A blank Wall

texasranger2

Just a bit of a whine here. In OKC there is the typical urban spread that is eating all the prairie I once looked at in various spots. I always like to look out the car window on the way to places we go to regularly, it gave me something pleasurable to do to pass the time until we got wherever we were going. I liked the way it changed from one season to the next and to see what was blooming now or to search for some plant or figure out what different plants were. Right now a lot of native and nonnative grasses, smooth leaf sumac, annual broomweed, ragweed and solidago is (or should be) blooming along with Maximillian sunflowers, cattails, regular sunflowers, liatris, asters (mostly white) and other unknown types that I like to try to figure out while otherwise I'd just be sitting there thinking of something else. Its not particularly beautiful in the sense of what most people think of as a vacation destination but the incredible variety was a nice thing to see all the same, messy and invaded with some undesirables as it was.

Wherever the land has been bought and built on, that's all been or being replaced with plants like Miscanthus grasses in a straight line, along with well placed and planned out plants like crepe myrtle or common well behaved nursery shrubs, just repeats of the same old nondescript stuff you see in most people's yards, businesses and at Home Depot along with a plot of mowed green grass. Manmade and store bought is how it looks. It struck me hard that worst of all, there is nothing to look at anymore and there won't be anything in the future, its like looking at a blank wall now.

Anyway, thats how it struck me the other day, I realized once we'd come onto these developed areas there is nothing of interest to look at once you get around these fixed up places. Its neat and tidy but seems depressingly dead looking even thought they are living plants. The way it is now, it could be anywhere other than Oklahoma because anything resembling this state is gone and it now looks like Home Depot.

Thanks for letting me gripe. I know its the same everywhere but this last Sunday, I really focused on the boring part of it all more so than the ecological part.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

I feel the same about the sort of outdoor malls that they have built everywhere in the last decade or so, the ones that are supposed to look like little Main Streets, with different facings for each shop and narrow streets and alleys. Most of the stores are national chains, so it's easy to forget which city you're in if you travel a lot for work. Some of them have a cloying sort of Thomas Kinkade cuteness to them, and of course the plantings are neat and tidy and floriferous.


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violetwest(8a Chihuahuan Desert)

there's a place for wildness and diversity, even in developed areas, I think.

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texasranger2

WT, That reminds me of the fakery I keep seeing in housing additions they are adding around in this area I'm talking about. They go in and put in a pond which is perfectly shaped and which looks man-made and then they make the surrounding area have small hills by using piles of soil --to simulate a small scale rolling landscape? To present a less flat appearance? Heck if I know but the hills (bumps) are all the same size and look very artificial, they are sort of like land squiggles if you will, undulating but mowable. This is then covered in lawn turf which is mowed and this same turf goes right up to the clean edge of the pond which has no cat tails or tall grasses or anything on the edge like you'd have in real life. Very natural (that was a sarcasm, btw). The whole affair is gated off with a fence of some sort surrounding the perfection and artifice. Like I said, nothing of interest to look at anymore.

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docmom_gw(5)

I agree. I've been noticing the native asters that are at their peak of bloom along the highways just now. The combination of rich purples and misty whites peeking out from the fading greens of the grasses. But, it makes me wonder what else used to grow when there were more spaces. And it would be relatively easy, and much less expensive to maintain from a resources standpoint (water/herbicides) if we established native plants in so many public sites. I think we are preaching to the choir, though. We need to start educating people from a very young age, to appreciate a different kind of beauty. Also, this would have the added benefit of helping to preserve our pollinators who are critical to our food supply.

Martha

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texasranger2

docmom I agree. We are having a bumper crop of butterflies in the yard here all of a sudden. Its good to see because last fall was dismal. The fall before that was a heavy one for them, I notice it seems to vary from one year to the next in both spring and fall. My whole yard seems to be buzzing with all kinds of activity all of a sudden. What was down this year for me was dragon flies but I've seen more praying mantis than usual.

