PRAIRIEFORM

Everyday excursions in the urban landscape

Plants as magnets for the good and bad

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Observing the Joppa Avenue Landscape in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for bees, butterflies, and bunnies
Lounging and observing the laboratory

The occasional sad reality of doing landscape design is that not all landscapes you create will survive long-term. Ownership can change, and maintenance can be spotty. At the very least, you can expect that some plants will die or be less successful than planned due to circumstances outside of your control, and the result will be a landscape different than what you had envisioned. In our case we never could have anticipated the bumper crop of rabbits that seemed to emerge in Minneapolis in the summer of 2009, or how that bumper crop would subside by 2014. Nor could we have anticipated how much the monarch and honeybee populations would dwindle during that same period. Fortunately, we’ve had a living laboratory of sorts in which to observe all of these phenomena long-term and to see what plants are bunny magnets, and which are monarch and bee magnets.

Here is our run-down:

BEE/POLLINATOR MAGNETS
Nepeta x faassenii ‘Walker’s Low’ / Walker’s Low catmint: Blooms for at least a month (reblooms after a mid-summer haircut), with the bees (bumble, honey, and solitary, not to mention hoverflies, hummingbird moths, butterflies, and hummingbirds) on it from sunrise to sunset
Aster oolentangiensis / sky-blue aster: Very good late-summer nectar/pollen source
Solidago speciosa / showy goldenrod: Also an ideal late-summer nectar/pollen source
Diervilla sessilifolia ‘Butterfly’ / Butterfly bush honeysuckle: Bumblebees love the little yellow flowers; lightly cut back after blooming for a second bloom
Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Longin’ / ‘Longin’ Russian sage: Bees of all varieties love this plant, and it blooms from July virtually til the end of summer
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ / Autumn Joy stonecrop: Amazing late-summer nectar/pollen source

MONARCH MAGNETS
Liatris ligulistylis / meadow blazing star: They bloom, and the monarchs come. . . in droves; it’s as simple as that
Eutrochium purpurea / Joe Pye weed: Huge, tall, and full of monarchs once they bloom in July
Verbena bonariensis / Brazilian verbena: An annual that blooms from June (depending on when you plant it) until the end of summer and thus provides a very consistent nectar source for monarchs, which flock to it

RABBIT MAGNETS
Echinacea purpurea / purple coneflower: Numbers dwindled down to almost none by 2013, have replanted new ones and caged them
Panicum virgatum / switchgrass: Ultimately disappeared after two years and space taken over by other plants
Sporobolus heterolepis / prairie dropseed: Initially took a huge hit from the rabbits but now seems to be doing better now that it’s been in the ground longer (maybe rabbits don’t like crusty old grasses?)
Koeleria macrantha / June grass: Suffers some damage by rabbits each year in the spring, becomes less attractive to them by July
Rudbeckia hirta / gloriosa daisy: Numbers dwindled down to almost none by 2012; some that had self-sown in cages around other plants managed to survive, and now the landscape is full of them again (but there are also fewer rabbits now)
Liatris spicata / dense blazing star: Caged them and the rabbits have since kept away; landscape now dense enough that the plant has self-sown here and there, and the seedlings seem to be protected by other plants (that is a very loose hypothesis based on casual observation)
Aster oolentangiensis / sky-blue aster: Some were gnawed down to the ground and died; remaining ones caged and are now thriving and self-sowing with a bit too much aplomb
Liatris ligulistylis / prairie blazing star: A choice meal of rabbits of all shapes and sizes; the plants need cages around them if they are to survive a rabbit’s dinnertime whims

Just to be clear and in layman’s terms: bee and monarch magnets will bring you happiness; rabbit magnets, without the proper protection, will bring you sadness.

John Kamp

Of rain, rabbits, and gold

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Gloriosa daisies (Rudbeckia hirta) in a PRAIRIEFORM landscape

The element of change and surprise is something we try to infuse into every landscape we create, so that at any given point during the year one can discover something new within it. The same is true for how a landscape evolves across the years. While we can to a certain extent plan this evolution into a landscape, there are wildcard factors such as temperature and precipitation that can radically alter the landscape from year to year. Take, for example, gloriosa daisies (Rudbeckia hirta), whose shots of deep gold and burnt orange can be profuse or sparse depending on what has gone on that year. What went on last year was bunnies, and lots of them. What also went on was not much rain. Thus, any irrigated to semi-irrigated landscape area was an endless dinner of uber-washed field greens for bunnies, with gloriosa daisies being a food of choice for them. The result was a virtual absence of the deep golds and oranges that we are now seeing this year in the landscape, as, this year, we have seen much rain, and a profusion of clover and other greens that bunnies seem to love. As a result, they are not tempted to move their way into more cultivated environs and mow down our labors of botanical love. What we enjoy vis-a-vis this phenomenon is not so much that we have more gloriosa daisies (among other plants) to stare at this year, but that it is a reminder that designers may have some control over the landscape, but not complete control. A nice humbling lesson for a profession that frequently gets all too caught up in its own myth-making. So, go out and enjoy the golds of this summer and know that they might be rabbit food next summer, which makes them all the more precious.

Tragic Topiary Tuesday

Tags: , , , ,


Bunny-pruned* triple tope

*Arbor vitaes have become the winter food of choice for discerning rabbits across Minneapolis and Saint Paul. You can cut back on landscaper fees by allowing your local bunny to pleasantly tope out your shrubs in a range of unexpected forms, shapes, and sizes.

© 2009 PRAIRIEFORM. All Rights Reserved.

This blog is powered by Wordpress and Magatheme by Bryan Helmig.