Showing posts with label Backyard habitat. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Backyard habitat. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Competing for natives

Before I bought my house I knew I wanted a garden; in fact I kept announcing to people, "I need a big yard because I'm a gardener." I had but one season of vegetable gardening under my belt but I just knew I was destined for great plant lust.

I'd never landscape gardened before so I checked out every single gardening book from the library where I worked and kept them for the better part of a year. If the east county was lacking in new gardens that year, you can blame me. I took every single one.

Backyard in 2010

Before I replaced the fence and had the slab removed

My favorite to read was the Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants for Gardens and Landscapes. The pictures are beautiful and plentiful and the descriptions are thorough. I also signed up for the Backyard Habitat program, so I could buy native plants on the cheap. It was a good way to get my garden started at a time when I had no money. At one point I thought I'd have a 100% native garden but then I discovered that other plants exist. Really great plants that I like a lot!

I like you too, Oregon iris. You can stay.

I got certified as "backyard habitat" at the silver level in 2011, which awarded me a metal sign, continued participation in plant sales, and bragging rights. It also nourished the part of me that enjoys meeting arbitrary goals.

Did you know that Geum triflorum is native to the PNW? I bought it
because it was pretty.

The volunteer they sent to evaluate my yard in 2011 didn't have the broadest plant knowledge and I had to bicker over some plants with her. She was also hellbent on me removing my bamboo. I exacted my revenge my planting a lot more of it in subsequent years.

Dichelostemma ida-maia is another plant that I bought without realizing it was native.

I had to get recertified this year and I didn't want any quibbling so I came armed with spreadsheets and a diagram. I printed the map Greg created of our yard and labeled where all the natives lived. I cataloged every native in our garden and I was shocked to discover that we had 59 unique species. I ran out and bought Thalictrum occidentale so I could round it out to 60, because . . . math? even numbers? I don't know.

Meadow rue (Thalictrum occidentale)

The volunteer who judged my garden this time was much friendlier and didn't give my bamboo the side-eye. He also informed me that I had easily qualified for gold certification and was this close to platinum, which made me crazy. You just gave me a new arbitrary goal and informed me I'd failed!

Clarkia amoena, one of our prettiest native annuals

Maybe platinum is in my future or maybe I won't care anymore. I think this is a great program, even if I have a few quibbles with it. The plants I've purchased through them have been terribly root-bound and they don't perform as well as plants I've bought from nurseries, though they certainly cost a lot less. It's been a couple of years since I bought from them, so I hope they're improving. I also wish there was room in the program for certain non-natives.

Hummingbird feeding from non-native Mahonia x media 'Arthur Menzies' on January 7th.

My mahonia hybrids provide food for hummingbirds and insects in December and January, when nothing else is blooming. I think year-round nectar trumps native purity in certain cases.

My last complaint, because I am nothing if not a complainer: don't take pictures of people with a wide-angle lens. It's so unflattering.

Do you have native plants in your garden? What's your favorite? The pointlessly competitive part of me thinks I should incorporate more, so I can get to 75 species. Maybe then they'll give me a wristwatch or a commemorative clock.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Can you see the finish line?

Greg and I hustled back from the coast this weekend to pick up plants from the last sale of the year from the Audubon Society. When you let hippies run things it can get a little confused. When I got there they didn't have all my plants because someone had miscounted and maybe people took too many plants? And then we had this conversation:

Me: I ordered five gallon-sized Juncus but there's only three here.
Him: Just take more of the pint-sized plants instead.
Me: But don't those plants belong to someone else?
Me: So it's just anarchy at this point?
Him: (smiles)

In their defense this was the biggest sale they've ever had, with over 4000 plants ordered. That's a LOT of natives to keep track of. I ordered a combination of soft rush (Juncus effusus) and tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) and a few penstemon and stream violets to round things out. I also ordered kinnikinnick for the drier edges, which will hopefully cover the berm after a few years.

I hindsight I wish I had ordered a vine maple and incorporated some ferns but who am I kidding? I'm going to end up digging up and rearranging half of these anyway. It's what gardeners do, even gardeners who really know what they're doing. Greg raked up the leaves from the dogwood in the front yard and I deposited them into the beds around the yard as mulch. I don't have compost bins built yet but I couldn't bear to give up my leaves to the city compost. They'll just have to compost in place and I'll have to deal with the fact that I'm now a hoarder of leaves, in addition to everything else.

I ran out of fine bark mulch for the rain garden but once I get that covering everything this baby will be DONE. And then I've promised Greg I'm done with garden projects until next spring.

And I think I actually mean it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I finally hung my backyard habitat sign

The lady from the Audubon Society asked me not to put it in the front yard (with which I haven't done anything) lest it "confuse people."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Habitat! Sweet habitat!

I did it!  The Audubon Society certified my yard as backyard habitat! 

Getting this entailed a bunch of stuff (all of it here) including turning 5% of my available yard (and boy do they measure) over to native plants, disconnecting my downspouts, having a birdbath, practicing integrated pest management (no pesticides), and removing aggressive weeds (like all the Himalayan blackberry).  I had to bicker a little with the woman at the end over heuchera and whether it's native (turns out it counts as a native plant).

There are a lot of benefits to getting certified (like insanely cheap native plants) but I mostly wanted the bragging rights. And I'm still enough of a hippie that I dig being part of a program that is trying to encourage habitat for native species.  It also helps that native plants in the northwest are so pretty.  I'm really excited for everything to start growing again this spring so I can see who decides to fly in and visit me.  This last season was mostly hummingbirds (yay!) and crows (boo).

The rep from The Audubon Society said my front yard would a good contender for a rain garden.  A rain garden harvests the storm water from your property and, instead of dumping it in the sewer, directs it to a densely planted area that allows the water to naturally percolate into the ground, much like it would in a forest.  They offer free classes in Portland so I think I'll sign up and look into it. 

Image lifted from here.

I'm so excited!