Saturday, December 19, 2009

Introducing Nature Art

My nephew, Jim Rataczak, is a fantastic Nature Artist, outdoor lover, wildlife biologist, family man, and all-around great guy ! It's cool to know that he is able to paint birds and scenes from nature professionally. I still have to hold down a "9 to 5" (sort of) to keep me able to garden the native plants I enjoy. Take a look at his work on his website here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

North American Pollinators in Decline

A study by the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, released in 2006, shows populations of pollinators in North America declining for various reasons. A link to the brief of the report is here. Another reason to plant gardens with native plants is to provide native pollinators with more of the food and habitat that only native plants can provide. Here's a shot of a local bee enjoying a little sustenance on a Missouri Evening Primrose bloom in my front yard.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Assisted Living for Plants

Your Grandma or your parents may be in an assisted living residence, now scientists are working to assist plants in finding new homes as the planet continues to heat. Global warming will continue to dislocate whole communities of plants as higher temperatures make their present environment inhospitable to their gene pools which evolved in a cooler time. Scientists at The Chicago Botanic Garden are making a valiant effort collecting seeds from different populations of prairie species with the intent to preserve the species and possibly even assist the movement of communities of species to more suitable environments. Historically, plant species were able to make pilgrimages even across large distances in the event of climate changes, but only because those changes happened at a very slow rate. The current human-induced forcing of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is happening at an unprecedented rate, the effects of which many plant species may be unable to outrun. The effort to help plant species migrate in the face of climate change is not without debate; some scientists fear the unintended release of invasive plant species, which take over new habitats, reducing native biodiversity in their wake. Read the whole article here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Don't Kill the Messenger

From "Grist", an article about how human psychology affects the reception of the message about climate change...and how to best deliver the message, without being put away.
Climate Psychology

And for possibly the best one volume book on the science of climate change, see "The Weather Makers", by Tim Flannery. Also, Flannery discussing his latest book, "Now Or Never", on MN Public Radio on Nov. 3, 2009.

Finally, possibly one of the most effective things a person can do to reduce their carbon footprint; stop eating animals ! See Jonathan Safron Foer's interview with Ellen Degeneres about his new book.

Don't think that Climate Change is really happening? Or that it's not human induced? It's time for you to present your science on why not...what facts are you basing your decision on? Are they tested facts? Have they been peer-reviewed? Are they demonstrable and repeatable? Because this is how real science works. Facts. Data. Repetiton. Peer-Review. If your story doesn't have these, it's probably not science.

Finally, why am I blabbing about climate change on this quaint little blog about native plants? Because it is one of the most important (yes, in my opinion) issues affecting our families in the human history of the planet. I wish that people would try to educate themselves on this topic from a scientific, not political point of view. Find out what the vast majority of scientists think about the issue. Take off the blinders of cultural and political denial. It's happening, and we're doing it, and it will bite us all hard if we don't do something different.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Carbon Cycle

Carbon flows through the environments of Earth, always has, always will. But how much? The amounts that humans continue to add with all our combustion for energy use are not only intensifying the heat increasing "Greenhouse Effect", but are also causing ocean waters to become more acidic, to the harm of all oceanic creatures, great and small. Watch the new short film, "Acid Test", by the Natural Resources Defense Council, to see what's happening and how we might choose to be kinder to ourselves in the near and longer term future.

Acid Test

And pass it along !

Friday, August 28, 2009

Another Little Plant Sale

Both the sale and the plants are little ! I still have some native plants available that need to find their way out into the greater world. Come and help them venture forth! Stop by my house on Saturday, August 29, between 10:30 am and 1 pm. E-mail me for my address:
The plants are mostly in 2" pots and are native to MN or the Midwest. They will be $2.00 ea. with some kind of discounts for volume, though there aren't many left.

Here are what remain:

Showy Tick Trefoil about 28
Sweet Joe Pye Weed a couple
Jacob's Ladder 8
Culver's Root 12
New England Aster 8
Ninebark (shrub) 13 green and 5 red (offspring of 'Diablo')
Ground Plum 4
Prairie Blazing Star 8
Purple Prairie Clover a couple
Bottle Gentian 10
Butterfly Weed 6
Prairie Coreopsis 8

sorry, no botanical names this post, it's late and I'm tired ! I'll give 'em to you if you show up.

plus a few other species you could get me to dig out of my yard for $5.00 ea. as these are at least in their second year, and a clump, not a single plant.
also, about 3 surprise species of native shrub I would dig up for $10. ea as these are about 4 or 5 yrs old that were planted bare root about 3 yrs ago.

