Beautiful day at Redbud

Thank you to Catherine Smith for giving us a tour
of Redbud Native Plant Nursery and introducing us to some lovely,
not so common native plant options for our own gardens.
The weather could not have been better!

Photos by Megan Barker



October Event

Redbud Native Plant Nursery Tour
Catherine Smith, Owner
It’s not too late to plant!
Join us for a tour of Redbud Nursery, with extraordinary plantswoman Catherine Smith. We’ll focus on plants with fall appeal, species with high wildlife value, and favorite plant combinations. Take a new look at your garden, and add to its beauty and interest (to people and wildlife!) throughout the autumn season.
Sunday, October 25th, 2009
2:00pm to 4:00pm
Redbud Native Plant Nursery
1214 North Middletown Road
Glen Mills, Pa 19342


One seed at a time....

The following link was sent in by a fellow member. Thank you Bridgette for sharing this with the rest of us.

Cary Fowler: One seed at a time, protecting the future of food



Grasslands Field Trip

Grasslands Field Trip
presented by
The Center for Conservation Landowners
Natural Lands Trust
Media, Pennsylvania

Saturday, October 17, 2009
9:00 am – 12:30 pm

Join Natural Lands Trust (NLT) staff and Dr. Roger Latham (Continental Conservation) as we visit three grassland/meadow sites in northern Delaware and eastern Chester Counties and learn how they are established and managed to benefit wildlife and people. The trip will begin at Natural Lands Trust’s Hildacy Farm Preserve in Media where NLT has managed warm-season grass meadows for nearly a decade. We will then drive to a newly-planted meadow in Newtown Square to learn about the early stages of meadow establishment. The last stop on the field trip will be Pink Hill at Tyler Arboretum (Media), where we will see what a truly native grassland (serpentine barrens) looks like.

The cost for the field trip will be $25.
Please register by calling Brenda at 610-353-5640, ext. 243.
We will begin and end the trip at NLT’s Headquarters at Hildacy Farm Preserve, 1031 Palmers Mill Road, Media, PA.


August Event Posted

August 2009 Event
Rick’s Prairie Garden Visit & Plant Swap
Saturday, August 15, 2009
10:00am to 12 noon
Downingtown, PA
Come join Rick for a visit to his NWF Wildlife Habitat Certified Prairie Garden, located in Downingtown, PA. Rick is an ornamental horticulturalist from Chicago, who has planted mostly native trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants over the past 7 years to transform the existing lawn into a wildlife friendly prairie habitat.
Bring any extra plants from your garden to share
Pre-Registration Required, Visit HRN website for details


Wildlife Gardners

Thank you ,Sue, for sharing this great website/forum with the group.

What wildlife have you seen lately in your own habitats?


Visiting Mt. Cuba

For those who participated in the Summer Twilight Tour at Mt. Cuba last Thursday evening, what did you see and what did you enjoy most about the tour? Please share your thoughts, and even your pictures (send to blog@habitatresourcenetwork.org) with those of us who were not able to share the adventure in person.
While we wait for your feedback, take the time to read the article "A landscape ablaze: Colorful perennials herald the start of summer" featured in Nature's Landscape which is a monthly column presented by Mt. Cuba. This particular article was written by Rick J. Lewandowski, director of Mt. Cuba Center, and it's focus is on a few of the native flowers that are currently in full bloom right now! Enjoy the read:
ps - Thank you Peg for sharing the link above!


Paying Tribute

The link below will take you to the obituary for Craig Tufts, chief naturalist for NWF. His work over the years at NWF is a basis for the mission of our own local efforts, to create and preserve the native habitats in our backyards & communities.

Thank you Craig!



Pond Plans

I generously received a pond form a couple of years ago from a fellow native plant enthusiast who had decided that she would prefer a larger pond. This was exactly what I was looking for; the right shape, size and style. Unfortunately, it would require a great deal of digging, which meant I needed not only the time to dedicate to this project, but also the physical ability to accomplish the task in a timely manner once started.
Well, the time has finally arrived. The hole was dug between breaks in the clouds...could it possibly rain anymore! It is in the ground though it still requires the addition more soil around the lower side (it was placed on a slope), and then I can get the pump and filter in place and fill it with water. Needless to say, I'm excited, but during the process I have realized something...
I do not know a thing about native plants for ponds! So there is definitely some research to be done.
In the meantime, if anyone has some good suggestions for plants native to SE PA that would do well in a small pond (approx. 250 gallons) and could share some resources for purchasing these plants, it would most appreciated! Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Lowe's Is Making Progress

Who knew that Lowe's was now advertising "Native Plant" varieties? (Look for the large native plant tag hanging from each pot) Not to mention providing some information on natives vs. invasives on their internet Library...
It's a start. We need to keep requesting native plant selections from our local garden centers. When they receive enough requests, they will listen!!!


GreenSpace: Roll out the barrels to collect rain

Does it excite you, even in the slightest, to stumble across articles pertaining to environmental concerns? Thank you Bridgette for taking the time to forward the link to this article so that we could share it with other members!



