Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Native Pollinator Gardens Update - 08 April 2014

During the past year, I have posted numerous photos of four native pollinator gardens that I have helped install at local sites.

Yesterday I went around to three of those sites to do a little bit of Spring cleaning.  I think it is important to leave any dead stems and leaves in the garden during winter.  This allows birds to feed on seed heads, lets some of those seeds disperse naturally in the garden, provides hiding places for over-wintering insects and other invertebrates, and allows some of the plant matter to decay and go back into the soil.  For these reasons, I like to wait until the weather has warmed up in the Spring, stimulating new growth, before I remove any residue from the previous growing season.

If you think about it, this makes perfect sense when you are working with native plants.  In their natural habitats no one is going around tidying things up at the end of the growing season.  Even though these are "gardens" they have to be given some freedom to act as natural habitats.

So what do these sites look like as of right now?

Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum

This is the youngest of the four sites.  It was only planted at the end of June last year.  I was not expecting much from this garden during the hottest part of the year.  It did a good job of just staying alive.  Even then it did show some growth and a few species of plants managed to bloom.

Here is what it looked like on 29 August 2013.  A few visible plants, but not much growth.

Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum Pollinator Garden on 29 August 2013

Here is the garden as of yesterday (08 April 2014) with the last year's stems and leaves removed.  Those dark spots are locations of some of the plants.

Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum Pollinator Garden on 08 April 2014

When you look closely, there are actually a fair number of plants beginning to grow - like this Bee Balm (Monarda Fistulosa).

Bee Balm (Monarda Fistulosa) on April 8th

Winn Elementary

This garden is a year older than the Discovery Museum garden.  It was planted during the first week of June 2012.  This will be its third summer of growth.  One saying that I have heard about native plants is that "in Year One they crawl; in Year Two, they walk; and in Year Three, they run!"  This summer I expect this garden to really take off running.

Here are a couple of pictures of it on 29 August 2013.

First is a view looking into the garden from the entrance of the school.

Winn Elementary Pollinator Garden on 29 August 2013 - the view from the school entrance

Here is the same view as of yesterday (08 April 2014).  The green(ish) plants in the lower left of the photo are clumps of American Alumroot (Heuchera americana).

Winn Elementary Pollinator Garden - 08 April 2014

This next photo is also from August 29th and shows the garden from the far end, looking toward the entrance.  Lots to see in this picture including Purple and Green-headed Coneflowers.

Winn Elementary Pollinator Garden on 29 August 2013 - the view toward the school entrance

Again, the same view after Spring Cleaning.  Not much to see above ground from this view.

Winn Elementary Pollinator Garden - 08 April 2014

After last year's leaves were removed, it was easy to find some growth at the base of many plants including this Wood Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum).

Wood Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) leaves emerging

Saginaw Chippewa Academy

The third garden that I cleaned out yesterday was the one at the Saginaw Chippewa Academy.  This the oldest of the four gardens that I have helped install.  It was planted in June of 2011.  The plants in this garden are fully mature and self-seed vigorously.  Some of the plants here have been thinned out to add to the other gardens.  Many of the plants in this garden grow to a height of six to eight feet and are almost too large for this small garden.

Here are a couple of photos of this garden from last Summer (29 August 2013).  This garden is definitely "wilder" than either the Winn Elementary or Discovery Museum gardens.

Native Pollinator Garden at Saginaw Chippewa Academy (29 August 2013)

Native Pollinator Garden at Saginaw Chippewa Academy (29 August 2013)

Here are two photos from yesterday (08 April 2014), taken from roughly the same points of view.

Native Pollinator Garden at Saginaw Chippewa Academy (08 April 2013)

Native Pollinator Garden at Saginaw Chippewa Academy (08 April 2013)

Again, from a distance, there doesn't appear to be much life.  However, up close, there many plants showing green green growth such as these Lance-leaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) and Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) plants. 

Morey Public School Academy

I did not visit this site yesterday.  Unfortunately, the volunteers that maintain this garden cleaned this garden last fall so this garden did not receive any of the benefits of keeping the stems, leaves, and seeds on the plants until Spring.

Here is a photo of this garden from last August.

Native Pollinator Garden at Morey Public School Academy (29 August 2014)

Plans for 2014

As of right now, I have no plans to add any new gardens this year.  Instead I plan on adding improvements to the existing gardens such as nest boxes for native bees, Monarch Waystation certification for the Discovery Museum garden, and Native Plant Butterfly Garden certification (through Wild Ones) for the Saginaw Chippewa Academy and Winn Elementary gardens.

I also plan to take frequent photos of these habitats over the course of the growing season.

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