scruffy horticulture

Mining Bee visits Highbush Blueberry

Assassin Bug, Ambush Bug, Great Golden Digger Wasp, Cellophane Bee, Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly, Sweat Bee, Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly…these were some of the names of invertebrates swirling around in my head during The Ecological Landscape Alliance Conference.  What we plant, where we plant it matters.  Have you ever considered  the mortality rate of bees caused by traffic along roadways? These are tough times for insects.  Heather McCargo of the Wild Maine Seed Project had a lot to say on this subject.

Prairie Blazing Star, Liatris pycnostachya – Curtis Prairie, Wisconsin

“The easiest way to promote a pollinator corridor is by changing your mowing regime. Along with forest clear-cutting and urban sprawl, mowing habits impact insect pollinators, birds and other fauna tremendously.  In New England, most landowners and municipalities mow their roadsides and fields in the middle of the growing season.  For hay harvesting, this makes sense, since the hay crop is at its prime.

However, this is not good timing for native plant flowering and seed ripening or for the myriad creatures that depend on this critical part of the native plant cycle. Pollinating insects depend on these native plants for some parts of their life cylce…An easy way to support the life cycle of these plants and pollinators is to delay mowing until the end of the season – late October and early November in Maine.  In fact, many meadow areas need only be mown every few years to keep the forest from returning.” Heather McCargo

“The second method involves actively reintroducing native woody and perennial plants to create year-round habitat for many of our most important insect pollinators, birds and other creatures. These plants can be added to an area that is now lawn, is not mowed or is located on the shady side of a field that borders a woodland. Much of the work can be done in late fall and early spring when the ground is too wet for planting annual crops. Many of these native plants even produce a harvestable crop”.  Helen McCargo
do you know it?  i-Tree was developed by the US Forest Service and is free software:

i-Tree Landscape, i-Tree Design, i-Tree Canopy, i-Tree Species, i-Tree Planting, i-Tree My Tree, i-Tree Harvest, i-Tree Glossary, i-Tree Database, i-Tree Eco, i-Tree Hydro, i-Tree Streets, i-Tree Vue and of course, an app for your phone.  It’s amazing!
What does SUP stand for:  Spontaneous Urban Plants.
“Spontaneous Urban Plants investigates the role of weeds in the urban ecosystem by profiling a cross section of weeds. The intent is to stimulate a discourse between ecologists, designers, artists and the general public that explores societal perceptions of weeds and questions the stigmas that surround them. Leveraging principles of urban ecology and environmental aesthetics, we are encouraging an objective debate of the value of wild urban plants and thereby challenging contemporary cultural perceptions”. Future Green Studio
The idea of David Seiters’ book SUP, drives me crazy.  I spend a great deal of my time pulling weeds.  But I love the drawings of weeds in this book.  Seiter has tried to make the ordinary and overlooked, beautiful.  Challenging our perceptions of weeds, I am forced to admit there is value in understanding how a weed can grow in between the cracks.
The Curtis Prairie (pictured above) is the world’s oldest ecologically restored prairie.  Darrell Morrison is 80 years old and considered the guru of ecological restoration.  Morrison was the keynote speaker as well as one of the session speakers at The Ecological Landscape Conference at UMass..  “Design inspired by Music” was the title of Morrison’s workshop.  He was given large white pieces of paper with a site plan (in one case a house, barn, roadway and trees indicated, in another a piece of land that went down to a river. Using music he choose, but with no prior knowledge of the site, he invited the audience to see how he uses  music to conceptually design a site.  Below is a youtube video  showing his process.

Something Darrell Morrison said has me re-thinking my plant aesthetic.  “I saw the light when I read American Plants for American Gardens by Edith Roberts and Elsa Rehmann.  They convinced me of the importance of looking at native plants as parts of communities.  It’s such an eminently reasonable way of looking at landscape.  Working with the plants that were here before we were is a way to create a real sense of place.”


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