Tag Archives: Conservation

Native Bromeliads in Florida

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Spent some time with Dr.Teresa M. Cooper at the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary in Titusville Florida, where she graciously invited a group of Master Naturalists to learn about  the experimental efforts to save the native bromeliads (of the genus Tillandsia), in Florida.  An epiphytic plant, it survives by attaching itself on tree surfaces and extracting water and nutrients from the atmosphere. The Mexican Weevil  Metamasius callizona , introduced in 1989  in a shipment of bromeliads to Fort Lauderdale from Veracruz, Mexico, has been  decimating all twelve species of the florida native wild population. Since then, scientists have been studying and experimenting with  various methods to control the weevil without much success.  The weevil continues to encroach on the natural wilderness.  The goal is to stop it. It is believed the weevil has spread to 22 counties in the State of Florida.

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Dr. Teresa M. Cooper

At the Enchanted Forest, the work happens in the thick of a hammock.  Growing under the canopy are hundreds of bromeliad shoots or “pups” in protected baskets suspended from trees. Hanging from marked trees, specimens of beautiful larger plants are being grown in their natural environment. When the plants start blooming, they are moved to a protected screened room where the seeds can be collected and used to grow more plants in the forest.  This is a long term process as it takes up to seven years for the plants to produce seed. Learn more about the wonderful efforts of Dr. Teresa Cooper and her volunteers  here.

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One of the sites where small plants are grown.

So the race is on.  Volunteers water the plants, keep them clean and document the ecosystems around them. In their natural habitat, the plants populate the the branches of large and small trees providing an important ecosystem that is both aquatic and terrestrial, therefore providing a rich habitat for invertebrates and larvae.  Many species of spiders, salamanders and tree frogs lay their eggs in and around the pools. Young tadpoles feed on insects and larvae. There is more than meets the eye. When we see a colony of bromeliads, including the large showy Mexican bromeliads in most of our gardens, we must remember the rich diverse habitat that they provide.

Wildness is the preservation of the World.
― Henry David Thoreau

 

 

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A Goodbye to a Much Loved Garden

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When you have to move and have to relinquish a garden that you have nurtured for twenty eight years, every moment you have left becomes precious.  As spring approaches, I spend as much time as possible walking the grounds and basking in the memories of each small vignette:  The twenty eight foot Weeping Spruce growing in the secret garden that my son brought home one day from school after an Earth day program his kindergarten year. He proudly presented it to me in a small paper cup. The Beautiful Cherry that dear friends gave us in a gallon pot when our daughter was born. The Hostas I dug up and transplanted from my first house.  The stand of Brunnera a girlfriend shared from her own garden and the different varieties of Pulmonaria I collected through the years now in glorious bloom, just as I am getting ready to leave. As gardeners, we all know that a gift of a plant will always have meaningful memories attached to it and long lasting  life. As such, I walk away with an ache in my heart but with the realization that the plants will endure and hopefully will give joy for many years to come.

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My wish is that the new lucky owners of this piece of land, home to nesting birds that return from migration to this patch year after year, home also to the bunnies who eat non stop and the deer who make their morning and evening rounds,  home to frogs and garter snakes that keep pests in check and the woodchucks who eat the dandelion flowers as they are fresh each morning . The squirrels nesting in its trees and the chipmunks who dig tunnels in the most inconspicuous places. They all belong here more than us.  My message to these lucky new owners (as of this point, unknown) is that they can draw peace and inspiration from its beauty, bask in the shade of its mature trees and receive joy from the song of its many resident birds as we did for so many decades.

I face a new beginning in my gardening journey, moving South to zone 9 in Central Florida, fauna and flora quite different from Pennsylvania which affords me the opportunity of learning new plant families and create gardens that require less water and more sun. I will explore the rich world of Cacti and Succulents and experiment with some tropical plants and fruit trees. I am eager to explore and share my journey with you and hope you continue to join me in the adventures to come!

“A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space — a place not just set apart but reverberant — and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education

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Gardening and Nature

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Amazing the transformation that happens in spring! not just in nature, but in our own consciousness. After decades of gardening, an understanding naturally engulfs us from the practice of caring for our landscape plants and spending time outside.   As gardeners, we hold in our hands the health of everything around us. The health of the soil that feeds our plants.  The health of the insects that, by the millions, work indefatigable to make a living on our plot of land. The web starts there.  But we have to understand our ecosystem.  I have visited beautiful gardens that are dead.  Not a living insect or bird can survive in a land laden with pesticides and fertilizers. As I wrote in my post “Why Organic?” synthetic substances in the soil break the web of life. In our search for perfection we sometimes forget the delicate balance of the natural world around us. So, as the new gardening season begins, lets agree to be more conscientious of the world that surrounds us and weigh our actions against the impact we may have on the wild creatures that share our habitat.

Happy Spring!

“Plants are not optional on this planet.  With a few exceptions, neither we, nor anything else can live without them.  We invariably take plants and the benefits they provide for granted”   Douglas W. Tallamy

Monarchs and Milkweed

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Asclepias syriaca or common milkweed, is one of the milkweeds growing in my garden.  A wonderful plant, grows close to five feet tall with wonderful fragrant flowers that attract all sorts of pollinators. It does have a tendency to spread by runners and take up quite a large space in the garden but if you have a sunny location with plenty of moisture this is a worthwhile investment in the life of our native ecosystem.  I adore Asclepias tuberosa or butterfly milkweed for its showy orange flowers and a more compact better behaved habit. But milkweeds are important because they are the host plant of the Monarch Butterfly which is endangered due to lost of habitat.  Eastern Monarchs are experiencing a dangerous decline in the recent years. We can help by planting patches of Milkweed in our gardens as well as nectar producing native plants. The Butterflies rely on the milkweed to lay their eggs.  The poisonous sap make the plant and the larvae unpalatable to predators.

Asclepias tuberosa.

Asclepias tuberosa.

If you are interested in getting more involved you can visit The Monarch Watch Organization for information on creating a Monarch Waystation and become a citizen scientist by helping to monitor and document the Monarch population in your area.

Here is an amazing video of the Monarch life cycle. It is just amazing! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZKbZdLtBoM

Beautiful and graceful, varied and enchanting, small but approachable, butterflies lead you to the sunny side of life.  And everyone deserves a little sunshine. 
~Jeffrey Glassberg
We could have saved the Earth, but we were too damned cheap. 
~Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

 

 

You can recycle fall leaves

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If you have deciduous trees in the quantities that I do, you will be glad to be able to use their leaves in the fall as a resource instead of a source of trash.  As explained in this article posted in the Penn State Extention website, fall leaves are rich in nutrients in a comparable rate of manure or fertilizers.  They contain minerals and many  trace elements that our plants need and in addition make a suitable mulch to protect plants through the winter.  As in nature, leaves fall naturally in the forest floor to biodegrade and transform into nutrients.  Naturally, in our own home garden environments we want to remove the leaves from the lawn.  Grass needs to be clear of debris but finely mulched leaves provide needed nitrogen to the grass as well.  The key is to use a mulching mower and leave the clippings on the ground.  At this time of the year I blow the fine clippings in areas where the bulk of the leaves were, and transfer them to the garden beds.  It saves a lot of money in mulch as well!  My preference is to keep this valuable resource and use it as nature intended.

Nature does nothing uselessly.   –Aristotle, Greek philosopher

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