December 2009 Newsletter
Next Chapter Meeting
Joint NPSOT/Audubon Christmas Party
December 8th @ 7:00 PM
Fairwood United Methodist Church
1712 Old Omen Rd
Members should bring their favorite dish to share with others and prepare to be judged for best food in several categories as we have done in the past. Each group is asked to bring 5-6 small "gifts" for door prizes and food judging. The meeting location changed this year from Camp Tyler, where it has been held for many years. We will miss the fireplace and the piano.
I refuse to say Season's Greetings. We still have not had a killing frost, so we still have Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha) and Red Sage (Salvia coccinea) blooming. And my Victorian Spires Sage (Salvia farinacea) has been prettier in November than any other month. I can see little plants of Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) and Phlox (Phlox drummondii) coming up. The only trees that we have seen with a lot of fall color have been the maples (ACERACEAE). I wonder if the rain came at the wrong time.
Ron and I were invited to speak to the Horticulture class at Big Sandy on November 20. Their teacher is Dana Hill and there were eight students. They have a green house and are making flower beds around that area. We took them a big handful of our wildflower seed packets—Mixed seed, Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), Gaillaradia (Gaillardia puchella), Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra), Cardinal Flower(Lobelia cardinalis) and Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans), and talked about the advantages of growing natives and what these particular ones would look like. They were going to plant some outside and some in the green house. Hope it's not too late for the Standing Cypress, since it's a biennial.
Ron's eye is slowly getting better, so we will see you at our Christmas party with Audubon on December 8. Cook some good food so that we can win more prizes than their members do, when everyone votes.
None scheduled at this time
Sonnia Hill & Fran McKinney
There are no new members at this time
Article suggested by Clyde McKinney
from Aquilegia Newsletter of the Colorado Native Plant Society – Spring 2009
Native Landscaping for our Future
By Susan Smith
Does what we plant in our flowerbeds or how we landscape our yards make any difference to the future of native plant and wildlife conservation? Consider this: “Between 1982 and 2001, about 34 million acres — an area the size of Illinois — were converted to developed uses... the rate of development between 1997 and 2001 averaged 2.2 million acres per year” (USDA National Resources Inventory, www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/NRI/). In our own state, Environment Colorado (www.environmentcolorado.org) estimates that 10 acres of open space and/or agricultural land are developed each hour. If we rely on parks and other public lands to preserve plants and ignore what happens in our own yards, will that be enough? Last year, an entomologist caught the attention of botanists, wildlife biologists, and gardeners by proclaiming that our own yards significantly impact local biodiversity. In Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens, Dr. Douglas Tallamy built the argument that native plants fulfill a role in the ecosystem that non-natives simply cannot. It is based on the concept of a simple food chain: plants use the sun to produce energy and herbivores consume the energy, which in turn feed higherlevel consumers (carnivores and omnivores). Without the herbivores, the ecosystem collapses. Plants that have not evolved in a given geographical region are not palatable to the majority of herbivores (primarily invertebrates) living there, because of differences in leaf chemistry. Dr. Tallamy’s research was astonishing! Take for example Melaleuca quinquenervia, which was introduced to North America over two centuries ago. Where it is native, it supports 409 species of herbivores; in North America it supports only eight. Or look at Clematis vitalba, introduced about 100 years ago; it supports only one herbivore on this continent, but provides habitat for at least 40 species where it naturally occurs. Bird watchers, who make up one quarter of the US population, should take note, too. Birds may love those sugar-packed berries in the fall, but 96% of our terrestrial birds feed their nestlings invertebrates, which have more protein per ounce than beef. If our birds do not have a healthy population of insects, spiders, and other creepy crawlies to feed their young, the success
Western Tiger Swallowtail on Penstemon strictus. From Susan Smith.
of future generations is in jeopardy. Native plants are also getting attention by those concerned with water and energy conservation. Many people are already aware of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEEDS program, administered by the US Green Building Council. But did you know that they are now expanding their focus to include the outside environment, as well as the built environment? The US Building Council is a leader in the Sustainable Sites Initiative (www.sustainablesites.org) that looks at how the landscape around a building “can address increasingly urgent global concerns, such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, and resource depletion.” Not surprisingly, native plants are taking center stage. In one case study of two residential yards in Santa Monica – a traditional garden vs. a native
garden — they found that the native garden
used 77% less water, produced 66% less green waste, and required 68% less money for maintenance labor. The native garden cost a bit more to install ($16,700 vs. $12,400 for the traditional garden), but it is anticipated that the lower costs of maintenance would offset the initial investment. Not included in these numbers are other valuable benefits, such as, cleaner water and creation of wildlife habitat. I would also offer that homeowners receive another priceless bonus -- the enjoyment of a yard that expresses a sense of place and is one step closer to restoring the local ecology.
Two-Tailed Swallowtail caterpillar. From Susan Smith.
The EPA(www.epa.gov/greenacres/) is also promoting the use of native plants for landscaping, because they find that natives: • do not require fertilizers, • require fewer pesticides than lawns, • require less water than lawns, • help reduce air pollution, • provide shelter and food for wildlife, • promote biodiversity and stewardship of our natural heritage, • save money. We’ve all seen the disheartening statistics about how current gardening practices can affect the environment: 70 million pounds of pesticides applied to lawns annually in the US; emissions for one gas-powered lawnmower 11 times that of a new car for each hour of operation… and the list goes on. Anytime we can take action to reduce our carbon footprint and have a positive effect on the environment is a reason for optimism.
Native plants are also a draw for those yearning for a yard that creates a sense of place and connection to nature. Fortunately, there is a growing trend towards gardens that reflect the local environs and culture of our region that rejects the notion of mass-produced yards that look exactly like yards in Ohio or Delaware. For gardeners that enjoy producing their own food or grow “prized” ornamentals, integrating regional natives to the landscape can be beneficial. Native plants can support predatory insects that provide an invaluable service by keeping pest species in check. As every gardener knows, striking that delicate balance between “beneficial insects” and “bad bugs” is challenging and has its “ups and downs.” But when we can achieve a certain level of dynamic harmony in the garden, the results are amazing. We use fewer chemicals, or none at all, and usually have more time to relax and enjoy the garden. I heard from a friend recently who had met Dr. Tallamy at a lecture and asked him to sign his copy of Bringing Nature Home. Dr. Tallamy’s inscription read, “Garden like your life depends on it.” If you are concerned about the future of our environment, then I would echo Dr. Tallamy’s words… garden like your life depends on it.
Susan Smith is owner of The Habitat Gardener, offering Colorado native plants throughout the growing season. Susan also volunteers as a Native Plant Master, a Habitat Steward for National Wildlife Federation, and manages the native gardens at the Audubon Center at Chatfield.