Monday, April 23, 2007

Ornamental and native grass in the habitat garden

I like growing distinct clumps of grass in with flowers. A tall straight panicum or feather reed looks great as a background for just about any blooms. A flowing fine textured grass like prairie dropseed looks good with plants that have a strong vertical shape. Low growing clumps of grass can be grown with mounds of flowers like coreopsis or plants that send the blooms up wispy stems like gaura or verbena.
Early in the year as the grass emerges bulbs and spring flowers have little visual competition.
As the weather heats up the still low clumps of grass grow slowly forming a groundcover around summer flowers giving a softened merging of color and shape that moves with the wind.
In late summer and fall the grass dominates the show both in mass and color.
A grass like little bluestem is at its best in color and form after a cold hard freeze. Snow clings to dark stiff seedheads and stems, blanketing the ground in crystaline white. Worth braving winters worst to admire up close.
There is a grass or sedge to suit any purpose ... dry shade ,wet shade, dry sun,wet sun, clayloam, sand , poor or rich soil. For woodland,shoreline,meadow and mountain there is a grassy texture to suit.

Grass provides food in the form of seeds for many birds ,forage for mammals and even host a few insects.
Grass also provides cover from predators and nesting sights for small mammals and ground birds.
The deep roots of many grass natives helps prevent erosion and allows rainfall and runoff to percolate the soil.

A few notes...

Sorghastrum nutans grows best in deep, well-drained floodplain soils but is highly tolerant of poorly to excessively well-drained soils, acid to alkaline conditions, and textures ranging from sand to clay.
Indian Grass was a major component of the tall grass vegetation which once dominated the prairies of the central and eastern United States.
Indiangrass is widespread growing in upland prairies, glades, and open woods from the eastern seaboard to North Dakota, south to Arizona and Old Mexico.

Prairie Dropseed/ Sporobulus heterolepsis

grow in full sun, dry to average soil.
occurs naturally in prairies, barrens, and limestone bluffs in the mid-continent, from Canada to Texas, infrequent eastward to New England.
Very thin, emerald green leaves form a dense arching tuft. Seed heads form in August and give off a distinct aroma. These graceful clumps turn yellow or deep orange in fall.
Provides food and cover for wildlife.
Combine Prairie Dropseed with Purple Poppy Mallow, Missouri Black-eyed Susan, Missouri Primrose, Purple Beardtongue, Lanceleaf Coreopsis, and Prairie Blazing Star.
Prairie Onion, Pale purple coneflower Liatris blazingstar.

Prairie dropseed


Panicum spp.
Habitats include black soil prairies, clay prairies, sand prairies, typical savannas and sandy savannas, open woodlands, rocky bluffs, sand dunes, marshes and sandy pannes, rocky banks of rivers, prairie restorations, areas along railroads and roadsides, and abandoned fields.
Because of its above-average tolerance of salt, this species can become the dominant grass along little-mowed roadsides where salt is applied during the winter.
Grow in partial to full sunlight, moist to mesic conditions, and deep fertile soil. However, this robust grass can tolerate practically any kind of soil and it will adapt to drier conditions

Schizachrium scoparium/Little bluestem
Provides nest sites, protective cover and food for birds.Drought tolerant; additional water or fertilizer is unnecessary.
Grow in full sun.
Grow in dry to average soil.
Tolerates heat and humidity easily.
Native Range,Prairies, fields, open woodlands and roadsides; New Brunswick to Alberta south to Arizona and Florida.

Chasmanthium latifolium - Wild Oats
Grows best in rich moist soil in shade or sun.
Occurs naturally in bottomland forests, mesic upland forests, valleys, and stream banks from the eastern U.S. west to Nebraska, Texas, and Mexico

Hair Grass - Deschampsia flexuosa.Wavy Hairgrass
This showy, fine-textured, evergreen grass is excellent in shady gardens or woodland settings. A cool season grower, wavy hairgrass forms a tight clump of narrow, wiry foliage.
In late spring, stems shoot up above the foliage and arch gracefully with frothy-looking flowers.
Clumping grasses like this provide nest sites and winter cover for quail and sparrows.
They also provide fall and winter seeds for a number of birds including cardinals, towhees, juncos and other sparrows, finches, goldfinches, redpolls and snow buntings.

Wildlife habitat design

Native Grass

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Today the boys age 10 and 6 helped me dig up and pot lots of small strawberry plants. Only had to show them how once. They had fun claiming their share of the bounty by writing names on the pots. They have great plans for all that fruit. They asked if strawberries would grow this year. They know to ask because these are the same boys that are still waiting for those apple seeds, planted a couple of years ago, to bear fruit. Some, said I, but next years harvest will be better. I told them to watch for little white flowers to appear and for the bees to pollinate each flower so that the berries could form. They know all about pollination from school.
The youngest is determined to grow fruit and sell it in baskets. He collects baskets and plastic containers for future use. He was really happy to hear how quickly strawberries grow.