I saw a large patch of solidago I'd never noticed before in a still undeveloped area out there last weekend. I swear, it looked just like that one sold under the name Solidago 'Fireworks', around it was grasses, annual broomweed, prairie sage and a grove of smooth sumac turning red loaded with seeds which I think look very decorative in fall. In another area there used to be a large patch of prickly poppies, huge white flowers with stickery blue foliage and I kept meaning to hop out and gather some seeds but now its gone along with hundreds of Maximillian sunflower plants. That used to be a highlight of my drive through. Last year I got seeds from an unusually large white prairie clover plant, it was at least 2.5 feet tall and had dozens of blooming stems making a solid mass of white, you couldn't miss it from the highway. I'd marked the spot in my head and later when I went out it had been recently mowed down like they do on the medians but luckily I found some cut off stems.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Good stuff right here. While I see all of the same nonsense going on here in sconnie land, it is my trips to S. Florida that are really heart-wrenching. Most of the suburbs that are sprouting like mushrooms down there have extremely sucky landscaping, truly token BS. This of course after all of the native vegetation has been stripped off, and in the case of the trees, chipped and blown into bags to be sold at convenience stores nationwide. Even more so than most places, landscaping as commodity. That's a sad state of affairs.

+oM

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I try really hard to stay out of developments because they just make me really depressed. Fauna, flora and the buildings and culture. It is so dehumanizing in a group think kinda way with every one wanting a place just like their neighbors.

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docmom_gw(5)

I don't think everyone wants a place just like their neighbor's. But that's how developers develop. Instead of building one house for one family, they build 40 houses and sell them to anyone who can afford to live there.

Martha

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texasranger2

Another thing that gets me is after they wipe it clean of all native plants and turn it into a sterile landscape with exotic plants & trees, streets, lawns, houses fake pond etc they slap a romantic, image conjuring 'naturey' name to it and post a fancy sign above the gate to the fence surrounding it. Each fenced off one different than the next one down (but all the same really) Names like Lone Oak Curve, The Meadows, Quail Landing, Deer Crossing, Butterfly Creek, Auburn Meadows, River Oaks Estates, Prairie Ridge, Bluegrass Hills.....

It sort of makes ya wonder.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

We have a Covered Bridge development. This is Texas not New Hampshire. Vistancia is a new one that just gags me. Down the road their is a "Sweet water" that was responsible for some major water depredations in local creeks. Lots of legal issues. Kinda opposite speak.

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PRO
The Outdoor Room, LLC

This garden web discussion is bringing out an excellent topic and one that is emerging in the landscape profession. It is a valid argument that to strip away all of a sites best natural character, flora and fauna, simply to push progress and development along with out considering a vibrant landscape as habitat and one that ultimately yields more beauty, engages people and lowers maintenance costs does have considerable merit. The tendency has been toward over-use of the same species that are "easy" instead of culturally matched to the site and designed repetition in lieu of diversely selected plant communities that work through the seasons with unfolding display.



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texasranger2

There is a ray of hope in that large scale native gardens are being supported and encouraged in cities. A good example is the 2.5 acre Lurie Garden in Chicago and The Denver Botanical Gardens---have you seen that large scale grass garden? The worst, most depressing offenders of the Home Depot Look around here occur in the suburban areas. Downtown and around the State Capital in OKC there is a trend towards natives becoming more and more common. Its as if the further out and closer to the countryside people move, the more the trend toward old conventional gardening ideas takes hold. Its as if they must scrape it all off and then neaten it all up into well defined areas with mowed grass, defined borders and store bought crap. Must clean up that chaos and kill all those weeds, I guess.

The worst thing is seeing what was a prairie just last year being sodded and then sprayed annually with chemicals for weed control and hiring a mowing/lawn service. I feel sort of nauseated when I see that and I've seen it a lot. It strikes me as criminal behavior but perhaps I am over-reacting? Ya think?

Big names like Piet Oudolf have, whether it was their intent or not, really helped legitimize the use of native plants as ornamentals and popularized the trend. Someone said recently that this was a dated trend, old and tired now. I really hope its not viewed this way by most people. Being trivialized as mere trend or style that becomes dated as if its "yesterday's craze" is a very shallow and limited viewpoint. But then, looking at what goes on around here and what I read on some other forums on GW, novelty is the thing that attracts the majority & keeps the nursery's selling more plants because people do seem to demand big flowers on hybrid plants that scream color rather than whisper color in lush gardens full of new novel things.

The problem is, the Lurie Garden cost 13.2 million dollars so some cities would not have the budget do such a project. At least here we are seeing a lot of prairie grasses being planted en-masse along with xeric plants such as hesperaloe which makes for a great contrast and low maintenance along with more natives being used along medians. The effect is stunning in my opinion, not flashy, not overly colorful like some people seem to need but it definitely looks artistic and surprisingly modern due to the understatement of the grasses which rely mostly on texture. In Oklahoma you really cannot beat the looks of prairie grasses swaying in the nearly constant wind and glowing seed heads in late afternoon sun.