Tree Tenders Training

Tree Tenders Training

Sign up now!
(Student’s, staff, faculty, Borough & Township residents)
Learn to plant & care for trees
9 hours of free training

April 7, 14, 21 (6-9PM)
113 Boucher Hall
Sponsored by the PA Horticulture Society and WCU
To register http://www.pennsylvaniahorticulturalsociety.org
& choose “sign up for Free Tree Tenders Training
Contact: Gerry Hertel; 610-436-2722; ghertel@wcupa.edu
(WCU sponsors: Grounds; Environmental Council; Gordon Natural Area)


The Mighty Oak

I can usually identify the white oaks from the black oaks, but sometimes it gets a little more difficult beyond that! My guess for this tree, Pin Oak (Quercus palustris).

Oak trees are definitely one of my favorites. Not only is the mature tree simply one of the most stately, it is absolutely one of the most beneficial trees to wildlife; in the northeast US. The acorns provide such a wonderful food source for critters and the caterpillars really love to munch on the leaves.

Have you planted an oak tree lately?


Riparian Buffers

How many ponds or streams do you drive by each day?

How many of these bodies of water are bordered by neatly cut grass?

What is the diversity of wildlife around these bodies of water?

Riparian buffers: Riparian buffers are the areas adjacent to water sources which act to protect the water from nonpoint source pollution and provide bank stabilization and aquatic and wildlife habitat. This area differs from the uplands because of moisture levels, soil composition and the unique plant communities that exisit there.

As studies have indicated, riparian buffers can reduce the amount of sediment, nutrients, and other contaminants that enter surface waters. However, the studies also suggest that these effects vary from one riparian area to another. The degree to which the riparian buffer protects water quality is a function of the area's hydrology, soils, and vegetation.

By ignoring the importance of riparian buffers, we will reduce water quality values, reduce wildlife and fish populations, cause serious property damage (bank erosion) and loss of valuable agricultural lands. If the land surrounding our waterways is void of riparian vegetation, we will also see an increase in water temperatures and decrease in dissolved oxygen. The loss of shade exposes soils to drying out by wind and sunlight and reduces the water storage capacity of the riparian area, all of which will eventually cause streambank erosion. Eroding banks contribute to sedimentation and lead to a wide shallow stream with little habitat value.

Riparian buffers are most effective at improving water quality when they include a native grass or herbaceous filter strip along with deep rooted trees and shrubs along the stream. Riparian buffers should range from 25 to 100 feet wide on each side of the stream. Not only will this improve the water quality, but it will also increase the diversity of wildlife that can survive and thrive in this healthy habitat as opposed to the monoculture of turf grass surrounding so many ponds which only attract the Canadian geese!

bae.ncsu.edu, soil.ncsu.edu, ext.vt.edu


A reporter's quest: Saving the world, one backyard garden at a time

In case you missed it, the Daily Local News published the wonderful article below on Friday, March 20, written by Anne Pickering. Thank you to the Daily Local News and Anne for allowing us to share this with you.
It's the first day of spring and while a young man's fancy may turn to love, an older woman reporter's fancy inevitably turns to spring planting and saving the world.
What on earth does spring planting have to do with saving the world, you may ask. I'm getting to that.I'm actually a lousy gardener. My mother had the green thumb. Anything she planted would miraculously bloom and thrive. The only plant I have is a prayer plant that I keep on a windowsill. It appeals to me because I like to see the leaves close-up at night.
I don't even have a garden, at least not in Chester County. I have a postage stamp-size backyard garden in New York City. I planted it two years ago and planted all the wrong things. I didn't know that at the time. It's doing well, everything blooms and nothing has died. But I'll be pulling some of the plants up and replacing them because I want to do my part to save the world — the natural world, that is.
As a reporter, I cover my share of meetings and special events. Last October, I covered the Brandywine Valley Association's annual meeting and heard a talk by Douglas Tallamy, professor and chair of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware.
Tallamy wrote a book called "Bringing Nature Home," about how native plants support the greatest quantity of native animals and insects. And although here in suburbia we have cut down the forests and built subdivisions on the meadows, if we fill those backyards with native trees and shrubs, we can attract many of the birds, insects and small mammals that were displaced.
Research conducted by Tallamy and other scientists has revealed the close link between insects and the plants they eat. The two have evolved together. To increase the number of birds, you have to provide the food they eat. Most native plant eaters are not able to eat alien plants such as the ornamentals that come from Asia, Europe and the Northwest. Those plants reduce biodiversity while native species increase biodiversity.
Some of the alien plants I planted in my garden are Norway spruce from Washington state, a pink blossom cherry tree and the butterfly bush. I found out they were aliens from Catherine Smith, the owner of Redbud Native Plant Nursery in Glen Mills.
Smith only sells native species at her nursery and last year was her best year yet with the increased interest in native plants. "Many of my customers don't really know much about native plants. They come in and say I want to attract hummingbirds or butterflys," said Smith. She recommends coral honeysuckle or the cardinal flower.
"Hummingbirds will fight over coral honeysuckle and it blooms the entire summer," she said. In terms of butterflies, "You plant a couple milkweed plants and then the monarchs will lay their eggs." The caterpillars turn into monarch butterflies.
"People get jazzed and kids love it," said Smith. "There is a misconception that native plants are weedy, but that's not true. Everybody has a different style of garden. Aside from attracting birds and wildlife, native plants are very hardy," Smith said. On any day but Saturday, Smith works with homeowners, who frequently bring in a sketch or site plan and ask for her help in choosing plants.
Another source for information on using native plants is Habitat Resource Network of Southeast Pennsylvania. The nonprofit offers classes in creating backyard habitat. More information can be found at www.habitatresourcenetwork.org.


