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Replacing lawn with three acres of wildflowers

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog meadow photosErika Wehmeier uses her iPad to take a photo of her wildflower meadow. Photos by Doug Oster

blog meadow coreopsis 3There are many different colors of coreopsis in the meadow.I first heard of about a three acre field of wildflowers in Sewickley back in 2011. Erika and Helge Wehmeier had turned their extensive lawn into a wildflower meadow.

It was an experiment which has now thrived into its fourth season. The spectacle literally stops drivers in their tracks. "No one ever stopped to compliment us on our lawn," Helge said with a laugh.

Every year the meadow changes, this summer tall white daisies and yellow yarrow sway in the summer breeze as the dominant plants in the field.

Early in the season beautiful purple lupines covered the expanse. There are few blooms hanging on along with lots of other flowers.

There's coreopsis, blanket flowers and a myriad of other brightly colored flowers covering the field.

It's a haven for pollinators too, clouds of goldfinches emerge from the blooms when startled and fly up to the safety of the trees bordering the meadow.

Listening to the sound of of the birds singing for joy while feasting on seeds and flower petals is something everyone should experience.

The couple's not sure what's next for their wildflower meadow, in fact their surprised it looks this good four years after the original planting.

Here are the before photos and the original story.

At the very end of this post is the video I did showing the meadow back in 2011.

blog meadow beeHoney bees and other pollinators are drawn to this place.

blog meadow treeIt's hard to show the scope of the meadow in photos.

blog meadow wide oofThis yellow yarrow has become one of the main summer flowers in the field.

blog wildflower meadow purplePurple coneflower is happy growing in consort with the other wildflowers.

 

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Grow something weird and wonderful

Written by Doug Oster on .

Blog cool plantsaMy truck was loaded up with cool plants to use on Pittsburgh Today Live. Photo by Doug Oster

With every thing on sale at the garden centers, this is a perfect time to look for interesting plants to grow.

Here's a segment from Pittsburgh Today Live where I show some things you don't normally see planted in the garden. Interested in a chartreuse elephant ear with burgundy stalks? I am!

 

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Celebrate the Bloom at Jennings Environmental Center this Saturday 7/19/14

Written by Doug Oster on .

Blog Blazing Star JenningsJennings Environmental Center is one of the only places to see beautiful prairie plants like Blazing Star.

Jennings Environmental Center is a special place, filled with amazing plants and endangered species like the Massasauga rattlesanke. They have a great event planned for Saturday. Here are all the details.

Celebrate the Bloom at Jennings on July 19 from 9 am – 7 pm.

 

  1. Nature explorations with Jennings staff, as well as experts in birding (Audubon Society members), wildflowers (Joe Isaac of Civil and Environmental Consultants and Bonnie Isaac of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History), butterflies and other insects (Pete Woods, Western PA Conservancy), and Massasauga rattlesnakes (David Johnson)
  2. Demonstrations, including live reptiles and amphibians, plus bees, natural dyes, etc.
  3. Music, featuring Nameless in August and four other exceptional talents
  4. Artists (nature related and inspired art), local food, and other vendors

 

One of our region’s most unique places – the only one of its kind in Pennsylvania– is the blazing star prairie at Jennings Environmental Education Center. To highlight this natural treasure, Jennings will host Celebrate the Bloom!, a full day of free activities,  on Saturday, July 19, 2014 from 9 am – 7 pm.  Activities will include prairie tours and other nature explorations, engaging demonstrations, plus local food, artisans and musical guests.  New to this year’s festival is a program featuring LIVE reptiles and amphibians of the prairie with naturalist April Claus. The musical line-up will feature headliner Nameless in August, a folk “rawk” band with a “high energy live show with piercing lyrics and strong vocals,” and a “banjo rhythm [that] gives the music a down-home movement.” (reverbnation.com). Also appearing throughout the afternoon will be Matthew Ryan, Steve Madewell, Rachel Brown, and Bejae Fleming with Jackie Blount. All musical guests will perform outdoors on the prairie’s edge with covered and open seating available.
    Celebrate the Bloom! is a collaborative effort between Jennings Environmental Education Center and the park’s friends group, 3MJC ( Moraine, McConnells Mill and Jennings Commission), that seeks to raise awareness of the prairie and increase support for its conservation.  Musical guests are presented by Lonesome No More Productions/Dennis McCurdy.  Sponsors include Harmony Sound Company, the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau (BCTCB), the Botanical Society of Western Pennsylvania, ZeroFossil, and Slippery Rock in Bloom.  Local artisans, advertisers and sponsors are still being accepted.  More information can be found at celebratethebloom.wordpress.com, or by calling Jennings at 724-794-6011.
   Celebrate the Bloom is sponsored and supported by 3MJC (the park’s friends group), Butler Tourism and Convention Bureau, the Botanical Society of Western PA, Harmony Sound Company, ZeroFossil, Slippery Rock in Bloom, Earth Sun Moon Trading Company, Slippery Rock Community Farmers Market, and the Slippery Rock University Parks and recreation Department

