LIMA — “All of us wish we had garden fairies to come and help take care of our gardens,” said Shana Byrd, director of land conservation, Dawes Arboretum. “But we can let Mother Nature help” by creating native landscapes and sustainable ecosystems “without a lot of work [that] can still be beautiful.”
Byrd spoke to 188 attendees at the Allen County Master Gardeners’ 20th annual Art of Gardening seminar March 16 at The Ohio State University Lima campus.
Byrd advocated for replacing invasive plants with native plants in landscapes. Invasive plants are non-native species that threaten Ohio’s natural areas by altering the native biodiversity found in forests, savannas, grasslands, prairies and wetlands, according the Ohio Invasive Plants Council. The Council also defines non-native as “a species that was introduced to Ohio by humans, either deliberately or accidentally, from other states or countries” and native as “a species that has been present in Ohio prior to substantial European settlement (1750 in Ohio).”
Byrd provided examples of what types of native plants can be added to a landscape and the types of invasive species that should be removed. “We can have invaders in our yard and not know it,” said Byrd. Find a full list of Ohio invasive plants at www.oipc.info.
“I am not exclusively interested in having only natives in the landscape; just not invasive,” said Byrd. She walked the group through various options for choosing which native plants to use to replace invasive species. She also suggested people interested to read “Planting in a Post-Wild World” by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West.
There are challenges with creating native landscapes, such as neighbors and others in the community. Byrd suggested, “know your rights, share your plan, highlight savings, and get your neighbor’s buy-in.” Learn about your rights with the Homeowners Association.
“If you have a ton of weeds, you probably don’t have enough plants,” said Byrd, adding that “planting en masse (in a group or all together) is visually striking.” Byrd also said that edges are essential in improving the visual appeal of a landscape.
She advised that one should be aware of what kinds of plants provide food for pollinators and other wildlife, such as bees, birds and butterflies. She said large patches of flowers and floral shapes, in addition to three blooms per year, provide food year round. She also suggested having an unmowed area with a few sticks and bare soil “because our native bees need this to overwinterize, as well as butterflies.”
Byrd shared a story about a woman who sprayed her plants because there were worms eating the plant. She later found out that those worms were caterpillars. Byrd suggested “changing what our expectations of what beauty [is] in the garden,” referring to the caterpillars eating plants.
Byrd talked about a working project to use the land beneath powerlines as habitats for pollinators. She said that an abundance of plants can act as a “robust forcefield against trees growing” and interfering with the powerlines.
“Pollinators will continue to decline without floral resources and shelter,” said Byrd, adding that the decline of pollinators is grim and a crisis. “We can save them. We just need to provide them with the resources.”
Byrd said that the first one to three years of a native and sustainable ecosystem are important and suggests only mowing once per year to help the native plants grow and establish roots, while “knocking off the heads of the undesirables,” referring to the invasive species.
Located in Newark, Dawes Arboretum (Dawes) is a nonprofit that includes nearly 2,000 acres of plant collections, gardens and natural areas, in addition to approximately 12 miles of hiking trails and roadways for a four-mile driving tour. For more information about Dawes visit: www.dawesarb.org. The Dawes Arboretum will host its annual Ohio Sustainable Landscapes Symposium Aug. 10, 2019. Stay tuned for more details at www.dawesarb.org/learn/special-events.
Adding rare plants to a landscape is also a possibility, according to Scott Beuerlein, Horticulturist, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, who spoke at the Art of Gardening seminar. Beuerlein had the attendees laughing throughout his speech, setting the expectation of audience participation.
Beuerlein took the audience through more than 60 different kinds of rare species of plants and trees. He explained that rare plants can be found at local garden centers in the off season; mail-order nurseries; mail-order seed suppliers; botanical garden plant sales; private plant sales; propagation, and swapping with other gardeners.
“I wouldn’t fill my entire garden with rare plants,” said Beuerlein, explaining that you might not be sure what they are going to do or if it will work with your landscape. “They’re fun to dabble in, but don’t base your entire garden on them.”
He then mentioned that the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden will be hosting the Plant Trials Day Symposium on Aug. 19 and the Native Plant Symposium on Nov. 9. Stay tuned for more information at www.cincinnatizoo.org/events.