Hope to see you.....................Thanks !

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lots of Yellow and Some Blue

Agastache foeniculum, Anise hyssop; yummy smell, if you like black licorice !

Liatris aspera, Button Blazing Star; blooming from the top down, just like a Blazing Star

Rudbeckia laciniata, Wild Golden Glow

Rudbeckia fulgida, Orange Coneflower, but not 'Goldsturm'........striking !

Ratibida pinnata, Yellow, or Gray-Headed Coneflower, Hula skirts !

Monday, August 17, 2009

Native Plant Sale 8.22 & 23

Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa

I will have a plant sale of Native Minnesota/Midwestern plants this coming weekend, Saturday & Sunday August 22 & 23 from 10 am to 1 pm in my yard in Minneapolis. E-mail me for my address if you want to take a look.

The plants are growing in 2" or 4" pots. The 2" pots will be $2.00 each and the 4" will be $3.00 each. If you buy a whole flat of plants (18 x 4" or 36 x 2" in a flat) you can take them away for just $50.00.

Here's a list of all the plants available: (note both the common and botanical names for each plant; if you search the web for details about any of them, be sure to use the botanical name as it will get you more precise results)

Here are the plants followed by the number of each (in no particular order):

Showy Tick Trefoil Desmodium canadense-- 32
Sweet Joe Pye Weed Eupatorium purpureum --10
Jacob's Ladder Polemonium reptans-- 20
Culver's Root Veronicastrum virginicum-- 12
New England Aster Aster novae angliae-- 16
Ninebark Physocarpus opulifolius (shrub)-- 24
Ground Plum Astragalus crassicarpus-- 12
Missouri Evening Primrose Oenothera macrocarpa-- 8
Prairie Blazing Star Liatris pychnostachya-- 12
Purple Prairie Clover Petalostemum purpureum
aka Dalea purpurea-- 9
Bottle Gentian Gentiana andrewsii-- 20
Purple Milkweed Asclepias purpurascens-- 20
Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa-- 28
Asclepias ??? Unknown spp milkweed from Hudson, WI-- 24
Blue Wild Indigo Baptisia australis-- 5
Lead Plant Amorpha canescans-- 6
Prairie Coreopsis Coreopsis palmata-- 10

If you want to dig up pictures and info about these and other species, I'll recommend 2 places here that have a wealth of information:

First is Prairie Moon Nursery in Winona, MN;

and the other is the Native Plant Information Network at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, TX.

I'll be happy to see you this weekend ! Stop by just to take a look at my yard if you like...

Again, e-mail me for my address......Thanks, Scott.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Leadplant and Milkweed

This is a running milkweed, either Asclepias Syriaca, Common Milkweed, or Asclepias speciosa, Showy Milkweed, I've forgotten which.

Leadplant, Amorpha canescens develops a very deep taproot and can become over 4 feet tall with woody stems.


On the top is Elymus canadensis, Canada Wild Rye, and the bottom picture is Bottle Brush Grass, Hystrix patula. Both can handle full or part sun and are easy to grow from seed.

More Blooms

This is the Pale Purple Coneflower, Echinacea pallida, whose reflexed ray flowers I can't resist, though it's native to places south of Minnesota. In the foreground are leaves of Astragalus canadensis, Canada Milk Vetch, just preparing to bloom now on July 7th. In the background is the lively Prairie Sage, Artemisia ludoviciana. This one runs heartily, so plant a little and watch it cavort ! I find that any native plant that runs like this is easy enough controlled by pulling the runners, but of course if you mistakenly planted alot of it, well, you might be busy for awhile each season. Many milkweeds run like this also, but the Butterfly Weed is very well behaved, just expanding into a nice clump.

Recent Blooms

on the left is Purple Prairie Clover, Petalostemum purpureum, aka Dalea purpurea. Easy to grow from seed, pollinators love it, and it's really pretty.

Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa and Narrow-Leaved Coneflower, Echinacea angustifolia, the only Purple Coneflower that is native to Minnesota. Neither Echinacea Purpurea or Echinacea pallida; Purple Coneflower, or Pale Purple Coneflower are native to the state, just the diminutive Narrow-Leaved, which hardly reaches 18" in height, and whose ray petals tend to to remain much more horizontal to the disc.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cottonwoods belong by the River

I have been planting flats of 2" plug pots with native seeds since May 25, and some of them are sprouting. However, I have a couple decent sized (maybe 40 plus feet) Cottonwood trees within 2 houses of mine, and they started blowing their seeds around in the past week or so. They drop so much seed with its attendant fluff that it piles up in drifts like snow ! It also settles in my plug pots, and because I am diligently watering them in this droughty Spring that we're enduring here in central Minnesota, the seeds are sprouting within 4 or 5 days of settling. And this is before some of my natives sprout. So, in some cases it becomes confusing as to what might be a Cottonwood seedling and what might be a Shooting Star or an Aster seedling. In one little pot there are as many as 15 or 20 Cottonwood seedlings. Nature is abundant in this seeding thing, for certain. Now Cottonwood trees are native Minnesota plants, I will admit. But a tree this large and messy, like the fast growing but ungainly native Silver Maple, might better be left in something more near it's native habitat, which would be a river bottom, not an urban back yard. I spent 20 minutes today picking the seedlings out of just one flat of pots, and am hoping I didn't also eradicate the unsprouted desirables I planted. I will employ some kind of protective barrier for my flats next planting season, possibly window screening stretched over them to keep the Cottonwood seeds impotent. I have been using frames of 1 x 6 or 8 inch boards covered with chicken wire to foil the disruptive digging of the grey squirrels for a couple years and may augment this with the window screening. I'll post a few pictures soon to illustrate some of my struggles and solutions with these issues.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Natives Now Blooming

The legume flowers of Lupinus perennis, Wild Lupine, top, and Cream Wild Indigo, Baptisia leucophaea, bottom, are blooming now along with the white lacecaps of Viburnum trilobum, American Cranberrybush, middle picture. The Cream Wild Indigo's own leaves are immediately below the flowers, while above it are young leaves of Pale Purple Coneflower and to the left are Canada Milk Vetch.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Beneficial insects

Here's a link on plants that attract beneficial insects:

Beneficial Insects

At least one of the recommended plants is highly invasive however, and exotic, so I ask you to not go there. The plant is Daucus carota, Queen Anne's Lace. Also, note that Maximilian's, or Prairie Sunflower, is native to Minnesota, so plant away ! Some references show this species as needing cold moist stratification to break dormancy on the seeds. However, I found the seeds sprouting in the bag in my refrigerator after just over a week or so of this treatment, so it doesn't need as long as may be recommended. And it may not need any stratification at all, though I haven't tried that. It could also be considered invasive, though native.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Where to Purchase Native Plants

May is prime gardening season ! Who has time to blog ??? And it's so much easier to just cruise around, gawking at the other wittier and more sophisticated blogs, admiring their amazing close up photos of rare butterflies or birds which pass through their yard for only 2 hours a year. But I want to mention a few places where you can get your hands on plants or seeds to grow plants that are native to Minnesota. ( no, I haven't forgotten my unfinished post on what is a native plant, but it's GARDENING SEASON, so the whole issue will be on hold for awhile, maybe 'til the snow flies again.) First I will mention Prairie Moon Nursery, in Winona, MN. This is the place where I have obtained most of the seed from which I have grown most of the native plants that are in my yard at this point. Their online catalog boasts nearly 600 species and they have tons of cultural information on their website and in their paper catalog. They show alot of pictures and they also explain the steps to establishing a native plant community using seed. They offer 2 open houses a year, both Saturdays, this year in June and August. I highly recommend these as a fantastic day trip from the Twin Cities. You can take a guided tour of their gardens and restorations with one of their knowledgable staff, and you can also walk through their seed storage building. It's still not too late to order bare root or potted plants for immediate delivery, or even seeds for forbs or grasses which don't need stratification. (you could probably even order seed that needs to be stratified for 30 days or less and still have some growing season left for it.) Prairie Moon, highly recommended!
I have also ordered seed from Prairie Frontier in Waukesha, WI a few years back with fine results, but I don't know if you can order anything other than packets of seeds from them; I didn't see any other amount available.
I have visited Dragonfly Gardens in Amery, WI and Louie has helped me find the few things I was too impatient to grow from seed. My 2 American Hazelnuts and Chokecherry are coming along fine this Spring, along with the Fragrant Sumac. They also have a wide range of other garden plants for those non-natives you can't live without.
I have a couple plants I bought from Landscape Alternatives when they were in St. Paul, but haven't visited their newer location in the St. Croix Valley.
Other options as yet untried by me are Oak Prairie Farm, Pardeeville, WI, Kinnickinnic Native Plants, River Falls, WI, Morning Sky Greenery, Morris, MN, Outback Nursery, Afton, MN, Prairie Meadows, Lonsdale, MN, and finally, Prairie Restorations, 6 locations around Minnesota. Alot of info here to begin or continue your pursuit of a connection with the beautiful plants that graced the woods and prairies of Minnesota before the Europeans arrived. Visit, read up, and then order yourself a few species to enjoy in your own yard. Finally, I usually have my own plant sales a couple weekends in mid to late summer. Watch here for announcements.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Obama at National Academy of Sciences

