Come join us in the Hocking Hills for a weekend of learning and fun. I will be hosting a hands-on workshop Saturday morning May 5th demonstrating how to convert traditional turf into a productive habitat planting of native plants. I will explain different techniques for removing turf, how to analyze the site, and finally, install the habitat. All plant material will be provided by Native Landscaping and Consulting LLC.
It seems everyone loves hydrangeas. They are sold everywhere and often have huge marketing campaigns behind them. This is all understandable; there are so many different hydrangeas available that it has become overwhelming. The hydrangea in this photo is Hydrangea arborescens, usually called smooth hydrangea or wild hydrangea. From this species we get "Annabelle", a very popular variety widely available. As the photo shows, the location this particular plant is thriving in tells us much about site requirements- cool, moist, shady, acidic location with protection from the desiccating winters of central Ohio. These conditions can be hard to replicate in the typical home landscape, but this species hold up fairly well in older neighborhoods in Columbus. The mind boggling array of color-changing Hydrangeas is another ball of wax altogether. Here in Franklin County, these derivatives of Hydrangea macrophylla, an Asian species, generally don't perform very well despite their presence anywhere plants are sold. They perform much better in more acidic soil with a more mild winter. The picture below was taken in Portland, Oregon where these are in almost every yard, and the growing conditions are much more favorable. Absolutely stunning!
Milkweed plants have become increasingly popular due to the increased awareness of the monarch butterfly's declining population. Milkweeds really are a family of plants, some of which are native to central Ohio. They can be hard to find in big box nurseries, although they are becoming more widely available. As shown in these two images above, this is creating problems. The picture on the left has a plant tagged as "butterflyweed". The Latin name actually identifies it as swamp milkweed, but there is no legal obligation to label it as such, as long as the Latin name is listed. I find swamp milkweed growing in the wild near, you guessed it, water. Despite personal observations, it will perform alright in an average garden setting, as long as the site isn't overly dry and hot, like a south facing wall of a building.
The image on the left is pretty self explanatory. This is the plant identified as butterfly weed to most of us. It needs the dry and hot location, like the south facing wall of a building. Both are great plants, and have their place in the right location. Both plants should be planted more often to provide food for monarch larvae. The labeling is deliberately misleading only to sell more plants. Are these big nurseries scared to have something on the shelf called swamp milkweed because they think it won't sell? I firmly believe they do.
I strongly recommend having at least some kind of milkweed in the landscape. They not only provide food for monarch larvae but also for plenty of other pollinators (and oleander aphids). There is also the common milkweed, which some of us may remember from our childhood. It tolerates a wider range of conditions, but it is rhizomatous, meaning it sends out sprouting roots. Because of this, some communities have banned it, including Columbus (this may have recently changed).
If you want milkweeds contact me or another specialty nursery in your area that sells native plants. We don't use labels meant to confuse or mislead people! You may also find even more species of milkweed available. The three I mentioned are the most common in the wild. Free milkweed seeds are easy to come by if you know where to look (google it).
The Sierra Club sent this to us in the mail last week asking for our money. This packet makes no claims to be a wildflower mix, but does capitalize on the recent public bee craze, which is great. The public bee craze is another discussion for another time. I was curious what the Sierra Club considers bee food. I read the list of ingredients on the back of the package shown on the photo on the right. Plants from all over the world! I'm not criticizing the Sierra Club, but I really did expect more from them- at least plants native to the U.S. I opened the package, sorted out the 4 purple coneflower seeds and pitched the rest.