Sunday, April 22, 2012

Scenes from the garden: April 21

Just an update on what is flowering, and projects I am working on in the garden.   It was such a nice day in Missoula, that I imagine a lot of people were out working in their gardens, too.  This time of the year, things in the garden change so quickly, that I just wanted to capture what is happening now.
Our front yard prairie has the most color now.  In the photo above, the electric blue of bluebells (Mertensia oblongifolia ) are in their peak.

Cutleaf daisy (Erigeron compositus) just started to flower.
Shooting stars (Dodecatheon conjugens) are still hanging on, but by the end of this weekend they might fade.

 Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) is just starting to show some color.
The first to flower in our little prairie, sagebrush buttercups (Ranunculus glaberrimus) are still hanging on, though most are in seed.
Prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) is also just starting to show signs of red.
We store garden dishes and glasses (thrift store dishes and glassware we only use for garden dining and entertaining) in the greenhouse, and I just re-purposed some old rake heads to serve as wine glass racks.
 The greenhouse is pretty barren right now, but there is a whole fleet of Thai peppers and eggplants growing steadily.
This is a sad composting area.  For a few years, I have been meaning to rebuild our compost bin, and this weekend I finally did it.  I am going to completely reorganize this area tomorrow.  In looking at this photo, I realized we have a lawn mower, but no lawn.  I think I'll Craigslist that tomorrow, or better yet, donate it to Home ReSource.  By the way, Home ReSource is a great place to get a variety of gardening tools, materials and supplies- everything from lawn edging, to pots, irrigation supplies, shovels, to fencing.  Just saying.
Sad compost bin.  My wife, the compost maintenance supervisor, deserves better.  But, this two bin composter has lasted us 12 years and has been moved all over the yard.
Canadian white violets (Viola canadensis) provide a lush ground cover in shady areas of our whole garden is just beginning to flower.

The white clematis (Clematis ligusticifolia), that covers so many arbors and trellises in our yard is just starting to leaf out.
The black capped chickadees that are nesting in our garden gather antelope hair for their nest box from a skull in our backyard.  Antelope hair is hollow and a great insulator.  We have a nestbox camera that we stream online- you can view the inside of their box here

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spring Clean-up at the Native Plant Garden Pocket Park

Join us Thursday evening April 19 from 6:30-8:00 at the little pocket park my wife and I have been landscaping for the last several years.  Click here to learn more about this project of ours.  We'll be doing some weeding, and general clean-up of old stems and branches.  This is a great opportunity to learn about native plants, and native plant gardening while helping out a little community park.
Also, if you are interested in goings on at the park, "like" our Facebook page!  And, here is the event page for the clean -up night.
If you are interested in coming, bring some gloves and weeding tools if you have them.  I hope to see you there!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Green Thumbs Up - Follow Up

Thanks again for the invitation to speak to the Green Thumbs Up Garden Club.  I had a lot of fun meeting many of you and I look forward to seeing you on the field trip to our home in Missoula this summer. Thanks to Susan Duff for organizing both the talk last Thursday, and the upcoming field trip.

As I promised, below is some of the information that I covered in my talk and some links to posts on my blog for more information.


Don't forget to watch the nest box cameras soon!  The birds are just excavating now, and soon, we'll start streaming video. There will be a link on my blog to get you to the live video feeds.

Below are are some of the lists from my presentation:

Easy to find, easy to grow, recommended native plants:

–White yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
–Horse mint (Monarda fistulosa)
–Hairy golden aster (Heterotheca villosa)
–Blanket flower (Gaillardia aristata)
–Blue flax (Linum lewisii)
–Wilcox’s Penstemon (Penstemon wilcoxii)
–Showy fleabane (Erigeron speciosus)

–Bluebunch wheatgrass (Agropyron spicatum)
–Prairie June grass (Koelaria cristata)
–Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis)
–Rough fescue (Festuca scabrella)

•Shrubby Shrubs
–Rubber rabbit brush (Crysothamnus nauseosa)
–Big Basin Sage (Artemesia tridentata)
–Woods Rose (Rosa woodsii)
–Golden current (Ribes aureum)
–Mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii)