April's Event

Attracting Birds to Your Garden

Edie Parnum & Barb Elliot
Co-Directors of Backyards for Nature
Valley Forge Audubon Society
Sunday, April 26th, 2009
3:00pm ~ 5:00pm
Crow’s Nest Preserve
201 Piersol Road
Elverson, PA 19520

A garden without birds is like a half finished picture - no matter how perfect, it's more enjoyable when it's filled with bird song. Plants and birds are a natural combination and now is a great time to plan for creating an oasis for birds in your garden. With a mission to inspire and teach people to create healthy habitats in their yards using native plants and providing the essentials for wildlife to thrive, Edie Parnum and Barb Elliot will share the how-to and rewards of attracting birds into your garden.

Pre-Registration Required

For registration or more information:
Habitat Resource Network of Southeast Pennsylvania
P.O. Box 274
Chadds Ford, PA 19317
Email: info@habitatresourcenetwork.org
Phone: 484-678-6200
Thanks to Natural Lands Trust & Dan Barringer,Preserve Manager of Crow's Nest Preserve for hosting us!


Hardy Plant Society Event

March Into Spring XIII
A Symposium for Gardeners
Saturday March 21, 2009
Delaware County Community College , Media PA

Book Sale , Silent Auction, Plant Vendors

  • Don Shadow, nurseryman/owner of Shadow Nursery, www.shadownursery.com, has introduced many outstanding plants to the trade and will speak on new and unique plants useful in the garden of today.
  • Rick Lewandowski, Director of Mt Cuba Center for Piedmont Flora, Environmentally responsible choice for garden practice.
  • Jenny Carey, Director of the Landscape Arboretum, Temple Ambler, Creating a luxuriant Mid-Atlantic garden with no additional water.
  • Gregg Tepper, Woods Path Gardener, Mt Cuba - Sensory appeal of native plants and their unique characteristics.

Download a registration form at the Hardy Plant Society web site, www.hardyplant.org.


Plugs are great!

For all of you native plant people, especially those who are still trying to improve your habitats, you may already know how beneficial it is to have the ability to purchase large quantities of plant plugs at such a small cost! Being able to buy plugs via the HRN member group purchase every year is such a wonderful opportunity, not only to obtain large quantities of plants inexpensively, but also to try new plant selections that you don't already have in your garden.
BUT, this is not really what today's post is all about! No. Instead, I am referring to PR plugs. Our mission is so focused on education, but people have to hear about our group and scheduled monthly activities in order to benefit from both the education and the plant plug purchase!
Whenever possible, spread the word!


Prairie Garden by Rick

Was anyone else excited to see the sun still in the sky this evening during the commute home? Warmer temperatures, the sun, birds chirping! Am I dreaming?

While I'm rather certain that we may still get at least one more cold snap of the season, I'm definitely thinking Spring. As we sit back pondering all of the yard chores that is ahead of us this coming season, and trying to figure out what we're going to conquer next in the garden, perhaps we can get some suggestions or ideas from fellow members and their wonderful plantings.

These photos are from Rick W. capturing his backyard prairie garden in Downingtown, PA, which he began six years ago. His main herbaceous plants are:

  • Big and Little Bluestem
  • Switchgrass
  • Culvers-Root
  • Butterflyweed
  • Queen-of-the-Prairie
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Blackeyed-Susan
  • Rattlesnake Master
  • Gayfeather

He also has some woody plants on the east side of the garden:
  • Serviceberry
  • New Jersey Tea
  • Virginia sweetspire
  • Summersweet
  • Spicebush
  • Smooth Sumac (volunteers)

He includes birdfeeders with black sunflower seed and thistle seed and a bird fountain.
Summer 2005

Summer 2008


Rick, your pictures are lovely and the gardens are beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing these with the other members.

Everyone, continue sending in emails that you would like to see posted.

Homeowners Course Completed

Saturday definitely brought warmer temperatures, but a few nature lovers were sitting inside the walls of Penn State Brandywine talking garden plans, trees and critters. Our second Homeowners Wildlife Habitat Course for 2009 is now complete.
For those of you who had the opporunity to come out this past weekend, please do not hesitate to share your experience and your habitat plans here. You can even post pictures and get suggestions from other members!


Hurry! Before it's too late!

