Invasive plant tip: Dig up Star of Bethlehem as it emerges

By Sue Leahy
Member-at-Large and Chairperson, PR and Marketing Committee
Wild Ones – St. Louis Chapter

Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum)
Photo by Sue Leahy

Several years ago my husband, Andy, and I planted a dense hedge of native shrubs and small trees in the fall at the back edge of our yard. When spring arrived, much to my dismay, up popped a huge crop of Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum). This plant has leaves that look similar to crocus leaves, long and thin, with a beautiful star-shaped white flower. It is a member of the lily family and, like lilies, is toxic to humans and animals. This plant is native to Eastern Europe and the Middle East. It blooms in the spring and then dies back, not to be seen again until the next spring. While beautiful, it is also quite invasive and I didn’t want it in my hedge. The mulch and newspaper I had put down did nothing to keep these from coming up. The leaves just searched around until they found an opening.

The research I did indicated that Round-Up had only minimal effect on this plant and the recommended herbicide was D2,4. I’m not in favor of chemicals and that was just too toxic for my liking, especially with all my new trees and shrubs.

The alternative? Dig them up by hand! So, the two of us spent two solid weekends on our hands and knees gently scraping aside mulch and digging up these plants. You can’t pull them. The leaves come off and leave the little bulb behind to regenerate even more the next year. We frequently had to go down 8-12 inches to get at the bulb and often found clumps of bulbs. We had tilled the bed before planting and think we inadvertently spread these bulbs by doing so.

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Mr. Clean Need Not Apply … Just Yet

By Dawn Weber
Member-at-Large, Wild Ones – St. Louis Chapter

Dried grass with seeds in snow

Bet you can’t wait to clean this up!

Does this unseasonably nice weather have you itching to go out and clean up the garden? By February, things may be looking a little ragged. Strong winds have knocked over some of the taller plants, indigo “tumbleweeds” are blowing around, and there are leaves everywhere.

When the first sign of warmer weather comes, as gardeners, we want to get out there and work, but there are good reasons to wait.

Benjamin Vogt is one of my favorite authors in the native plant scene, and he published this article in 2015 on holding off on the spring cleaning.

By leaving the garden standing in the fall, we’ve given the insects cozy homes to stay in until spring.  Even though the weather has warmed early, they may not be ready to come out yet.  It’s possible we’ll still have another cold snap before spring really arrives.

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Volunteers needed for Landscape Challenge

Volunteers after installing a garden for the Landscape Challenge

Wild Ones needs a volunteer member to design the garden of the winning Landscape Challenge winner. You do not need to be a professional, just have a basic understanding of garden design along with good native plant knowledge. Drawing ability is not necessary as a board member can provide assistance. You will also work with Scott Woodbury, Curator of the Whitmire Wildflower Garden at Shaw Nature Reserve.

If you are interested in serving on the committee to screen applications and view potential yard sites, that would be welcome also. You will work with a couple of other Wild Ones members and a representative from Grow Native!.

Please contact Sue Leahy at sleahy@sbcglobal.net or 314-962-2318 for more information or to discuss either opportunity. 

Earthworms Podcast – Talking Native Plants with Jean Ponzi

The Earthworms Podcast, hosted by Jean Ponzi, presents information, education and conversation with activists and experts on environmental issues and all things green.

This week’s topic is close to home, Native Plants: Growing a Joint Venture with Nature. Jean talks native plants with Neil Diboll, one of the keynote speakers at the upcoming Partners for Native Landscaping workshop, and the St. Louis Audubon Society’s Mitch Leachman.

Wildflowers are moving into the city – and plants with “weed” in their names are welcome even in the ‘burbs. Sure and steady as Oak trees, a Native Plant revolution is changing the ways we experience our yards, our parks, our school grounds and even our corporate campuses. 

The podcast is a great way to become acquainted with Neil and his history with native plants.

Get ready to “be a sponge” and soak up all of the native plant and wildlife habitat goodness that is about to come your way.   Get your tickets to the workshop soon, they’re going fast!

Introducing a new board member, Marypat Ehlmann

Pictured on the right, Marypat Ehlmann, our newest board member, with Fran Glass

We are celebrating the addition of Marypat Ehlmann to our board! Equally good news is the fact that she has begun serving as our volunteer coordinator. Below is her description of the paths that brought her to us and some of the experience she brings with her, which she is now using to further the mission of our Wild Ones – St. Louis Chapter.

Connecting with nature is what makes my heart sing. My path into natives began with classes through the Native Plant School at Shaw Nature Reserve, about ten years ago. After purchasing my home in Maplewood, I began applying what I was learning about native plants. Each year since, another section of my yard space has been turned into a garden supporting native plants and all of the pollinators it brings. Through the Bring Conservation Home program, my yard has a gold-level certification. Hands-on education is my style of learning, so when not getting my hands dirty in my own yard, I am helping others, especially children, learn about native plants and pollinators. I volunteer regularly with a number of local organizations devoted to nature, children, and education between the two. Adding Wild Ones to my list of favorites is just a natural.

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February and March 2017 local native plant events

5 women

From left to right: Penny Holtzmann, Dawn Weber, Fran Glass, Marsha Gebhardt, and Kathy Bildner around our display board

The preseason and spring events have begun. April’s activities will be announced later, and you might have trouble choosing which programs to attend as there are so many!  For now, here’s what we are attending and/or are aware of for February and March. Grab your notepads and questions and prepare to Dig In!

When: Saturday, February 11 from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
What: Preseason Gardening Expo
Where: Rolling Ridge Nursery, 60 N Gore Ave, Webster Groves, MO 63119
About: This event will have local landscape designers, local growers, local green industry experts, a naturalist, plant societies, kids seed starting, refreshments, and prizes
Note: Our Wild Ones – St. Louis Chapter will have a table at this event.

When: Saturday, February 11 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
What: The First GROW Seed Swap
Where: Outside Pavilion at the Saint Louis Science Center, 5050 Oakland Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110
Cost: Free and open to the public
About: This event is NOT focused on native plants but may be a way to educate others about the benefits of landscaping with native plants and participate in the seed swap (at least giving away seeds) and other activities. “Share seeds with other gardeners or just come to learn about the age old tradition of saving and sharing seeds. The GROW seed library will be open and visitors can check out seeds. When you check out seeds, you then grow your own stock of seeds for future plantings, to return to the seed library and for sharing.”

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