Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brown Roof; a Green Roof Update

Apparently brown is the new green.  This isn't really surprising though, and the golden grasses look appropriately colored for this time of the year.  After a wet and unseasonably cool spring and early summer, it's been hot and dry for weeks and it looks like the same is in store for weeks to come.

Everything is dormant now, in the hills and prairies around Missoula, and in our native plant garden, too, save for some goldenrod (Solidago rigida, and S. canadensis), blanketflower (Gaillardia arristata),  fleabane (Erigeron spp.) and hairy golden aster (Heterotheca villosa)

In my last update about the green roof on July 5, I said I'd water it once a week to get it established.  I didn't.  I guess that is one of the downsides of planting things on a roof is that they are easily overlooked. It is a little startling to look back to the first week of July and see how much the roof has changed- I'd forgotten it was so lush (see photo below).  And that happens every year.

I think the plants are fine, though.  If you look closely through the brown of the roof, a little life is showing itself.

Despite the temperatures in the mid 90's, the days are shorter, the nights longer, and and soon rubber rabbit brush (Ericameria nauseosa) will flower, and that takes us into fall.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Garden "weeding": preparation for fall planting

The culprit: a Wilcox's penstemon too close to a path. A good plant in a bad place.
 A question I get asked a lot is how much time I spend weeding the garden.  This is a really interesting question and it brings up all sorts of issues from "what is a weed", to people's notion of what maintaining their landscape or yard means.  Unfortunately, to many homeowners, maintaining their yard is a chore that only involves mowing, watering and weeding- most of which are detested by their owners.  So, when you see our garden, people notice that I don't mow, probably recognize that I don't water it, and so the only thing left for me to do must be to weed it. Weeding a lawn or garden is often the only way people interact with their landscape, and this saddens me a little, but it is a really interesting concept, too.

The time I spend maintaining our landscape is not work, or drudgery or something I dread.  Instead, in the native plant garden, it is an activity I love.  I look forward to it.  It is a way of exploring, discovering, and working on the aesthetic.  Seldom do I mow or "weed".  Well, I do weed the garden a lot, but weeding is probably a different activity than people think.  A "weed" is simply an unwanted plant (click here for more information).  In our garden, most of the weeding I do is to remove native plants that are coming up in the "wrong" place. Typically it s usually a tall plant that ends up coming up in a place I want a short one, like next to a path.  Or plants that sprout where I just don't want them.

 It is actually rare that we have non-native garden weeds.  This is surprising to many and it is probably the result of our site preparation, the fact that we don't water, and by removing all of our lawn, we have limited the source of non-native weeds.  What we are left with though is a strong source of native plants.

My typical strategy is to dig up the young plants, pot them up and put them in our "nursery" for a couple of weeks.  There I baby them- water them daily and take good care of them (both of which don't happen in the landscape!).  After a couple of weeks, I'll plant them out in the garden in their new location.  I try to do this when the weather is favorable and if possible, try to time it around some rain.  Usually this is the main activity of mine in the spring, but fall is another great time to plant, and in preparation for September, I am digging stuff up and putting it in the nursery now.
Our nursery full of weeds.
It is not much to look at now, but in a few weeks they will be looking good and ready to get out in the garden.  Lots of new, free, desirable plants, no longer "weeds".

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Community Native Plant Garden Volunteerism: International Edition

A guest post by David's wife.
We just got home from a week in Glacier & Waterton Lakes National Parks. Together the parks have been designated an International Peace Park because of efforts to manage the landscape cooperatively, and because the shared boundary between the parks (Glacier in Montana, USA, and Waterton Lakes in Alberta, Canada) is the longest stretch of unprotected border between the two nations. It's a nice feeling. The parks are completely breathtaking. We did a lot of hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing, and of course, we volunteered at the native plant garden in the Waterton townsite.

