By Peggy Whetzel
Small though it is, Fran Glass’s yard could serve as the poster child for making the world a better place, one suburban yard at a time.
There are no roses, daylilies or beguiling begonias. Instead, with a gardener’s guiding touch, she’s sprouted a landscape brimming with 170 wild or native species ranging in size from a mighty bur oak in the back yard to a ground-hugging party of pussytoes (Antennaria) in the front.
Once common to Missouri, these and thousands more species have been steadily supplanted by ornamental trees, shrubs, vines, flowers and grasses from Europe and Asia. In the process, birds and insect populations have dwindled and even disappeared.
That’s because, with rare exceptions, North American insects cannot digest ornamental plants from other continents, plants they didn’t evolve with. Just because something is green doesn’t mean it’s universally edible. Most caterpillars can only eat certain plants. Monarch caterpillars, much in the news this year, can only eat milkweeds. Nothing else will do.
Here are Kathy Bildner’s tips on planting seeds:
- Plant seeds in the late fall or early winter.
- The seeds must over-winter in the ground.
- Cover with screen or rocks so the squirrels won’t dig them up.
- Label the site so you remember what and where you planted.
- If you plant the seeds in a pattern (circle, square, triangle, etc.), when they emerge in the spring, you will know what they are. Weed everything else away.
- Most native plants are perennial, and will not bloom until the 2nd year. They will come back year after year for you to enjoy.
Additional tips from Shaw Nature Reserve, including what seed treatments are needed by different species.
Perennial germination database – specific instructions on how to germinate *lots* of different species.
By Betty Struckhoff
Planting crew at work
Our Wild Ones annual landscape makeover has become one of those markers in my mind’s clockwork — marking a changing season and another year. Always close to the fall equinox, we gather (like Druids?!) to dig in the dirt.
This year was no exception. On September 27, 2014 Scott Woodbury showed up with a truckload of mulch. Jeanne Cablish was super organized with the design and the plants, putting us all to work quickly. The homeowners were delightful to meet, the coffee and bagels were plentiful, and their teenage son helped us throughout the morning.
By Betty Struckhoff
I’m not a native plant purist, but one thought often enters my head when I see a vast expanse of mown grass while driving on a highway: What a wasted opportunity!
My yard has grass, but only enough to give a sense of order and to preserve a hill for occasional sledding. The rest is a continual work in progress, initially inspired by the woods I grew up around and later by things I learned from Wild Ones members and others.
By Marilyn Chryst
Assembly crew on completed benches
It was a cold winter night in 1999; there were snow flurries in the air. Yet 8 people showed up at the wood shop of Shaw Arboretum (now Shaw Nature Reserve) for a meeting of the newly formed St. Louis Chapter of Wild Ones. We were there to build Aldo Leopold benches. These benches, the brainchild of environmentalist Aldo Leopold, are sturdy yet use very little material. Download Tom Chryst’s instructions.
Several of us had pre-cut the wood and bought the bolts ahead of time. The “kits” were ready when everyone arrived. Tom Chryst and Scott Woodbury helped guide folks with the assembly. At the end of the evening, 8 of us had built 8 benches. Small plaques were later put on the backs, each with a quote and the fact that Wild Ones had made them. In the crew that night were Scott Woodbury, Pat Grace, Ana Grace, Tom and Marilyn Chryst.