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