No matter where people go, or where they must flee to, so many will turn to nature for comfort and refuge – especially when there are no other options. While folks in the modern world seem to be increasingly turning to their phones and social media for some semblance of that comfort, when the lights go out and your wired world goes dark, family and nature are our default comfort spaces to turn to. Perhaps nowhere can this natural instinct towards nature be seen more than within refugee camps, where people suddenly no longer have those creature comforts of home, or the option of turning towards Netflix or Facebook or the like to find some sort of modern comfort.
The above video is a fascinating look into how refugees in northern Iraq have managed to create their own calming green spaces within an otherwise unsettled environment. The very act of shining a light on these spaces and their creation serves to truly underscore the humanity of the people having to flee and live in these camps. And to further highlight the refugee’s efforts to carve out their own gardens amidst such troubling and tough conditions, the Lemon Tree Trust created a landscape for this year’s Chelsea Flower Show that was inspired by the resiliency of the refugees in these camps. You may find more photos of the garden by clicking here.
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.
Prairieform’s DJ alter-ego, Johnnycakes, has a new set up for your listening enjoyment. It has a bit of a planning/landscape/city theme this time around, at least as far as the samples go but probably as far as the music goes as well, as, well, this was crafted and mixed right here in the big bad city on September 15, 2015. To listen on the Prairieform site, click here, or to listen on Soundcloud, click here. Original cover art by yours truly.
No need to speak French to capture the gist of this particular landscape featured at this year’s garden festival at Chaumont-sur-Loire. The designer sought to create a living and evolving painting contained within what appears to be a traditional frame. As such, the visitor approaches a wall as if they (yes, we know this should be she/he here, but isn’t that just oh-so clumsy) were in a museum, only to find within it a three-dimensional landscape that will grow, evolve, and change over time, so that viewing the painting one day will not produce the same results if one were to visit on another day. Viewed from afar, the landscape appears two-dimensional; viewed from up close and you can perceive depth, height, and width. According to the designer, the color palette consists of a range of blues in order to ideally inspire daydreaming and to evoke feelings of escape, discovery, and travel within whoever is viewing the garden. A novel idea indeed.