Sign up for the upcoming

Saturday, March 7, 2009
8:30 am to 3:00 pm
Penn State Brandywine
Tomezsko Classroom Building, Room 101
25 Yearsley Mill Road, Media, PA 19063
(many thanks to our co-sponsor, Penn State Brandywine!)
COST: $40 per person or $50.00 per couple. (Includes lunch and course materials)
Habitat destruction is the leading cause of species decline, not only in the rainforests, but here in our own corner of Pennsylvania. As our land is used for human purposes, there is less undeveloped land to sustain birds, butterflies, frogs, insects and other wildlife. We can change how we landscape our individual properties to provide a home and sanctuary for wildlife, as well as for our human families.

Course topics include:

  • How to restore and create wildlife habitat on your property by providing food, water, shelter and places to raise young.
  • The importance of native plants to our local ecosystem, plant selection and sources
  • How to design for people (including children) and wildlife
  • Sustainable gardening practices that are good for the earth, people and wildlife
  • The process of Wildlife Habitat Certification through the National Wildlife Federation and Audubon.
  • Additional resources and information tailored to each homeowners’ landscape.

Lastly, the Invasive Species blog (which we follow) just recently posted a disturbing message for those of us in PA who have Ash trees on our properties!



Pictures from: http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/index.html


The Wild Columbine

Aquilegia canadensis

Wild Columbine is a native flower of Pennslyvania and grows in a variety of soil and light conditions that range from woodland edges to riverbanks, and gravelly shores and ridges. Columbine is a beautiful, native wildflower which blooms in the spring (April to July). Its drooping flowers are red and yellow, 1 to 2 inches long. Its pollen attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.

Growing to a height of 1-2 feet’, columbine does best in partial shade to filtered sun. As the tiny black seeds ripen, they can be collected by hand over several days from August to October by gently tapping the follicle (old flower) into a container.

Picture © Thomas G. Barnes University of Tennessee Herbarium.


The Future of Open Space

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend The Future of Open Space in Chester County forum in West Chester, PA, yesterday but was pleased to see this article today by Dan Kristie in the Daily Local News. If you were in attendance, we would love to hear your feedback.
WEST CHESTER — The Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said Chester County has done an excellent job preserving open space and its land-preservation method should be a model to all other counties in the commonwealth.
But now is not the time to sit back and enjoy the view, said Michael DiBerardinis. Rather, he said, the land preservation battle will be lost if those interested in saving open space don't develop new strategies.
"If we stay with our traditional tools, it won't be enough," he said. "The world of conservation is changing before us."
Standing before a crowd of more than 100 at a Saturday afternoon seminar on the future of Chester County's open space, DiBerardinis said that activists should begin to emphasize what connects open space preservation to the economy and the social life of a community.
"We need to struggle for those alignments," he said. "That's the future." For example, he said, activists should point to the presence of trees on an urban street that raise the value of properties on that street and that properties in areas that have healthy streams and parks are worth more than properties in areas without these features.
And he said activists should focus on conveying the message that there is money to be made from selling locally grown food and fitting buildings with features that will make them LEED certified. He also said woodsy walking paths can actually have a democratizing effect — anyone can use a free walking path, and while they are on it, their socioeconomic status melts away as they become simply another traveler.
On the less theoretical end, he said open-space preservationists have to find better ways to deploy easements, the legal agreements that restrict uses allowed on particular plots of land regardless of the land's zoning. Many places in Chester County should be preserved through easements, he said.
He said open-space activists must be deeply involved in combating global warming, a phenomenon that he said has already affected vegetation and weather patterns in the state forests that his agency oversees. DiBrardinis delivered the keynote address at the The Future of Open Space in Chester County seminar at the Chester County Historical Society headquarters. The seminar's purpose was to promote a new open space exhibit at the headquarters.
The forum was sponsored by the Daily Local News and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and was planned through a collaboration of the historical society, the Natural Lands Trust, the Children's Country Week Association and West Chester University.
DiBerardinis was a particularly appropriate speaker because he grew up in Downingtown during the 1950s when the area was far more rural than it is today. He said his childhood experiences playing in the woods inspired him to pursue a career in natural resources and the environment. He recalled playing in Downingtown's streams and fields as a child, and he told the crowd that his mother, after hanging the laundry in the morning, often had to chase an apparel-obsessed cow from the neighboring dairy pasture away from her clotheslines.
The event also featured a panel discussion led by Daily Local News reporter Anne Pickering. It featured Pamela Brown, conservation director of the French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust; Joe Duckworth, president of Arcadia Land Co.; William Gladden of the Chester County Planning Commission; Robert Lonsdorf, senior planner at the Brandywine Conservancy; and Molly Morrison, president and CEO of the Natural Lands Trust.


Recommended Book List

You will find a link to the list of recommended books under the Worthy Links section on the right, and as we edit the list, we will add the date in parenthesis. Continue to send us your list of favorite nature books to share with our members!


Experts fret over loss of biodiversity

In case you missed it, the Daily Local News published the wonderful article below on Friday, February 13, written by Anne Pickering. Thank you to Daily Local News and Anne for allowing us to share this with you.

MEDIA — Across suburban landscapes a new movement is growing, one possibly as revolutionary as the first cry to save open space that went up at the end of the last century when land planners recognized the danger of urban sprawl.

