Sunday, February 28, 2021

Turf to Trees – Reclaiming Space for Nature


The concept of reworking America’s big lawn spaces to more nature-productive vegetation is not a new concept, but we certainly can use not just reminders but good resources to do it. A friend in Georgia has recently put together a new website to help provide those resources. I contributed some of my photos to help. The goal of the website is to convince people to do it and give them the help they need to implement changes.

The website TurftoTrees goes into detail about the importance of creating more diverse landscapes (lawn is a monoculture of a single plant, of course, the very opposite of diverse) by replacing lawn with native plants. The concept isn’t limited to using only trees, adding shrubs and perennials helps build a better plant community. Turf grass contributes very little to native insects and birds and when chemicals are used to maintain it, the net effect is even more negative when chemicals get into groundwater and damage soil organisms.

Sections on the website include “What” to provide ideas and links about what plants are right for your plant community; “How” for tips on making it happen (including how to remove turf); and “Management” for dealing with competing invasive plants in various ways.

After you’ve explored the resources, send any feedback on how to make this site more useful to the email found on the Community page. I hope it inspires you to reduce some of your lawn and add some productive native plants. Once you do that, you should see more of these in your own landscape:

From my confusing Dark Swallowtails post

Sunday, February 21, 2021

A Moment in Nature for February


Trout lilies at 28 degrees 

Following on the post I shared for January, #amomentinnature for February is the appearance of blooms on the dimpled trout lily (Erythronium umbilicatum). This spring ephemeral is always one of my first to bloom and this particular patch is always the first of them.  Even though we had cold temperatures into the 20’s, I watched the leaves bravely emerge and the bloom stalks rise up. Each pair of leaves has one flower; plants with a single leaf are too immature to bloom.

Trout lilies, same patch, around 46 degrees

I’ve written about this plant many times before so if you’d like to take a trip down memory lane with some old February posts, here are the links:

After snow covered it up in 2020, it kept right on going. 

After the death of a friend in 2019, I remembered it was always one her favorites too.

A trip to south  Georgia in 2018 to see a most amazing display of plants at Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve in Grady County (just starting to happen now and trips this year are self-guided).

Spring photo post  in 2013.

Native ephemeral post in 2011.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Hike Local: Old Mill Park

The mill dam as viewed from the upper trail

Winter days can be mild and rainy and those are perfect conditions for small outings with waterfalls. In our ongoing efforts to entertain our young grandson, we visited a fairly local waterfall this week. Old Mill Park in historic Roswell is a favorite local park for its easy trails and scenic views.

Our mid-morning arrival found plenty of parking and few visitors, allowing us to ramble mask-free along the trails on both sides of Vickery Creek. We crossed over the covered bridge and hiked up the steps to the Vickery Creek Trail, part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. You can also reach this trail from their parking lot off Riverside Road.

That side of the creek has amazing native vegetation: as we walked high above the creek, the path was lined on both sides with a mixture of mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) and Piedmont rhododendron (Rhododendron minus). In fact, these two evergreen shrubs were so unusually abundant that the view reminded me of the more familiar, but invasive, privet. I can’t wait to go back in May and see these in bloom! In the meantime, there was plenty of Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), evergreen ginger (Hexastylis arifolia), glowing moss, and rosettes of native asters and goldenrods.

Vickery Creek Trail with Rhododendron
Rhododendron minus buds

On the Old Mill Park side of the creek, there are more facilities: restrooms, concrete paths, restful spots, and trash cans. It was the perfect place to enjoy a snack next to the roaring waterfall and answer questions like “Does the water ever stop?” Think about that … all night long, water is pouring over that dam! We also talked about the many birds we could hear around us. Sandy ‘beaches’ next to the creek keep a lot children entertained, I’m sure, and ours was one.

That side of the creek is also the place where you’ll see weedy and invasive plants; the bright fruits of the non-native Nandina domestica were showing in several places. Local parks need volunteers to help manage invasive plants as well as landscape crews educated in the plants of the area. If you’d like to help manage invasive plants at your local park, call the managing entity (city, county) and volunteer. Balmy winter days are also perfect for pulling weeds!

Ginger and Christmas next to the path

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Remote Education: Yea or Nay?


This week I attended a Zoom presentation with Doug Tallamy, a free event sponsored by the Cherokee Library Garden which is part of the Atlanta History Center. Many years ago, I attended a presentation by him sponsored by the Georgia Perennial Plant Association held at the Atlanta History Center. Both presentations were just as effective but a huge difference was not having to drive 90-minutes each way to be there. Of course, I missed out on seeing friends in person but the glass of wine I enjoyed during the talk smoothed that out.

While the pandemic restrictions will continue for many more months, I think that the availability of remote education will greatly outlast it. There are too many advantages of remote education to ignore.  First of all, people who can’t travel or don’t like to travel at night will now be able to attend events they could not before. This means that education can now reach more people than before.

Second, events that were limited in attendance due to physical space can now serve more people. In fact, the ability to have some folks in person and a separate feed via Zoom (or another tool) is more likely than ever. Most of us were too inexperienced with streaming to consider that before.

Third, using tools like Zoom also brings us closer (if not entirely there) to recording sessions for people to watch later.

Fourth, savings associated with remote education (lower speaker fees, zero location costs, digital handouts) should allow more groups to be able to host more education events than before as they can stretch their budgets further.

And finally, the ability to provide remote presentations means that even small remote groups can tap into speakers that might have been unable to travel for an in-person meeting.

So, if you haven't tried an online presentation, take the plunge. As I said earlier, I think they are here to stay, at least part of the time. There are many free ones to test drive how you like the experience. The photo at the top is for a presentation by the Cobb County Master Gardeners. Upcoming for me is the co-sponsored symposium by the Georgia Native Plant Society and Georgia Audubon on Feb 27-28 (2 sessions).

P. S. I also like the ability to take a quick screen shot to remind me of things to follow up on, like the recommendation by Dr. Tallamy to register my property at the Homegrown National Park's website (which only has 61 properties registered in all of Georgia - let's get to it, Georgians, it only takes a few minutes):