And, surprise of surprises, its seems to fit into our landscape as if it belongs there. Who'd of thought?

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Xtal in Central TX, zone 8b(z8b Temple. TX)

TexasRanger,

Your words do not fall on fallow soil. There are those of us who understand your words. I just finished my first class on Native Plants. This next Saturday will be class #2. It is difficult to find native plant nurseries where I live. But, with an hour away, I should be able to find some native Texas plants that can be planted here. Our class took a walk through next to an apartment complex by a stream. The amount of plants from China are riddling the landscape here. I'm afraid that Loews and Home Depot aren't on board with how they are contributing to destroying our countryside. For me moment, I'm working hard to collect native seeds and bring them into my yard. It's also a small excitement that has me sharing those seeds with others in hopes that they'll be planting them as well. It will undoubtedly be a strong uphill battle. I commend your thoughts and mourn your losses as well. As for me, that invasive Lantana that everyone has will be pulled up and put into the trash. I hope to be trading seeds with other believers. Hang in there and keep preaching. Central Texas hears you.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Tex, I feel exactly the same when I see "wooded lots" being developed (destroyed) and then the inevitable K. bluegrass/fescue lawn being installed-usually as sod-complete with pop-up sprinklers, the whole bit. All of this, of course, where there had been Hepaticas, and bloodroot, blue cohosh and ostrich fern, violets and zigzag goldenrod. Who wants all that crap when you can have a fluorescent green lawn? And really, who wants all the "brush" when you can clear everything except the big mature trees (which will not tolerate the grade changes, disturbances to soil, compaction, etc.)? The only ones who are coming out on the deal are the developers-long gone before all the big trees start dying, and the gypo tree removal guys. they'll be busy for a long time.

+om

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texasranger2

We took a drive yesterday up into the Northeast part of Oklahoma. The toll road cuts through different 3 Indian reservations for about 98 miles. There are signs telling you that you are entering one and leaving another. There are rock outcroppings covered in native Blackjack interspersed among miles of varying terrain of predominantly Little Bluestem with Indian Grass and Switchgrass dotted with bright red Smooth Sumac. There were White Asters and Goldenrod growing here and there along with ponds that had Bushy Bluestem and others I couldn't name. There are dense clumps of dried forbs in spots with seeds that add to the overall texture, color and beauty of the view like a tapestry and all this was almost uninterrupted as far as you could see in either direction. Coming home in late afternoon the grasses were glowing like a million-zillion lights in the sun. It looks as if the land has been fairly untouched through there. There were only 2 or 3 fields and those were shockingly green, probably winter wheat.

The reason I bring that up is to compare it to what it looks like driving straight north on the interstate from OKC where prairie is being taken over by trees. It seems like its the opposite effect you have going on in Wisconsin and I wonder if it looks as out of place as this does. Driving that direction, the land has been somewhat settled & fenced with several houses and structures of all kinds of various businesses scattered throughout and its been taken over by Red Cedars as far as you can see (when you can see the distance that is). Inevitably, tall deciduous trees & underbrush take hold blocking the view on the flat landscape and its a dense mass of mixed and tangled looking varieties of who knows what all, I've even seen some thick groves of running bamboo crowded in and growing among the impenetrable mass. There are non native grasses that are coarse and weedy looking along the highway.

The point is, the native & naturally occurring Blackjack trees fit as if they belong where they are but on the other road, the invading trees look like something alien that is devouring the landscape and its ugly and looks chaotic. Adding to the awful look, there are large areas of burnt trees with new 'tree stuff' coming up around the blackened dead trees because during drought years these areas are like tinderboxes infested with red cedar 'matches'. Fire is always a danger making the cedars explosive and the cinders can blow for miles igniting new areas. Looking out the car window it seems impossibly daunting, if not impossible, to even imagine clearing and restoring it. It just looks completely out of hand, like it will only keep spreading over the landscape choking out everything in its path.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Heh, much the same level of hopelessness overtakes me when, in my immediate vicinity, I see what common buckthorn is doing to every damn patch of woods. Amazingly, one could once upon a time see into those woods! What a concept, huh? Sure, the native shrubs-gray dogwood and all the rest-did also crowd the edge of woods but somehow, they never closed tings off like they are now. That wall of dark green, lasting darn near til Christmas, is just ruining the effect. I get what you mean exactly when you say a certain plant just "belongs". I believe each plant community has (or had) such attributes, but in these "novel ecosystems, everything is changed. And BTW, "novel ecosystems" are basically the fall-back plan so that we at least retaining some vegetation in this world that we are building. But a lot of it is disgusting.