Across the country and particularly in heavily suburban landscapes like Chester County, a new danger has been identified: It is the loss of biodiversity, the huge variety of animal life that is disappearing from the planet."If you walk down the street and ask somebody what is the major problem of the world, they will not say an extinction crisis," said Douglas Tallamy, professor and chairman of the entomology and wildlife ecology department at the University of Delaware, who addresseda crowd of 150 people at Penn State's Brandywine campus Sunday.

"It's not on their horizon. People don't believe it. They think nature is happy someplace else. It doesn't matter what we do to our local plants, there is always a bit of nature someplace else," Tallamy said.But increasingly that bit of nature someplace else is in as big a trouble as the nature closer to home.

Tallamy, the featured speaker at a lecture hosted by the Chester-Ridley-Crum Watershed Association and the Habitat Resource Network of Southeast Pennsylvania, is at the forefront of the movement to save local biodiversity. He urges residents to turn their backyards into wildlife sanctuaries chiefly through the vehicle of planting native species.

Research conducted by Tallamy and others reveal the close link between insects and plants they eat, he said. Because the two evolved together, to increase the number of birds, you have to give them something to eat and somewhere to live — both functions of native plant life.The problem is the proliferation of ornamental plants from Asia, Europe and even the Pacific Northwest. "Most of our native plant-eaters are not able to eat alien plants," Tallamy says in his book, "Bringing Nature Home."

"And we are replacing native plants with alien species at an alarming rate, especially in the suburban gardens on which our wildlife increasingly depends."But the good news is the trend can be reversed and is relatively easy to do by replacing alien plants with native plants.There are organizations available to help homeowners and municipalities such as Habitat Resource Network that train people to be habitat stewards.

Tallamy urged homeowner associations to plant native species on open-space land, in stormwater swales and around ponds that serve as detention basins. He advocated for planting native trees such as an oak tree that 517 different species of caterpillars can eat. The caterpillars will attract birds and other insect-loving species. He recommended that the size of lawns be reduced and allow areas to revert to meadow.

The ideas were interesting to Terry Woodman, East Whiteland township manager, who attended the event. Part of the township is in the Chester-Ridley-Crum watershed.The township mandates landscaping in connection with new land development projects.Woodman said she would look at the list of tree species that the township recommends to see if they are native species. Letting lawns revert back to a meadow is a concept that is a little problematic in East Whiteland because most lots are only a half-acre. Residents worry about what effect a house that doesn't mow its lawn would have on property values, she said."I can see it working in a township such as Willistown with much larger lot sizes," said Woodman.

To contact staff writer Anne Pickering,
send an e-mail to apickering@dailylocal.com.


What is on Your Nightstand?

Over the past couple of weeks, I have attended a few different events where I listened to different individuals sharing details about the books they are currently reading. After speaking with numerous people, I leave the functions unable to remember the names of the books that were so highly praised. This leads me to my request.
I would love to compile a resource list of recommended books which we will store and share right here on our blog!! Please take a few minutes to consider which books you have read that you feel would be a great nature read (non-fiction or even fiction pertaining to nature) or even a wonderful reference book.
You may either post within the comments or send me an email at blog@habitatresourcenetwork.org. Please include the title/s, author/s, and whether the book is fiction/non-fiction/reference.
For example, since I love butterflies and moths, one of my most used books is:
Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David L. Wagner, reference book
Happy gardening and reading!


Doug Tallamy Presentation Follow Up

If you were unable to join us yesterday at the Penn State Brandywine campus to listen to a presentation given by Dr. Doug Tallamy, Professor & Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, you missed a very informative discussion. This is only my second time to hear his talk, but I can tell you that I learned something new each time, and the afternoon was well spent.

Since most of us have read his book, "Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens," we are aware of the importance of providing balanced diversity within our gardens. Diversity is life, and the loss of such diversity is really a key indicator that the human systems are failing. Instead of the sterile turf grass lawns that are so common in America, we want to increase the amount of native plant material on our property which not only provides food and shelter for wildlife, but also water sources from within the plants themselves! Dr. Tallamy reminded us that caterpillars don't come down off the plants to visit a nearby pond, but instead receive their water from the leaves that they are eating.
By increasing the diversity of plants, we increase the number of insects in our gardens, which in turn increases the bird populations and other critters that feed upon these insects. If your hobby is bird watching, then you may already know that 96% of birds rear their young on insects!
Since not every native plant is created equal, Dr. Tallamy suggested that we visit the following website and download the Host Plant list which will help us determine the native plant species that we may choose to grow on our properties and increase the diversity all at the same time. Quite simply, some plants will attract more insects and caterpillars, thus providing more food sources for wildlife.
Thank you to all who attended this presentation and we hope that you found it to be an educational experience. Please do not hesitate to share any additional points that you found interesting by using the comments field below!a

Thank you also to Penn State Brandywine and Chester Ridley Crum for helping us arrange and organize such a wonderful event!