While at our work we found the rabbit nest. I knew it was in the garden somewhere having watched the behavior of the big momma sneaking in and out of the garden. Tried to follow her a couple of times but she outsmarted us until today.We saw only one of the babies,having left the nest but staying timidly near, but the depression was certainly large enough for several more.
Almost lost my helpers as they were off on all fours trying to find more babies.

We are making plans for the 3rd annual Great American Backyard Campout scheduled for Saturday, June 23, 2007.
Inviting friends and cousins, planning on what to cook out and how much gear is needed. The website is full of ideas. If anyone else is camping with kids that night let us know. We can share pictures of the campsite and what we find after dark in the garden.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Spring clean-up in our habitat garden.

Over several weeks in spring we gradually clean up the dead plant material that was left for the winter. All tall stems that are still standing are cut back and laid out in the pathways in the wild garden behind the garage. That includes fennel,sunflower, heliopsis,hydrangea,Joe-pye-weed and lily stems that are tall and brittle.
A lot of low lying foliage is left to decompose in place. The intermediate sized is mostly clipped or broken into smaller pieces and put into the compost.
Depending on where the taller grass is growing it may be cut into segments and left on the ground or put in the compost.
Leaves are left to mulch where they are.

Each year the old blackberry canes must be pruned out and the new canes kept in bounds. So there is always a pile of thorny brambles.
One of the red osier dogwood is cut back to the ground and allowed to regrow. The others are left to flower and berry. There are four tall dense shrubs and a couple of smaller ones from cuttings so there will be plenty of berries. Otherwise we do little pruning of the other shrubs.
All woody branches join wood piles or are used as starter for the grill or chimenea.

I do a bit of weeding.
Previous gardeners grew several Rose of Sharon of which we have left a couple as small trees.
This means every spring there are many seedlings to dig out. Some dandelions are allowed to grow in the grass but beheaded elsewhere. Lady'sthumb/smartweed is edited leaving enough to sustain a few beneficials. All wild thistle and bindweed must go.
I have found some interesting plants amid the weeds over the years and tend to allow them to grow until identified.

The perennial vines are few. Virginia creeper and a couple of clematis are easily cut back.

Its pretty close to time for the first mowing of the greenways...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Map of Terrapin Run, MD US

Sometimes I am tempted to go off into the woods and buy a small piece of property.To live there quietly, observing.Sort of my own Walden's Pond.
Only the fear of my very human nature allowing civilization to follow keeps me from taking such a step.It is better to live in the urban confines than defile one more rural space.

Are there no others that feel the same? Must we continue to put developement where it does not belong.

"For a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone." Thoreau

April 6, 2007

CUMBERLAND — In a victory for the developers of the proposed Terrapin Run housing development, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals on Friday upheld a decision by the Allegany County Board of Zoning Appeals to grant the proposal a special exception.

In a 21-page opinion, Judge James Eyler ordered the case remanded back to the Allegany County Circuit Court with instructions to affirm the board’s original resolution to allow construction in the conservation and agriculturally zoned land adjacent to Green Ridge State Forest.
Eyler said the court found “no error in the board’s decision” that the proposed 4,300-unit planned, residential development was in harmony with the county’s comprehensive plan.
“We are very gratified the Court of Special Appeals accepted our argument and affirmed the county Board of Zoning Appeals’ decision,” Attorney Bob Paye, representing the project’s developers, PDC Inc., said. “I think the decision vindicates the hard work of the (board and Planning and Zoning Commission). They did a very thorough, conscientious job hearing all the arguments and deciding the issues.”
The board’s decision to grant Terrapin Run a special exception was appealed in September 2005 by a group of local citizens, who challenged the standard of “in harmony” the board used. Circuit Court Judge Gary Leasure agreed and remanded the case back to the board in May 2006, directing the board to consider whether the proposal was “consistent with” the comprehensive plan, which he considered to be a more rigid standard.
The citizens’ group, however, believed the standard should have been set to “in conformance with” and petitioned Leasure’s decision to the Court of Special Appeals one month later.
In his opinion, Eyler wrote that the court believes the county’s comprehensive plan serves only as a guide and that the issues regarding standards are a matter of semantics.
“Whether we describe the board’s analysis as examining whether the special exception use is in harmony with, consistent with or in conformity with the plan, the terms differ only semantically,” he wrote. “In the present case, each term connotes only a general compatibility with the purpose and intent of the plan, as opposed to a strict adherence to the plan.”
The Court of Special Appeals also upheld the board’s decision to approve a proposed shopping center in the development, as well as a waste water treatment plant. The circuit court did not rule on these issues.
“Approval of the proposed commercial/retail area as an accessory use was within the board’s discretion,” the opinion read. “The inclusion of a waste water plant in a planned community is not uncommon and was within the contemplation of the legislative body in deciding that planned, residential developments are permitted by special exception.”
Dale Sams, representing the group of citizens who filed the appeal under Hagerstown Attorney William Wantz, said Friday afternoon he had not yet reviewed the opinion“As far as any next steps ... I would suspect we’d have to consider what would be appropriate,” he said. “This may be a decision some state agencies, particularly the Maryland Department of Planning, might want to take note of.”
Wantz did not respond to a request for comments Friday.
Craig Leonard, project manager of the Terrapin Run development, said he and PDC Inc. Principal Michael Carnock are progressing with their engineering plans, even as the status of further litigation is unknown. “We’re hopeful this is the last decision,” he said.