Just a quick post to mention President Obama's address to the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting on Monday April 27. Without becoming overtly political here, I will just say that it is refreshing and indeed hopeful, that this young President is proposing to base national policy decisions on science, rather than seeking out only the supposed science that will support the policy decisions that have already been made. You can see a transcript of his address here:
Nat'l Academy of Sciences

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Beneficial Insects like native plants

Here's a quick note of a book and some recent research on beneficial insects and how native plants may help them. You can help by planting even a small section of your yard (a 10 X 10 foot piece of your yard is a hundred square feet and can hold a nice splash of 6-10 native species or more) with plants native to Minnesota. I will be posting lists of plants native to Minnesota in the near future, and also the places where you can buy seeds and plants of these species.
First, the book (actually the author's website) "Bringing Nature Home", By Douglas Tallamy

Next, the recent research..... (from Michigan State University, but some of the plants are native here also, and we can just extrapolate with our own natives, I say.)

And, just for fun, Bug Girl has a link to the President with dirt on his hands (no wisecracks from the Right here) ......

Monday, April 20, 2009

New Spring Growth comments

Ok, until I learn how to post a little comment by each picture I upload, I'll have to do it this way. Ahhh, learning curves, gotta love 'em. The top picture is Cornus alternifolia, Alternate-leaf or Pagoda Dogwood. A lovely woodland shrub which will reach to 25 feet and likes part to full shade. It's the native counterpart to the Kousa Dogwood from Asia. Really nice horizontal structure and beautiful leaves and nice berries too. Next is Silphium perfoliatum, Cup Plant, a tall plant of wet prairies, growing in hopefully the wettest part of my yard. These plants were seedlings last year, so have some work to do, but should reach 6 feet this year, I expect, if they can puncture the clay subsoil. Interesting that this photo shows a bit of petiole on the leaf, but as the species name suggests, these leaves will actually clasp the stem when mature, making small cups which will catch rain and sustain bugs and birds in their thirst. Third plant down is Salix discolor, Pussy Willow, which had a cloud of bee-like insects buzzing around them like electrons, but which escaped the camera's image, exactly opposite of the fairies so drawn to certain photographers lenses who capture them all over the British Isles. Really, they were there ! Fourth, I introduce Agastache foeniculum, Anise hyssop. If you like the smell of Anise or Black Licorice, you must obtain some of these amazing scented herbs. Wow! And pretty blue flower spikes which bees also love. (But not yet) I hear you can make a tea of the leaves, which I haven't tried yet, but I'll try to remember to do that this year. (they don't have caffeine though, as far as I know) Next, (number 5) you'll find Rudbeckia laciniata, Wild Golden Glow. This plant could easily be a replacement for the crazy tropical that some people like to grow right next to their front door as an annual, Castor Bean Plant. Why? Beacuse the clump I have in my front yard grew to be at least 8 and maybe 9 feet tall last year ! Really. And with it's awesome foliage and pretty yellow flowers, it's a fine specimen. It, however doesn't display the red on green foliage that Castor Bean does. But unlike Castor bean, it will come back all by itself the next year. And, well, native pollinators will be fed another year. It also can grow in very shady to full sun situations. I'm not sure which of either sun or water are bigger limiters of size for this one. Ok, last up for this post is Aquilegia canadensis, the Columbine, beautiful woodland forb. Really pretty red and yellow flowers, can handle full sun to near full shade, and also fine with fairly dry settings. The seedpods yield a bounty of seeds to scatter about the garden for a bigger crop next year. Note that you can click (or maybe double-click) on any picture to get a bigger version, try it

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What is Native?