"Go Native" with these 6 basics

So, we have sent in our orders for the Wild Ones native plant group purchase for 2009. This means that we are finally thinking Spring, and before we know it, the plants will arrive and we'll have some holes to dig. With our thoughts already on the subject of native plants, I found this nice list of things to consider on the DCNR website and thought it would be good to share with the community.

1. Protect native plant communities and minimize habitat destruction
The most important guideline is to conserve already existing areas of native vegetation as a whole, functioning unit. The easiest, least expensive, and best way to conserve Pennsylvania's plant heritage is to protect existing native plant communities from further disturbance. If disturbance is necessary, strive for minimum habitat destruction. In some cases ecological restoration may be necessary, which can include planting native species, removing invasive introduced species, controlling erosion and loosening soil compaction.

2. Landscape with native plants
Native plant communities have been destroyed in many areas and therefore landscaping is required; parks, yards, streets, and campuses, for example. Well-chosen native plants perform well in these landscapes. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR)-Bureau of Forestry (BOF) recommends avoiding rare, endangered, and threatened plants and instead choosing native plant species which grow commonly throughout the state. These hardy and adaptable plants do well in a wide variety of conditions and have a much better chance of success in gardens. If you do not want all natives, plant adapted introduced plants suited for the site, colorful annuals, or flowering plants that will not escape and become environmental weeds.

3. Learn more about native plants
Learn what plants are native in your area. The Resources Page lists just a few of the resources for this region, but there are many more. Many field guides can get you started.

4. Buy nursery-propagated native plants
Most retail nurseries and mail-order catalogs now offer native plants. The more consumers request native plants, the more this supply will grow. If you want guaranteed ornamental characteristics, cultivars (named varieties) are available in some cases; for instance, New England Aster has a cultivar named 'Purple Dome', which was selected for shorter height and showier flowers. Cultivars should be predictable in attributes like height, color, blooming period, or absence of seed pods/thorns--qualities many gardeners want. If your goal is genetic diversity, however, ask for straight species, not cultivars, grown from local seed sources. Plants grown from seed have much more variety than cloned cultivars.

5. Do not remove native plants from the wild
Taking native plants from the wild depletes native populations. Also, many wild-collected plants do not survive transplanting. Prevent wild-collecting of plants by making sure that plants you buy are propagated at a nursery, or by starting plants yourself from a local seed supply (Collect seed only with the property owner's permission). Ask the DCNR-BOF for a list of native plant and seed sources in Pennsylvania.

6. Practice responsible landscaping techniques
The first rule of responsible landscaping is to plant the right plants in the right environment: never introduce invasive plants to your landscape that will aggressively spread off your property and invade native plant communities. They can drastically alter ecosystems and give you and your neighbors maintenance headaches for years to come. Ask the DCNR-BOF for the brochure "Invasive Plants in Pennsylvania." When landscaping with native plants it is important to choose plants that will grow well at the site: wet or dry, shade or sun, acid or neutral soil. A good trick is to notice which native plants are thriving nearby, and to use those clues to guide plant selection. Other information can be found from plant nurseries, catalogs, books, or the Internet. For soil fertility, compost and mulch of leaves or grass clippings provide slow release nutrients. Chemical fertilizers often provide too many nutrients too quickly for native plants, and this flush of nutrients gives weeds a competitive edge. Proper site preparation begins with a soil test before applying fertilizer. Try organic pest control. Keep the soil covered to prevent weeds. Remove invasive plants nearby. Take out severely diseased plants, or ones with insect infestations. Many native plants attract beneficial insects which help control pests, so try creating habitat for "good bugs."


Please share interesting tidbits that you stumble across as well.


Natural Gas Drilling?

"Wildlife expert warns of ecological risks of natural gas drilling" - check out the link below to read the full article on the Penn State Live website



Video Worth Watching

"Reduce Runoff: Slow It Down, Spread It Out, Soak It In"

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Botanic Garden produced this 9-minute on-line video.


Homeowners Course Completed

It may have been cold outside on Saturday, but inside the walls of the Brandywine Conservancy Trust we were talking gardens, trees and critters. Our first Homeowners Wildlife Habitat Course for 2009 is now complete. Don't worry if you missed it, there is another one being held on March 7th at Penn State Brandywine.

For those of you who had the opporunity to come out this past weekend, please do not hesitate to share your experience and your habitat plans here. You can even post pictures and get suggestions from other members!


FEB 5: PA Green Economy Forum

A coalition of environmental organizations will host a discussion on 5 Feb 2009.

• About national climate change policy,
• Forging a clean energy economy
• And the ways that green jobs and environmentally responsible industries can benefit Pennsylvania .

We invite you attend the “Pennsylvania Green Economy Forum” at West Chester University ’s Sykes Student Union Ballroom at 7 PM.

The sponsoring organizations for the event include: Chester County Citizens for Climate Protection (4CP), West Chester University ’s Environmental Council, PennEnvironment, National Audubon Society, Pew Environment Group, the Gordon Natural Area and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Kathleen McGinty, former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (and who has recently joined Element Partners, a venture capital firm focused on clean technology) will deliver the keynote address. Panelists and guest speakers will include representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, organized labor and West Chester University . Guests will be invited to ask questions throughout the night’s program.