+oM

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texasranger2

Yea, it does seem like once people clear the original plants out for whatever reason, either by plowing or scraping off a natural forest, something is out there, ready and waiting and will gladly come in and take over the entire spot. Usually it seems like that something is almost always something aggressive thats imported from somewhere else and it grows as if its on steroids. Once the land is skinned, thats all it takes.

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texasranger2

wiscon, Are the Buckthorns introduced or just something run amok due to other reasons? The Red Cedars are native, the problem is a result of fire suppression and lack of natural grazing or in some cases, land that was previously overgrazed by cattle and left in poor condition.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Common buckthorn-Rhamnus cathartica-is an introduced species from Eurasia. Why I don't know! Sure, in its own way, the glossy bark, the shiny dark green foliage, and especially the black fruits (against the snow) have a certain charm. But what has happened is just utterly out of hand. This one is truly ruining vast swaths of forest land...and most folks are just oblivious to it. Then, someone will get in a hissy about some orange daylilies growing in a ditch somewhere. Of course, my head then explodes! Not even on the same planet in terms of ecological impact. This buckthorn will be the ruination of the forested areas up here.

It is a little less adapted to sandy, acidic soils. Where I happen to live, soil is heavier and "sweet". But just a few weeks ago, was in an area to our west where the woods is all oaks and pines and bigtooth aspen....and sure enough, there was that @!#@$%^& buckthorn creeping in everywhere i looked. Sheesh.

+om

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texasranger2

I wondered because a long time ago I ordered 3 Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) plants from Burnt Ridge Nursery in Washington. There was a lot of noise touting its berries as a good source of antioxidants. The plants didn't do well and are long gone but I wonder if its invasive as well? Another one I ran across here at a nursery locally is Rhamnus frangula 'Columnaris' which is a very attractive narrow type. I was tempted to buy one because I really liked the looks of it but opted against it since its not native and I bought native Apache Plume shrubs instead. Guess what I'm wondering is are these invasive plants too because nursery's are selling them? I also remember reading about growing Sea Buckthorn as a cash crop, the berry's are used in cosmetics. That is the only time I'd heard of buckthorns until I started reading your posts and hearing about how invasive they are. Like you said, they are attractive and that does tempt people to buy them.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Sea buckthorn I'm familiar with for exactly the same reasons as you. I don't know if it's invasive. But.....'Columnaris' is the source of our other non-native invasive buckthorn here-glossy buckthorn. Many years ago, I considered using "Tallhedge", its trade name, for some situations where a narrow screen is needed. At that time, plants were spendy and I took a different route. Now, I wouldn't touch it with the proverbial ten-foot pole. Now, the glossy buckthorn problem is a distant second to what's happening with common buckthorn, but let's just say, I'm over buckthorn completely. I don't know that I'd even plant a native one (if such exists here-I'm not certain) at this point, so disturbing is it to see what the exotic types are capable of. Common buckthorn also is allelopathic. That is, it poisons the soil around it from the standpoint of other plant species. Great....just great!

+om

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texasranger2

I checked a list of forest invasive trees on google and its listed as growing in Oklahoma but somehow I have not been aware of it or heard anything, not that that means anything. On the other hand, the Callery Pear forests springing up with trees packed in like sardines are hard to miss, especially in spring. I may have been traveling right past buckthorn regularly without noticing it, thats very possible. I just read that cattle avoid it but rabbits will eat small seedlings. Maybe you need lots of rabbits on newly infested sites as a means of control? I wonder if they eat Callery pear seedlings? Back in dustbowl days rabbits multiplied like rabbits and got out of hand down here, people had to corral them up and shoot them by the hundreds.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Yeah, I think I saw something about the big bunny roundups. As far as buckthorn, about the only way this is going to be turned around, IMO, is by some genetic trickery, something like the release of sterile males-the plant is dioecious-or something of that nature. And no, that example won't work of course. Just saying it's going to have to be some tinkering on that side of things. Of course, there's no $$ in such pursuits, all the big money going to corn and soybeans. So this will never happen, methinks.

As far as seeing buckthorn, even a complete non-plant person could be made aware due to one notable trait-the plant foliage stays green long after all other angiosperm plants are bare for the winter, excepting such items as oaks, which with their marcesant tawny tan leaves nobody would mistake for buckthorn I hope. And that trait-very late leaf senescence-does allow for one to do foliar spraying with things like glyphosate even where surrounded by good plants in the late fall. Now if right around a half a million folks would start doing so!

