Friday, June 17, 2011

Native Plant Gardening Events June 25 & 26

Next weekend my wife and I are organizing two native plant and wildlife gardening workshops/ events.  The first would help us complete a portion of the landscaping at Home ReSource (my favorite Missoula store), and the second is some maintenance work at the Native Plant Garden at 8th and Grant (pictured above).

My wife and I have a native plant, wildlife, and sustainable garden coaching and consultation business, Butterfly Properties, and each year we select a community project to work on as volunteers.  We enjoy spreading the beauty of native plants throughout town, and promoting an appreciation of Montana's flora.  The Native Plant Garden at 8th and Grant and Home ReSource's landscaping are two of our on-going projects.

We also support non-profits in other ways: offering discounted services to the Green Blocks participants, donating services to charity auctions, even giving actual money when we have it (we are even in the process of devleoping a grant program for community groups and non-profits).

We're planning some work at both these sites next weekend and we hope you will join us for a few hours and learn about landscaping installation, site preparation, design, and of course, weeding.

Saturday June 25, 10 am- 1 pm at Home ReSource, 1515 Wyoming Street

We are finishing the Home ReSource project by adding a "landscape pocket" on the Russell Street side. This new bed is an opportunity to learn about site preparation, native plant species, and garden maintenance. We love Home ReSource (their mission, their staff, and all the cool stuff they have for sale), and we have been donating our time and materials to this site since last year. (Here's a blog post from several months ago about spring maintenance in the HR gardens).

Topics/ activities:
Site preparation (when do you need to add topsoil? Why? Where do you get it?
Soil grading (What is it? How?)
How to plant plants
Mulch (Why? How? Where do you get it?)
Tour established native plant landscape at Home ReSource (completed in 2010).
Weed identification and removal (minimal)

Bring work gloves, sturdy shoes and questions!

Sunday June 26, 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm at the Native Plant Garden at 8th and Grant

Stop by and check out how beautiful this little park has become, and see what's flowering this week! Help clean up the park and learn about native plants and wildlife gardening. We will be weeding, pruning and maybe even planting a few plants. Bring gloves, and tools for weeding (if you have them). You can learn more about the park here.

Maybe we'll throw a few horseshoes in the horseshoe court, if there's time and energy. It's a wonderful community spot and we'd love to show it to you. Sunday June 26th, 6:30 pm- 8 pm.

You can view and even RSVP for both of these events on our Facebook site 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

2011 will be remembered as the year of the aphid

WARNING!  This blog post contains explicit images of mucivory.

Every year, and every season, is different in the garden.  This year has been cool and wet, and some plants have really benefited like the arrow leaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), and some are having a tougher time like bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva).  That is why diversity in the garden is so important; and interesting.  The biggest benefactor, this year seems to be the aphids, though I am not sure why.  The abundance and diversity of aphids this year is incredible (on our native plants that is, not on our eggplants and peppers). 

A few years ago I was excited to find the red goldenrod aphids had finally colonized a little patch of goldenrod (Solidago missouriensis).  Last year though, none were in sight. 

This year it seems there are aphids on many species, different aphids on each of our goldenrod species (S. missouriensis, S. canadensis, and S. ridgida). 

Not just goldenrods, though.  There are aphids on our big basin sage (Artemisia tridentata - though they are there every year), red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), 
chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), and 
Wilcox’s penstemon (Penstomon wilcoxii). 
This is even the first year I’ve seen aphids on our Ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa).  There are over 350 species of aphids, and most are host-plant specific.  That is, they only feed on a species of plant or plants that share a common genus. 
Compared to when our eggplants or peppers get aphids, when our native plants get colonized by a lot of aphids, it rarely results in damage to the plant.  Actually, our big basin sage seems to thrive in the presence of aphids. 

On our Ponderosa pines we have the giant conifer aphids (Cinara spp.).  These feed on the branches and stems, not on the leaves, and few arborists even consider these a threat.

All these aphids, though are really providing a lot of food for all the birds in the garden that glean insects from the leaves.  Also a benefactor is all the insects that feed on their soft bodies, which I am learning about thanks to my latest project- my insect collection. 

So far that has been a wonderful experience, and I am learning so much, even more than I expected (thanks again to Jen Marangelo from the Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium ).  I am simply amazed by the diversity of bees, and flies that are wasp- and bee-mimics.  I am even really impressed by all the species of ladybird beetles in the garden- the sworn, mortal enemy of the aphid.