This forum will coincide with the “National Teach-In on Global Warming Solutions,” which will bring together hundreds of universities, faith groups and community organizations around the country to discuss global climate change in a solutions-driven dialogue. In Washington , D.C. , national environmental leaders will also be meeting to discuss the potential impact of green jobs on our economy during this time.

We hope you will be able to join us for this unique and important discussion.


There is Still Time to Register!

Habitat Resource Network of Southeast Pennsylvania is very pleased to offer a “Homeowner Wildlife Habitat Course” to be held at Willistown Conservation Trust on Saturday, January 24, 2009.

Habitat destruction is the leading cause of species decline, not only in the rainforests, but here in our own corner of Pennsylvania. As our land is used for human purposes, there is less undeveloped land to sustain birds, butterflies, frogs, insects and other wildlife. We can change how we landscape our individual properties to provide a home and sanctuary for wildlife, as well as for our human families.

The course topics include:
· How to restore and create wildlife habitat on your property by providing food, water, shelter and places to raise young.
· The importance of native plants to our local ecosystem, plant selection and sources
· How to design for people (including children) and wildlife
· Sustainable gardening practices that are good for the earth, people and wildlife
· The process of Wildlife Habitat Certification through the National Wildlife Federation and Audubon.
· Additional resources and information tailored to each homeowners’ landscape

The course will run from 8:30am to 3:00pm. The fee is $40 per person or $50 per couple. Course materials and lunch are included. For more information or to register, go to www.habitatresourcenetwork.org, email info@habitatresourcenetwork.org or call 484-678-6200.

Connect your piece of the earth to the larger ecosystem, and nourish our local biodiversity!
The mission of the Habitat Resource Network of SEPA is to create a network of people, organizations and resources to support the restoration and maintenance of wildlife habitat and to promote sustainable landscape practices in Southeastern Pennsylvania (more info at www.habitatresourcenetwork.org). . Habitat Resource Network is a local chapter of Wild Ones, a national organization dedicated to the preservation, restoration and establishment of native plant communities (more info at www.for-wild.org).


Tree ID?

Your keen ID skills have been requested. The following two pictures have been submitted by someone needing assistance with identification. The tree came up fast, was cut down, and came right back up to over six feet in less than one year! Please click on "Comments" below to reply.
(click on pictures to enlarge)

Thank you for your input!


Grant Opportunity

Below you will find a link to a nice grant opportunity from Fiskars but hurry because the deadline is February 17th:

Project Orange Thumb

I stumbled across this opportunity within 5 minutes of reviewing the updated "Blogs We Follow" section on the right. Please feel free to forward any other links or blogs that you follow which we can add to our site to benefit our members.



Submitted by: Sue Stark, Gardener and Volunteer Coordinator at Scott Arboretum & current Secretary of Habitat Resource Network
Long ago I was inspired by Sara Stein’s books Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards and Planting Noah’s Garden: Further Adventures in Backyard Ecology which describe the importance of backyard ecology and homeowner land stewardship as a means of promoting and preserving biodiversity in suburbia. Recently, another inspiring and fascinating book has been written by Doug Tallamy about the importance of nurturing local ecosystems in our own backyards. In Bringing Nature Home, Tallamy argues that because we live with habitat destruction and fragmentation, it is critical that we restore the habitat in our own backyards to prevent the loss of many species and even large-scale extinctions. He describes in great detail reasons for and ways to enhance one’s property to support local wildlife. Through Sara Stein’s books I learned about the Wild Ones, a national organization based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which advocates the use of native plants in natural landscapes, the preservation and restoration of native plant communities, and environmental education. Our local chapter of Wild Ones is called the Habitat Resource Network of Southeast Pennsylvania (HRN) and combines the national organization of Wild Ones with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Backyard Wildlife Habitat program. The mission of the HRN is to create a network of people, organizations and resources to support the restoration and maintenance of wildlife habitat and to promote sustainable landscape practices in southeastern Pennsylvania.