+oM

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docmom_gw(5)

I just removed one of those buckthorns from my scrubby back 40. It's not my property, but backs up to the interstate. Those thorns are nothing to mess with!

What I really wanted to comment on was the cost of native installations. Certainly, an artistically arranged landscaper's dream is going to cost millions of dollars to install. But, reasonable work can be done for much less. My sister had some drainage work done on her property by the county, since her pond is part of the village storm run-off system. The actual work was done a few years ago, and the county promised to replant with native prairie-type plants. She was furious the next spring when she had a field full of cosmos, but has relented as more perennial plants are maturing. She and I went on a walk recently to collect seeds from what she thought was the one Baptisia plant that "took." We found ten more Baptisia plants that we could see, just from the path. So, there are certainly more growing. And those are among asters, goldenrod, perennial sunflowers, Rattlesnake Master, Boneset, Joe Pye Weed and many more. All it took was to clear what was there, rough up the soil, and drop seeds. In most developments, the first steps in the process are being done, anyway. So, we just need to provide seed and then add signage explaining that it's pollinator habitat, so mowing should only occur in October of odd years and no herbicides or pesticides. Then, nearby schools could do science projects where they sit for 15 minutes on their lawn at home and count the number of insects they see. Then repeat the process in the pollinator habitat and compare. I could go on for hours.

Anyway, introducing areas of native plant life doesn't have to be expensive. We can also, of course, have more traditional landscaping, but using native plants.

I had fun yesterday. I think I posted here re a power line that Consumers Power clear cut earlier this summer. Well, they deny ownership of any properties anywhere near me, and the neighbors deny ownership. So, I guess I own it, by default. It is tricky to reach, since the ground drops off steeply about 30 feet off the road, and the slope is littered with varying sizes of logs and branches. But, once you reach the bottom, it is about the size of a football field. Again, the ground is littered with logs, and those are draped tastefully with vines of poison ivy. Still, there were enough open areas that I was able to bring in a special mix of native seeds that I have collected from my garden and my sister's meadow to (hopefully) get a native garden of sorts started. During my explorations, I also found a different route from my yard to the power line, that doesn't involve the steep slope or the busy road. I just hope the neighbors don't mind me trespassing in their woods.

Good luck to all of you as we continue to work toward a more sustainable, diverse surrounding for everyone.

Martha

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Martha, I'm right there with you, in terms of working towards a more sustainable landscape. I do however cringe at the rapidity with which-here in the former land of Paul Bunyan-the rapidity with which folks have forgotten what the actual "native plants" of your area and mine are. They are called trees, lol! So, yes, these prairie and meadow species are indeed native to our area, and they do serve other organisms well. This is important. But they are not the native plant community especially, at least on any but a tiny timescale. So in the woods, a blowdown, forest fire, or what have you, did occur. And depending on seed source, some of what might colonize such a site would indeed be "prairie" grasses and forbs. But in many more cases, the site never went through any such stage, being more or less immediately colonized by those big hard weeds-the trees! And no, weeds is not really an appropriate term for any native plant. I just like calling them "hard weeds", lol, but my point is, this prairie thing is out of hand up here in the upper Great Lakes region. In fact, I predict that in another generation, kids will be being taught that our area's natural vegetation type is prairie. I've even heard this happening already. WTH?

All that said, I really do think it a good use for powerline corridors-the conversion into such items as you discuss. And I work in stormwater management-specifically, the vegetation around these ponds and "stream restorations". It's all good stuff but again, the engineers with whom I work have been led down the prairie path such that while we may be fretting over whether the "native" big bluestem grass seed we have is from a "local genotype", right next door, another patch of woods is being torn down for development and nobody is even cognizant of there being anything wrong with that.

Hope I'm making some sense here. I like prairie stuff and it does help some species that need help. But the real deal in places like Michigan and most of Wisconsin was unbroken forest. And those birds and other organisms that depend on that type of landscape are getting squeezed out. Not at all saying it's your fault there's a powerline corridor nearby. You're making the best of that bad situation, IMO. I'm talking about what's in people's heads nowadays. There's been some kind of brainwashing, I think!

+oM

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Campanula UK Z8

Ah, that would be me, Tex, having a dig at the ubiquitous Piet Oudolf style...but having survived a furious savaging on the antique rose forum -although savaging is a bit strong - maybe gentle stropping- for a mild question about soil amending (I generally don't), I am feeling belligerent enough to chance my arm over here too.