•Shrubby Trees
–Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera)
–Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)
–Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)
–Mountain Ash (Sorbus scopulina)
–Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)
–Elderberry (Sambucus cerulea)
–Black hawthorn (Creataegus douglasii)

Deer Resistant Plants:
•Bluebunch wheatgrass
•White Yarrow
•Blanket flower
•Hairy golden aster
•Monarda (bee balm)
•Goldenrod (Solidago spp)
•Showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)

Instant Prairie:

•Bluebunch wheatgrass
•Idaho fescue
•Prairie junegrass
•White Yarrow
•Blanket flower
•Hairy golden aster
•Monarda (bee balm)
•Sage/ rabbit brush
•Wilcox’s penstemon
•Showy fleabane


Bringing Nature Home
•The New American Landscape•Shrink Your Lawn
•The Landscape Revolution: Garden with Mother Nature not Against Her
•Noah’s Garden
•Paradise by Design
•The Forgotten Pollinators
•Landscaping with Jays
•Gardening with a Wild Heart
•The Magic of Montana Native Plants

Thursday, April 5, 2012

April Speaking Engagements

Montana Wildlife Gardener is heading south for some speaking engagements- first all the way to Hamilton, Montana, and then Gillette, Wyoming.

On Thursday, April 12, I will be presenting to the The Green Thumbs Up garden club. The meeting is at 2:00 in the Community Meeting Room, in the downstairs of the Bitterroot Public Library. I will discuss how to use native plants to reduce water use, attract birds, butterflies and other insects to your garden.

A follow-up field trip to visit our own native plant garden in Missoula is scheduled for July 12 with the Green Thumbs Up garden club.

I'm looking forward to meeting with this club, and the meeting is free and open to the public. For further information, telephone Susan Duff, 961-5455.

At the end of the month, I will be heading further south and east to present at the Wyoming Master Gardener Conference in Gillette at the College..

My program is titled "Gardening with Native Plants for Wildlife" and I am the evening speaker,  Friday, April 27,  8-9 pm.

This conference is open to the public and you do not need to be a Master Gardener to attend. The conference theme is Rethinking Gardening in the 21st Century, and the conference will bring together authors, Master Gardeners, vendors, horticulture experts, keynote speakers, and backyard gardeners to share enthusiasm and knowledge.

To view the complete conference agenda, click here.  

The agenda looks great and I am excited about heading south for a tropical vacation.  Kidding about the last part, but the conference looks fantastic.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Essentials for your pollinator garden: sap, moths and beetles.

This time of the year, the best thing you can have in your pollinator garden is sap.  There are probably lots of ways to come up with a sap feeder, but the easiest one is to let borer beetles and clearwing moths do their job- more on this in a minute.
Adult popular clearwing moth (Sesia tibialis), a yellowjacket mimic
In my garden, butterflies often owe their early spring survival to some unlikely sources- the larvae of aspen borer beetles and poplar clearwing moths.
Adult aspen borer (Saperda calcarata)
These larvae tunnel through quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), which kills the trees, but the journey provides so much along the way (I've written a lot about this relationship- click here for more information).  As one response to the attacking insects, aspen force sap out of the tunnels.
Larvae of the aspen borer beetle (Saperda calcarata)
Over the last couple of weeks we've had several butterflies in the garden including a few Milbert's  Tortoiseshell (Aglais milberti) and even a Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa, our state butterfly) yesterday afternoon.  Judging from local blogs, Facebook, and actual interpersonal communications with people, other "out and about"  Missoulians are noticing them, too.

You may be wondering what they the butterflies ares eating, because if you have been looking around for the last few weekend, you'll have noticed that not much is flowering yet.  As a result, this is one of the most critical times of the year to support butterflies in your garden (or at least attract butterflies to your yard).On warm March days you can see the sap running (slowly) out of the holes in the trees, and when the first butterflies emerge this is where they go to eat.
An adult Lorrquin's admiral (Limenitis lorquini) feeds on sap on our aspen .
What butterflies need is a food source timed for their survival.  When many of our overwintering butterflies emerge from their hibernacula they are hungry.  With not much of anything flowing now the best food source is sap.

If you want pollinators, plant a lot of native plants and get out of the way!