Ok, this is going to take some time, patience, and more than one post. This is a controversy in the gardening community on the scale of Global Warming/Climate Change in the environmental community. What IS a native plant anyway? Minnesota was covered in ice about 10-12 millenia ago (except for you characters in the "Driftless Area" of Southeastern MN). Which means the slate was fairly well wiped clean. Plants gone. So we could reasonably look at a time frame of between then and now for "What's a native plant?" But about 350 or a few more years ago those amazing French fur traders started paddling west in their oversized canoes with mud on their boots from not only the East Coast, but some of them didn't scrape before they started paddling up the St. Lawrence Seaway, or wherever they first touched "America". Thus started the invasion of plant species from other continents, and from the East to the West.

Fur traders were followed by Pioneers, not just human, but also the plants they brought with them from their home environments. People like to bring pieces of their former environment to their new one to avoid feeling strange in a strange land. And they unwittingly brought the mud on their boots and the feed for their animals and the resultant dung from their animals.

So, most descriptions of native Minnesota plants use a time frame between the glaciers melting and the Europeans arriving. It's a start. Not conclusive in some peoples minds, but a start.

I want to insert here, for the sake of building the controversy, another blog, much more established, and probably also more credentialed than I. Though I will not defer to credentials alone, rebel that I apire to be. Here's Doug Green's Blog, which I just found using Google, and which from my other searching appears to be somewhat representative of typical gardeners' opinions about native plants. This blog appears to have an abundance of interesting gardening ideas and info which I hope to explore further. I will note that he does seem to belittle native plant proponents as having a "politicized charge", whereas he and his kind, being artists, are after simply an esthetic production, an appeal to the senses, a sense of respite. Sounds good, we all are looking to connect with beauty, a sense of peace, ourselves, or maybe "Nature", whatever we might describe that as.

I agree with him that a garden is an artificial construct, no matter how well constucted. Even an arduously researched and planned prairie restoration is a "garden", a construct of human choice. But it is far different from simply an ephemeral work of art designed just to please the senses and to fit the artists mood and space. It has certainly taken into consideration plants that evolved together with each other and also with a multitude of other critters in a certain proximity to the soils and climate of the geographical area. It thus has a more true ring of genuineness to an area historically than an assemblage of plants however lovingly placed in the ground simply by the whim of the artist's esthetic choice.

To be continued...
and I leave you with the above, Polemonium reptans or Jacobs Ladder, blooming last year about May 18th.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mourning Cloak on Easter

Here's the Mourning Cloak sunning on the sidewalk on Easter Sunday. I'll be watching the Pussy Willows in the next few weeks for egg clusters or caterpillars. Here's some good info about it: BAMONA . I note that Pussy Willows aren't actually listed as a host tree, so maybe the attraction in the neighborhood is the neighbors mature (read large & messy) Cottonwood tree. Here's another link...BugGuide

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Early Spring Butterfly

I saw a Mourning Cloak butterfly today in the yard about noon, with the temperature only in the low 40's. I saw one about three weeks ago too, when we had a surprise (and teasing) day of 60 plus degrees. I also just tonight read about a frog that can sustain much of it's body tissue freezing and live to tell about it ! These critters have developed amazing feats of adaptation through thousands of years of contending with the local climate. I have a motley cluster of native plant seedlings from last year in plug pots sitting on a back patio which have also toughed it through a winter that would give lesser plants pause, or a ticket to the compost. What changes will the next 20 years bring that will give even species adapted to this region pause, or a group pass to the compost? Does my gardening give me faith, or do I bring my faith to the garden?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Prairie Smoke, Geum triflorum, blooming in the garden last year, sometime in May.

New Minnesota Native Plant Blog

My purpose with this blog will be to share my experiences growing (mostly) plants native to Minnesota in my Minneapolis yard. My hope for my yard is that by replacing lawn with native plants, I will produce an area that is attractive to a much larger and more varied web of living things than one planted with turfgrass and standard Nursery Center shrubs and flowers. My hope for this blog is to promote a greater connection to the natural world by making a place where ideas and observation about how nature works can be discussed, debated, and advanced.