For more information about the event, check out these web sites- http://celebratethebloom.wordpress.com and the facebook page is www.facebook.com/celebratethebloom.

If you need an accommodation to participate in park activities due to a disability, please contact the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks:  888-PA-PARKS (voice), (717) 558-2710 (local or international voice), 711 (AT&T Relay Services).  With at least three days notice, interpreters for people who are deaf or hard of hearing are available for educational programs.

Eastern-massasauga-rattlesnakeDon't be afraid of the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, you'll probably never see it in the wild. But naturalists at Jennings will show you one. Photo by Doug Oster

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Free gardening seminar with Doug on Saturday, Summer gardening tips

Written by Doug Oster on .

I'll be presenting "Summer Gardening Tips" on Saturday 7/19/14, 11 a.m. at Plumline Nursery's Customer Appreciation Day.

This is the fourth year I've appeared at the event and it's an awesome day. The nursery is filled with unique plants and many are on sale. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens will be there, there's free food, games for the kids and more.

Here's more information.

Blog Plum CAD

 

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More rain means more slugs, here's how to deal with them in the garden

Written by Doug Oster on .

slimy slugs 6vert 0605bSlugs look like snails without the shell. They feed at night, but can easily be controlled. Photo by Doug OsterGardeners are always in tune with the weather. There's nothing better than sowing seeds or adding plants to the garden right before it rains. The sound of a summer rain storm puts a smile on our collective faces. No amount of watering can compare to a good rain.

Warm temperatures and plenty of rain is the perfect storm though for slugs. My garden is heavily mulched, this keeps the soil evenly moist which is great for the plants, but also the best place for slugs to hide during the day.

It's easy to recognize their damage: Look for the silvery, slimy trail they leave behind. Slugs feed at night and love hostas, marigolds and any small transplants.

They are easily controlled with baits, but the chemical version uses metaldehyde, which also attracts mammals and other animals. If a dog or cat eats the bait they could be poisoned.

There are organic baits made of iron phosphate which are safe for mammals and the environment, but still dispatch the slugs.

Probably the most popular are Sluggo and Escar-Go. The first is available locally at any garden center and the second through Gardens Alive online.

There are other ways to control slugs too without reaching for chemicals.

Diatomaceous earth is a natural powder that's razor sharp on the microscopic level. When a slug crawls over the DE, it's cut to shreds and eventually dies. Wear a mask when applying DE, it can cause irritation to airways.

Slugs don't like to crawl on rough surfaces like eggshells or sand.

They also won't cross copper. The metal has a naturally occurring electrical charge. Some gardeners will use copper wire as a barrier.

Hostas work as a great trap crop, it's their favorite food. They would prefer hostas to anything.

How about handpicking? I used crawl down a cement block hole that housed our well to collect slugs for bait. We would fish off the bottom for big carp. Handpicking at night works, just wear gloves. Slugs emit a disgusting slime that's hard to remove.

A pinch of salt will kill them too.

Slugs love the cool temperatures that my thick layer of straw provides them in the garden. But the benefits of the mulch outweighs the downside of the slug damage.

Of course, they can be trapped in a container placed a ground level filled with stale beer. It's disgusting to clean that trap out every other day though.

Slugs will slow down when the temperatures cool off and the soil dries out, but for now any one of the techniques above will help you deal with them.

The pests are favorites of toads and snakes, encourage both to hang around in the garden by giving them a place to hide. An overturned, broken flower pot is a great toad house and leaving part of the garden wild will give the snakes some habitat too.

Enjoy the sound of soft rain and encourage nature to take care of the slugs too.

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