August 2016 monthly gathering highlights

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Wes Boshart (standing) leading Saturday’s gathering at the home of Mark O’Bryan (in red t-shirt)

August 3 and 6, 2016
Mark O’Bryan hosted two yard tour gatherings in August. Marsha Gebhardt welcomed 28 members and four guests on August 3, and Wes Boshart welcomed 10 members and four guests on Saturday, August 6.

Mark and his family moved into their home in 2000. During their first years, they built a garage with Mark’s business office above it, added an addition to the house, and installed a geothermal energy system to heat and cool the house. Though they expanded the house by 65%, the efficient energy system provides a 50% decrease in peak energy costs.

It was only after these major projects that Mark began working in the yard. He began by removing large amounts of invasive honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) which covered the back property line, and English ivy (Hedera helix) and bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) from the front yard. Then planting began. He started by planting iris from his mother. He quickly learned that native plants provide wildlife benefits and are longer lived that non-natives.

Gathering attendees at the home of Mark O'Bryan

Gathering attendees

When cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) bloom, the hummingbirds arrive. Monarch butterflies are attracted to the marsh milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). Food plants include native hazelnut (Corylus americana), blackberries (Rubus ursinus), and cherries (Prunus serotina).

Mark grinds up all of his yard waste with an electric mower and places it along back property line to create mulch. He is amazed at the number of toads and insects that live in the mulch. Each spring his family is treated to a toad chorus. Other notable wildlife includes barred owls, turkey vultures, Cooper’s hawks, red fox, opossum, and many butterflies.

A major challenge has been run off from two neighbors’ expansive driveways and turf lawns. Heavy rainfall causes a fast rush of water through the back of the O’Bryan property. Mark has created mounds of 4 inch high micro-berms that slow and control the water crossing the yard. Plants, mulch, and a series of seven small berms and basins slow the water flow and hold it on site. The results are that within a few hours, water percolates into the soil.

The Wednesday gathering at Mark O'Bryan's home

The Wednesday gathering at Mark O’Bryan’s home

On another side of Mark’s property is the constant challenge of exotic, invasive bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris) that was planted on the neighbor’s property line in the 1990s. It grows so fast and tall that is creates a constant maintenance issue. It’s roots soak up so much water that an American elm (Ulmus americana), a maple tree (Acer rubrum), and two large pines have died from lack of water. Although the bamboo plants are one-half the property length, it’s root system spreads the entire length of Mark’s property of 116 feet. Mark hopes to negotiate with the neighbor to have the bamboo removed by backhoe.

The property is certified gold by St. Louis Audubon’s Bring Conservation Home program.

Plant Give-aways
Mark offered several species of extra seedlings from his yard.

Upcoming Events

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Attendees exploring the yard during the gathering

Shaw Wildflower Market – September 9
This annual event is held in the Shaw Nature Reserve’s Whitmire Wildflower Garden 4:00 – 7:30 p.m. Shop for locally produced native plants, foods, and crafts. Also, experts will answer your native gardening questions.

Native Plant Expo and Sale – September 24
St. Louis Audubon’s Bring Conservation Home program will sponsor a plant swap and sale on September 24, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood, MO.

Next Gathering
CommuniTree Gardens nursery tour of Forest ReLeaf of Missouri. Choose Wednesday evening September 7, 6:30 p.m. OR Saturday morning September 10, 9:30 a.m.

Recorded by: Fran Glass, Secretary

Photos by: Dawn Weber

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