run off to the driveway. It is named the Brandywine and crossed by a small foot bridge at one end. Rocks and stumps create spaces for wildlife and flowering plants provide fodder. There is water near the fence. Crushed pine bark mulches the forest-like floor. Virginia creeper is easily kept in bounds.
What on earth does this garden say of it's creator...
Still speaking of 'The Essential Earthman' Henry Mitchell

Carol at May Dreams Garden speaks to the relevance of writers such as Mitchell whose time has past. If being a joy to read is not enough then maybe the very points made, considered irrelevant, will spur us to think past what is currently trendy and seek what "is of relevance" to the individual garden and gardener.

Mitchell suggests that when we find a garden or scene that appeals to us, that we should look closer than the focal point that catches our eye, and see the whole picture.
I have read this advise elsewhere and used it to good results.
Trees and shrubs standing tall, vines growing up then dangling, large leaves with distinct shapes , strong form in grasses and foliage like iris leaves and rattlesnakemaster,plants that mound neatly or stay low, lush green interrupted by color, changes through the seasons, all are choices to make the garden,as Mitchell says "personal and fascinating, because there is no such thing as dullness when the gardener is going full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes, as it were."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Joining a gardener's book club.

Never needing much of a reason to read a good garden book but having few chances to discuss said books I was happy to find Carol's May Dreams Garden. Her invitation to join the fun for the winter was irresistible. I like the looks of the growing list of prospective titles and authors, some of which I have read, others heard good things about and still others that just sound interesting.

The first book has been picked for the month of November.
'The Essential Earthman' Henry Michell.

It is good to start with a book not previously read but by an author of which I am familiar.
I'm going to enjoy this.

First impressions...Mitchell had an affection for gardeners and their endeavors, understanding and sympathizing with their humanity. For Henry gardening held answers to lifes dilemma if you only paid attention, and he was willing to share his periodic enlightenment.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Autumn in the garden

Since it is October in zone 5 North America the day light hours are fewer and the nights are longer. Air temperatures are fluctuating but discernibly cooler with nights reaching dangerously close to heavy frost.
There are red berries on the Aronia (chokeberry) and on the Holly, blue berries on the Juniper and the Virginia creeper, an abundance this year of large white marble looking berries on the Symphoricarpos (snowberry) but few of the white berries are left on the Red-twigged(brick red for the winter) dogwood shrubs, for the birds ate them as fast as they ripened.
Oak leaf hydrangea and 'Annabelle' flowers hold on, changing from the rosy hues and whites to buff tan and deep brown but hold shape very well. The beautiful leaf of the Oakleaf hydrangea is enhanced by the change in color from dark green to burgandy, the bright yellow of the 'Annebelle' leaves is a wonderful backdrop for the huge darkening droopy flowerheads.
Black-eyed susan flowers have dried leaving chocolate polka dots standing out as proudly as if still garishly clothed. Tall leaning masses of wild asters color the garden still with lavender purple and white. The turtlehead (chelone) and coneflower offer solitary sights of fresh pink blooms in short lived defiance before winter sleep.
Grass, not turf but tall dominate masses of ornament hold court this time of year. The glow of sunrise and sun set behind the foliage appear to set fire to the view. Panicum, sporobolus, northern sea oats, LITTLE BLUE STEM (my absolute favorite site in winter is a good sized stand of the red color this grass turns as the freeze moves through) and Indian grass grow well in the clumps that allow flowers and bulbs to show well in each ones time. Eragrostis ( purple love grass) has that smokey pinkish purple haze at a lower close to the ground like a fog look this time of year.
A native(The Mr and I use a broad definition) garden can be awesome in autumn...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A garden must have mature trees.
On an urban lot this also means an old house.
As the Mr and I were looking for a place to live we paid attention to the potential garden.
A small ranch on a large double lot with 5 mature trees caught our attention. Perfect as I hate house work the fewer rooms the better. We can entertain outside. A fireplace and you add a couple of months to the time it is comfortable out there. Doesn't everyone love a crackling fire?
A residential street in front and an alley on two sides with only one close neighbor.
The back and sides of the house were surrounded by a six foot wooden fence but the front yard was large and open. This would mean some privacy which we both prize. What fun it is being outdoors without having to communicate with neighbors. I am somewhat reclusive prefering a good book to conversation many a warm sunny day.
The open front garden can be made into a welcoming area where hopefully those passing by will feel comfortable commenting, even stopping to chat on occassion. This may save us from seeming unsocial.
Old small house, mature trees and what seemed to be bits of an old garden. It must have been a good garden at one time. Forsythia,Spring flowering spirea, Annebelle hydrangea, an aging privet hedge,Rose of Sharon, a swath of Lily of the Valley, hosta, sedum,campanula, and in the spring hundreds of pastel tulips, a traditional garden waiting for someone.
There is a problem though, for while it certainly is more garden than the rest of the neighborhood, it is not what we intend. It is going to take some doing to make this garden ours....

Thursday, October 19, 2006

What is a garden?
How does it evolve from the space that exists, into a garden, our garden?
When do we claim it as our own?
Is it while searching for a place to call home, basing the decision on what can be envisioned, or is it only after enough change takes place,enough work has been done that our imput begins to show?

I have always lived in homes with gardens. Mothers garden, Grandmothers garden, and my own. The women in our family claim the gardens although much work has been accomplished with the aid of men. I know men that garden, but they are fewer in these circles. It may be different elsewhere. So womens gardens have shaped my vision of what a garden should be.

Grandma's garden was for food. She grew in an old fashioned way, adding aged manure,mulching with straw, turning under the dead and dying remains after a season was over. No herbicides or pesticides.
She canned some of the harvest, dried some of the harvest. She served bountiful meals all through the season. She lived in the country with plenty of land and picked berries from wild patches, apples and nuts from the trees, mushrooms from the woods. She and nature provided.

Mom grew flowers, for cutting and smelling and touching. She saved seeds, took cuttings, shared with neighbors and family and friends. She knew the names of so many of the plants that grew wild near her childhood home. Not the scientic names but the common names given to her as she asked as she grew.And then passed on to me, when I asked. She would have nothing to do with poisons. She liked Miracle Grow.

My own garden style is a combination of these spaces and people, a unique sport.

A philosophy of life encompassing the garden began to emerge. It happened slowly. When young I was indignant about mankinds role. There are so many of us and we seemed to be crowding out other inhabitants of this world. Humans are generalists in the extreme, able to adapt quickly, ever expanding into new territory. Could this bring other than disaster?
After years of education and maturity I realized that mankind could/would learn to co-exist. We would learn and adapt or crash, like all other species. Life and the earth will out.

This wildlife habitat/garden arises from this developing philosophy ...so this journal begins...
October 20 2006