The Cumberland Times-News reported on the expert testimony of Mark W. Eisner, P.G., President of Advanced Land and Water, Inc. Mr. Eisner has testified the preceding evening, before the Allegany County Board of Zoning Appeals, on a proposed subdivision called Terrapin Run.
The Sun-Times reported that the "...hearing began with continuing testimony from Mark Eisner, President of Advanced Land and Water, Inc., who explained that using the Maryland Department of the Environment’s process for determining the availability of groundwater, the 935-acre Terrapin Run development could sustain the building of more than 1,400 homes over the next 12 years (a timeframe set by MDE.
"Using an MDE-determined figure of 300 gallons of available groundwater per acre per day, which takes drought conditions into consideration, the acreage on which homes could be built would yield about 350,000 gallons per day. But Eisner noted that at full build-out, Terrapin Run homes would require at least 750,000 gallons per day.
The 1,400 homes that would be built in 12 years are estimated to require approximately 244,000 gallons of water per day, well within the 350,000 gpd limit set by MDE. But if 4,300 homes are to be built on the property over 20 years, -- more water would be needed to serve the entire community. He said that MDE would not issue [groundwater appropriation] permits to build more houses than the groundwater could support."
"...’This is one of the best areas in Allegany County [for a project of the nature of Terrapin Run]’, said Eisner. ‘One reason is the property’s bowl-shaped drainage pattern, and the state-owned forest land to the south and east would have less other wells to be potentially adversely impacted by the development.’ These were favorable characteristics."
Based in part on Mr. Eisner’s testimony, ultimately the Allegany County Board of Zoning Appeals approved Terrapin Run. The Board’s official findings are attached. Accurate, effective and compelling expert testimony is a core ALWI professional service.

expert testimony

Another setback for Terrapin Run...
Appalachian Greens


Sunday, April 01, 2007

MYOPHILY (Fly pollination)

March weather is often cold and rainy. Not the kind of weather that you will find very many bees humming through a Chicago garden. So how do those plants that bloom so early manage. It seems trees are mostly wind pollinated but any insects so inclined may use the pollen they generate. Bulbs produce pollen and seed but have bulb division as a way to spread if seed production is inadaqute. And flies are handy pollinators available just about anytime of year.

After a long winter bees are looking for pollen as well as nectar. Pollen provides a protein source and nectar is a sweet carb. The protein content of pollen varies between 10 to 36%. In early spring when pollen sources are scare the less nutritional pollens may be used until richer fare becomes available. If this goes on too long nutritional deficiency may occur.

I went out into the garden to check the pollen supply of a couple of blooms. This powder like yellow smudge on my finger is from a daffodill.

This second picture of pollen from the Nanking cherry looks and feels more granular.

Access to the pollen was easy.

Good sources of early pollen include Maple,Elm,Redbud,willow,cedar,fruit bloom,henbit,and reliable dandelion.

Myophily Fly Pollination

Flies (Dipterans) are among the most common insects that visit and pollinate flowers. Flies have been mentioned as pollinators or regular visitors of thousands of species of flowering plant. A great variation of pollination methods is found among the plants that are fly pollinated. Many of the pollinator flies feed on exposed fluids and also eat small solid particles including pollen grains. Flies are important pollinators under certain climatic conditions because they are present at all times of the year. Some plants may be completely dependent on flies for pollination. Even flies that are generalists in their floral visits can contribute to plant reproductive success, and may equal or rival bees as effective pollinators in some.

MYOPHILY (Fly pollination): In general, typical fly pollinated flowers do not bloom regularly and are simple with very little depth. Flower colour is usually pale with a dull texture. Nectar guides often occur. Nectar is open or easily available and the male and female parts of the flower are well exposed. Many of these flowers are scented, but for the most part, the scent is imperceptible.

The "hoverflies" are some of the most common pollinators flies, they are often brightly coloured they are also known as pollen eaters and visit tubular or convex shaped flowers. Adult flies feed on pollen and nectar.