In the spring of 2007, the HRN sponsored a Wildlife Habitat homeowner course, a weekend workshop intended to help homeowners develop their garden plans within the framework of the backyard wildlife habitat certification program of the NWF. I had recently moved into a house with run-down landscaping and thought designing a backyard wildlife habitat would be a fun and educational cornerstone for my new garden. The course was run by HRN volunteers who are also certified by the NWF as Habitat Stewards, volunteers who are trained to help people in the community create and restore wildlife habitats on their properties. We investigated our backyards for ways to cultivate and enhance wildlife habitats through providing food sources, sources of drinking water, places for cover and shelter, places to raise young, and the use of sustainable gardening practices. Because plants provide the first trophic level of food for the entire ecosystem, they are critical in determining the types and diversity of wildlife that will survive in any specific ecosystem. According to Tallamy, leaf-eating insects are the main source of food for birds and it is better to plant native forbs, shrubs, and trees since they are palatable to a wider variety of native insects in their various life stages. Tallamy’s book has an extensive list of native plants that provide food as well as great discussions about what types of food are needed for different types of wildlife throughout the year. Deciding what qualifies a plant as being native can be challenging and sometimes subjective. I try to pick plants I know to be native to the mid-Atlantic deciduous forest ecosystem that probably existed where my house now sits. But often aesthetics and availability get in the way of choosing such plants. In addition, I believe cultural conditions in my yard have changed since pre-development, so I look for plants that will do well in the current conditions. I frequently use cultivars of native plants because they are more readily available in the trade. All in all, I focus on plants that are native to the mid-Atlantic region and use my best judgment as to whether they will help support biodiversity in the local ecosystem. My favorite website for determining the native range of a plant is http://plants.usda.gov. Another very important factor in creating a successful backyard wildlife habitat is to provide drinking water. A water feature may be as simple as a clean birdbath, or as complex as a pond ecosystem. The more movement of water and variety of habitat a water feature provides, the more attractive it will be to a larger variety of wildlife. Areas with moving water will attract visitors by sound and sight. A pond with a beach area will attract smaller reptiles and mammals and a gentle slope will allow them safe access to water. Providing cover and places to raise young are very important in the backyard wildlife habitat. Wild fauna require places to hide in order to feel safe from people, predators, and inclement weather. They also need a sheltered place to raise their offspring. Native vegetation is one of the best ways to provide cover; leaving dead stems and leaves in beds through the winter provides crucial habitat. In addition, shrub thickets and brush piles are great hiding places. Dead trees can provide food as well as cover for a variety of animals. Man-made items such as birdhouses can provide additional shelter. You can create hiding places for animals by using logs, brush, or rocks, or by constructing a birdhouse made for the types of birds you would like to attract to your habitat. Ponds provide cover for aquatic wildlife, including fish, insect larvae, and amphibians. Gardening with sustainable practices further enhances the wildlife value of a property. Some of the techniques suggested by the NWF backyard habitat program are reducing lawn areas, mulching, using rain barrels, and xeriscaping. Lawns are generally a monoculture with little wildlife value that require a consistent input of chemicals and mowing. Replacing lawns with gardens or a native lawn alternative can reduce effort and environmental impact while adding wildlife value. If you have a lawn, mowing less often will reduce pollution and fossil fuel use and make for a stronger and healthier lawn. At the Scott Arboretum we are trialing lawn alternatives in specific sites around the Science Center. Avoiding the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides is a very important part of sustainable gardening. Pesticides not only kill their target species, but also many other organisms that provide food for larger animals. Using herbicides selectively if at all is essential for the health of the ecosystem. Mulching helps keep water in the soil for plants and reduces water use. As mulch breaks down, it provides nutrients for the plants, reducing the need for fertilization. The use of rain barrels is another sustainable practice. By collecting rainwater from gutters, rain barrels reduce the amount of tap water used in the garden while providing pure water for watering plants and filling water features. They also reduce runoff from the property. Xeriscaping, or planting drought tolerant plants, is another practice recommended to reduce water use. Letting plants go naturally dormant during times of drought stress is also a great way to reduce water use in the garden.

It was easy to certify my yard as a backyard wildlife habitat (the link is listed at the end of this article). Our yard is surrounded by a frame of mature American hollies, Ilex opaca, and flowering dogwoods, Cornus florida, both of which are native and have great wildlife value. Since taking the homeowner course, I’ve added many native perennials and shrubs that will provide food for pollinators and birds as well as cover for insects and small animals while removing many non-native invasive species such as gout-weed, Aegopodium podagraria, porcelainberry, Ampelopsis brevipedunculata, and English ivy, Hedera helix. I’ve created a modest water feature with a slow trickle that immediately attracted many insects and birds. I’ve seen a variety of dragonflies and wasps attracted to the water. Cardinals, Titmice, Sparrows and Goldfinches are frequent bathers there too. I’ve created a stick and wood pile in the back corner where I’ve seen chipmunks, snakes and salamanders. I’m working on a very small meadow in the backyard planted largely with plugs from North Creek Nurseries received through a Wild Ones group purchase; there I’ve planted Sporobolus heterolepis, Silene caroliniana var. wherryi ‘Short and Sweet’, Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’, and Symphyotrichum laeve ‘Bluebird’. I’m also experimenting with a butterfly garden in the front yard in place of lawn; I’ve put in Asclepias purpurascens, Asclepias verticillata, Liatris squarrosa, Phlox carolina, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium, and Echinacea pallida to name a few. So far, I have learned a lot about the potential for creating abundant habitat in our small third of an acre as well as enjoying the benefits of much increased diversity in our yard.

Check the HRN website for forthcoming courses. Through HRN, you can also arrange for a personal visit from a habitat steward who can assist you in creating a backyard wildlife habitat and even certifying your property. For more information, be sure to catch Doug Tallamy’s lecture hosted by HRN and the Chester Ridley Crum Watershed Association on February 8th at the Penn State Brandywine Campus or at the Scott Arboretum on Thursday, February 12 at 7:30 PM.

All books listed in this article are available in the Scott Horticultural Library. Some links of interest:

Thank you Sue for sharing this wonderful article!