Thursday, 22 December 2011

Madison Arboretum

One of the first days of August this year I visited The University of Wisconsin Arboretum in Madison.There is so much to see here and very excited, I stopped already directly at the entrance to the park at a colorful prairie planting with Yellow Coneflower, Ratibida pinnata, Sweet Coneflower, Rudbeckia subtomentosa, Culver's Root, Veronicastrum virginicum and Pale Indian Plantain, Arnoglossum atriplicifolium, among other prairie species.

Steve Glass is telling me about the Curtis Prairie

At the Visitor Center I met Steve B. Glass who showed me around and was my excellent guide the whole day. Steve is as restoration ecologist responsible for the restoration planning and the fire management at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum where he has been active in all phases of prairie restoration since the late 80s.

Steve showed me first the Native Plant Garden and then we walked out on the Curtis Prairie and studied the dynamics of prairie vegetation. My guide turned out to be a skilled prairie ecologist and since he was both pleasant and accommodating, we had a very fruitful day in the great outdoors.

Afterwards, Steve gave me even a bag full of interesting material and a book on plants at Madison Arboretum, which I had great pleasure from.

A colorful prairie planting already at the entrance to the Arboretum.

Yellow Coneflower and Pale Indian Plantain at the entrance

Eupatorium purpureum in the dry shade beneath a Bur Oak

Purple Coneflowers, Echinacea purpurea, at the Curtis Prairie

Curtis Prairie is the oldest restored prairie in North America and occupies about 60 acres of land. It is a deep-soil tallgrass prairie with a huge diversity of prairie plants. In July and August the Liatris, Monarda and Echinacea provide for the greatest color display and in early fall it is the grasses and the sumacs who excel in the most brilliant fall colors. The Smooth Sumac, Rhus glabra, grows scattered almost everywhere on the Curtis Prairie and spreads by underground runners. In autumn the leaves turn deep scarlet red with less orange tints compared to Rhus typhina

Ironweed and Yellow Coneflower at the edge of the Curtis Prairie

The Curtis Prarie with Liatris and Eryngiym yuccifolium 

Along the path to Greene Prairie we passed through a small woodland with dry, sandy soil. Here we found many drought tolerant species as Plantain-leaved Pussytoes, Antennaria plantaginifolia, and the Silver Sage, Artemisia ludoviciana, growing among the patches of Smooth Sumac.

Big leaves of Prairie Dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum at Greene Prairie 

Steve discoverd a hybrid between Compass Plant, Silphium laciniatum and Prairie Dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum with intermediate leaves growing at Greene Prairie

Nodding Onion, Allium cernuum, along the track

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Grasses shines in autumn and winter

Molinia arundinacea 'Cordoba' in the citypark of Laholm in November

Autumn is the time when grasses step up and outshines all withered perennials and former blooming companions in the border. Whenever you place a plant in the garden, you should always think about how the sunlight wanders around during the day. Almost all plants are most beautiful when they get the sun's rays from behind, but the grasses shines more than any others when backlit.

Plant thus the ornamental grasses where you can see them illuminated from the place where you usually find yourself in the garden, for example from your patio.

Here are some good grasses for autumn color, but there are plenty of others too. The Tussock grass, Deschampsia cespitosa, is one of the best grasses to capture the sun's glowing rays; however this grass needs heavy soils with a good water storage capacity to survive more than some few years.

Molinia arundinacea can withstand drought better, but prefers moist soils. Andropogon gerardii and Schizachyrium are drought specialists and can handle very difficult situations without any rain if they are well established.

Molinia arundinacea in Sichtungsgarten Weihenstephan, Germany

Deschampsia cespitosa in München in October

Little Bluestem, Schzachyrium scoparium, in Lahom, Sweden, in late November 

Little Bluestem backlit in November, Laholm Citypark

Big Bluestem, Andropogon gerardii, Westpark, München, Germany

Big Bluestem in Sichtungsgarten Herrmannshof, Weinheim, in early October

Switch Grass, Panicum virgatum, in Laholm in late November 

Miscanthus sinensis 'Purpurascens' in Westpark in München 

Friday, 2 December 2011

Black Walnut Dispatch

One of the best blogs I follow at the moment is Grounded Design by Thomas Rainer. It is seldom very far between the posts, and it is always worth the waiting anyway.

Unfortunately, the blog is not connected to the Google Friend Connect so there is no box that you can click on and then be able to add and view the blog in the blogroll. Instead, I have subscribed and get posts sent to my inbox. Now, I just today got an email about a new blog that he recommends and as I totally agree with Thomas I also want to tell my readers about it.

The blog is called Black Walnut Dispatch and is just a fun read, written by garden designer Mary Gray. Read it, I guarantee that you will not be disappointed!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Northwind Perennial Farm

Roy Diblik at the entrance to the show gardens

On the way to Madison we visited Northwind Perennial Farm near Lake Geneva in Wisconsin and Roy Diblik showed us around in the show gardens and the garden shop. Roy Diblik is a devoted perennial grower with a big range of native prairie plants in his assortment.