Yes, that's right, there is a beautiful native plant demonstration garden right in downtown Waterton. And because we were on a charmed trip (staying in the Prince of Wales Hotel for a few nights, backpacking back and forth across the Canada-USA border, spotting 11 bears on the trip, seeing not only two white-tailed ptarmigan on the Carthew Ridge, but also TWO pomeranians- Chester and Sadie) it worked out that we were there in time to participate in the weekly volunteer sessions. Can you believe it? I know!

When we found out about the volunteer night at the garden, we were all over it. Volunteer nights in the garden are fairly new (Friday from 3-5 pm), and are led by Parks Canada Interpretive Specialist David Musto. Lois from Lethbridge is a regular volunteer in this and other plant restoration projects in Waterton (both are pictured below). We enjoyed visiting with them, exchanging ideas about community garden projects.

We loved the garden. It surrounds an old cottage-y style government building and has huge swathes of goldenrod (Solidago spp.), fireweed (Epilobium angustifolia), asters (Aster spp.) and blanketflower (Gaillardia aristata). Penstemons (Penstemon confertus, and other P. spp.) and dryas (Dryas octopetala) were in seed.

We spent some time weeding familiar things like black medic and cheatgrass. I was just getting set to go after some quackgrass when it was already time to go.

It's a wonderful project and I hope that people will participate as part of the outstanding interpretative programs offered in the park.  If you are going to Waterton, stop by and check it out! 

And now for the important, local segue...

If you aren't going to be in Waterton, there is a similar awesome volunteer opportunity for you just south of the border here in Missoula.  This Thursday August 18th from 6:30-8:00pm we're having a volunteer night at the 8th Street Native Plant Pocket Park.  Tasks include collecting seeds, pulling some bindweed, and a general cutting back of things (for aesthetics). Here is the link to the Facebook event:

and of course we want you to go to the new Facebook Fan Page for the Pocket Park and "Like" it.

See you there, or right here on the blog. Happy Late Summer and best wishes to our international friends working on urban native plant gardens.  We just found a like minded project in Chile thanks to the wonders of Facebook. We're happy to see people everywhere embracing their native species in urban areas. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

BOW Native Plant Gardening Class Wrap-up

Thanks so much to all the participants in today's Montana BOW Native Plant Gardening Class and Garden Tour. It is always wonderful to meet so many interested and enthusiastic people. I wanted to especially thank Liz Lodman and Barb Furlong for continuing to organize such a wonderful program.  I look forward to teaching again at a Montana BOW workshop in the future.

Here is a link to the presentation I gave:  
Click here to download the presentation
Below are some links to blog posts I covered in class or referenced in discussions.
Below are some of the books and references I talked about in the class:
  • Prairie-style gardens- Lynn Steiner
  • The American Meadow Garden- John Greenlee
  • Front Yard Gardens: Growing more than grass- Liz Primeau
  • The Magic of Montana Native Plants: A Gardeners Guide to Growing over 150 Species from Seed- Sheila Morrison
  • Bringing Nature Home- Douglas Tallamy
  • Shrink Your Lawn- Evelyn Hadden
  • Noah's Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards- Sara Stein
  • Paradise by Design, Native Plants and the New American Landscape- Kathryn Phillips
  • The Forgotten Pollinators- Buchmann, Nabhan, and Mirocha
  • Landscaping Ideas of Jays- Judith Larner Lowry
  • Gardening with a Wild Heart -Judith Larner Lowry

Another opportunity to learn about native plant gardening!
The Native Plant Garden at 8th and Grant
Also, I forgot to mention in the class today, but you all are invited to join us for more seed collecting and to learn more about native plant gardening.  On August 18, from 6:30-8:00 pm, we are having a gardening night at a small neighborhood native plant garden my wife and I installed and have been maintaining (see the photo above).  Stay tuned for a blog post about this upcoming event, but, if you can't wait, you can RSVP to the event via the Facebook page for our business, Butterfly Properties, or "like" the new Facebook Page for the neighborhood garden, the 8th Street Native Plant Garden, or click here for more information.

Thank you all again for attending the class- I look forward to hearing about all your garden projects!