He is also creating natural plantings and in Millennium Park I adored his yellow tallgrass prairie near the Art Institute of Chicago. I like that Roy is using a method of planting similar to my way of doing it. He makes informal groups or natural mixtures of plants far from the old fashioned block system still used by most garden designers.

The garden shop managed by Colleen Carrigan is also something extra. Despite that we all know that the best way of selling plants is to show the customers how to use them, most plant shops, at least in Europe, still arrange their perennials in long rows and in the most extreme case even according to their Latin names.

Here instead the plants are standing in front of a poster showing a delicate planting. So you get inspired by the picture and will directly find the plants used in the planting on close picking distance. Look at the photos further down and judge yourself. Could it be better?

In the show gardens native plants are mixed with exotics

This is how plants should be arranged in a plant shop

Get inspired, read, pick, buy and plant at home!

The barn behind the the perennials is filled up with old, beautiful stuff 

Have a look inside the barn...

Closed due to storm damage

Creeping Juniper, Juniperus horizontails growing on the sand dunes

The south unit of the Illinois Beach State Park was and is still closed to the public, so unfortunately I couldn't walk around as I expected when we came to this dune biotope the last day of July this summer.

During a short walk close to the resort I at least met the creeping juniper, Juniperus horizontalis, at the sand dunes together with Flowering Spruge, Euphorbia corollata, Purple Prairie Clover, Dalea purpurea, and Cylindrical Blazingstar, Liatris cylindracea

As I was not allowed to walk in the area I instead drove some few miles north to the Chiwaukee Prairie in Kenosha in Wisconsin. But that's another story.

The shore of Lake Michigan at Illinois Beach in Zion

Flowering Spruge, Euphorbia corollata

Trees and branches are fallen and the area is closed for visitors

The result of the summer storm

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Black Locust Savanna at Iron Bridge Prairie

Black Locust savanna

The savannas in the prairie region mainly consist of Bur Oak, Quercus macrocarpa, but here at the Iron Bridge Prairie at Midewin it is a small savanna or rather open woodland of Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacasia.

The Black Locust is a lovely tree with ornamental branches and a open, loose crown with a scanty leafage that allow some light to pass to the ground and permit a rich understory of grasses and forbs.

The Iron Bridge Prairie at Midewin is fairly new. The restoration of the prairie that once existed here began as late as in 2009. This text is partly taken from an information sign at the prairie. Thanks to many years of cultivating rowcrops as corn and soybeans the soil was rather free from weeds.

Two years ago Midewin staff and volunteers spread 1000 pounds of prairie seeds from 98 different species. This was followed by the planting of 5000 prairie plant plugs.

The first plants to flower are the pioneer plants with rapid growth as Yellow Coneflower, Ratibida pinnata and Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa. They benefit from disturbance and have their best development some few years afterwards.

It will take several years for the majority of the prairie plants to establish their root systems and grow in numbers to out-compete invasive, weedy species.

Like a yellow lake of Coneflowers

Monarda and Ratibida are pioneer members of the prairie ecosystem 

Monarda fistulosa, Ratibida pinnata and Coreopsis tripterris

The path through the Black Locust Savanna

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

The Royal Catchfly, Silene regia

The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is a prairie reserve of about 78 km2 (19,000 acres) of land. It is located on the site of the former Joliet Army Ammunition Plant near Elwood south of Chicago in Illinois.

At the headquarter along the road the Welcome Center is surrounded by plantings of different prairie plants you will be able to find at a tallgrass prairie. Inside the building you can get information about suitable walking trails, buy books and learn about the prairie ecosystem from informative posters.

I decided to take the Grass Frog Temporary Trail and indeed I met a lot of frogs along the path. But fist I visited the seed production fields close to the parking area. There I directly already from long distance discovered the bright red Royal Catchfly, Silene regia. It is a very showy slender, upright plant with unbranched stems and glowing red flowers. The Royal Catchfly is rare in nature, but here i captured it growing at the seed beds.

Other plants cultivated for seed production at Midewin were among others Pale Indian Plantain, Arnoglossum atriplicifolium, Rattlesnake Master, Eryngium yuccifolium, Compass Plant, Silphium laciniatum and Prairie Dropseed, Sporobulus heterolepis.

The Welcome Center with prairie plantings

Inside the Welcome Center

If you look closer to the sign above you'll see the yellow area at the small map in the center. Yellow here indicates the pre-settlement extent of prairie habitat around the year 1920. Today most of this land is converted into corn fields or human infrastructur. 

Pale Indian Plantain, Arnoglossum atriplicifolia

Eryngium yuccifolium and Liatris pycnostachya

Seed production of Royal Catchfly, Silene regia

Yellow Coneflower, Ratibida pinnata, at the Grass Frog Temporary Trail

Rudbeckia subtomentosa and Eryngium yuccifolium along the trail

Rudbeckia subtomentosa