In truth though, whilst I am fairly OK with this ethos and style in the right place, the problems occur when it is not in the right place...although 'right place' is fairly subjective. We are seeing this look literally everywhere in the UK - the New Perennial movement uncritically adapted to every single gardened space - while municipal planting, where this style would be supremely useful tends to be mired in the usual manky hebes, laurels and vaguely alive green things beloved of car park managers. Its a complicated picture..and as I have no overarching principles other than simply liking plants, it can be a struggle to be open-minded and experimental while still maintaining a degree of integrity.

As this is the native forum, I admit my useless credentials right away, growing on an island landmass which split off from the mainland at the same time as the last, largest glaciation, leaving us with a geologically interesting but ecologically diminished selection of flora and fauna...leavened by that usual island maritime mentality of massive seafaring and subsequent importing of plants from across the globe. There are fascinating (horticultural) differences between the UK and the US which I am only beginning to appreciate.

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texasranger2

Camps, I'd never heard the idea of planting native plants, whether done as a interest in the plants, as a preference or as a serious aim intended to address ecological factors, thought of or described as merely a passing fad or style before. Your comment did spark some thinking on my part about the attitude if it exists.

I thought it might be an interesting topic here on the NPF although I didn't start a new thread on it so no real discussion took place.

I hope temporary trendiness is not the case among people who have an interest in this and that it continues to grow and be considered as a positive step towards environmental reponsibility. My comment wasn't meant as a dig or criticism to you personally. I would never introduce this on the other forum, in fact, I am often either bored and sometimes irritated by some of the attitudes toward plants and gardening over there. I'd probably get in trouble real fast with this subject on that forum and receive another trip to the principal's office after being turned in by one of the hall monitors.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

To which I'll add, folks here like Tex and myself and some others have done a good bit of philosophizing about such matters. I'm not going to do the walking for you, but somewhere in here, or the related forums that link off of this one, I think we've introduced many a good thought on the subject. I will agree readily right off that this is a complex issue, one full of nuance. And maybe that's it right there-when folks incapable of such deliberation get all fired up about "this new idea", the table is set for some pretty inappropriate horticulture!

I've been-in my time-all over every side and angle of this. One thing that rests on solid bedrock, is that we should-really must-retain as many intact plant communities as is possible. Of course, there's me and about ten other people that think that!

+oM

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Campanula UK Z8

Ah, I agree - there can be something very ritualistic and conservative about gardening and for sure, both you and I have been on the wrong end of misinterpretations, Tex. However, I think we are much more robust- no need to get ourselves all fired up and hurty about contentious issues - keeping an open mind and being prepared to be adaptive is surely one of the essential aspects of horticulture. Separating out the trendiness of 'New Perennials' /prairie style planting from the principles behind it is useful...although I always get a tad suspicious when an idea or ethos becomes fixed as a movement. Whilst the plants Oudolf frequently uses chime especially well in that US/Prairie landscape and ecology, what I take from Oudolf is the principle of using plants which tend to clump, to support each other, to have resilience, to have no need of supplements...as well as being true to the genius loci...and these principles have utility in any number of garden themes...including woodlands...and yet, what we see as the Oudolf fashion everywhere, has become a bit lazy, to be honest (although this is a beef I have with design purists of any stripe) with a mindless reliance on the iconic Oudolf plants and lots of grasses...which are not particularly appropriate to either the location, the climate or even the soils...but we must have rudbeckias, eryngiums and echinaceas...and even worse, the mere addition of woody shrubs is anathema, despite the hedgerow being one of the most defining and iconic aspects of the English landscape...very unlike the endless grasslands of OK.

And Tex, I would never take offence at anything you write - I recognise a fellow traveller (and exasperated tone)...and that insatiable need to push, question, understand and interrogate because we are still, and always will be, mere novices in the complex garden game.

eta; attitudes towards natives in the UK are one of the defining differences between Britain and the US. Quite apart from the environmental limitations on our native flora, we have very different cultural attitudes towards native planting...but in any case, it was an aesthetic, rather than an ethos which directed the take-up of Oudolf, Foerster, Oehme and Van Sweden et al (although by no means all designers have jumped into this) but yes, I do think this particular style is more of a shiny surface thing in the UK

further edits - forgive me but I am afraid I cheerfully cited you, Wisconsin Tom, over on ARF, as having rather deeper understanding than was being demonstrated amongst the rosarians - just in case people thought my attitude (and enthusiasm) was a Brit thing or worse, just being mean (they did). Needing a bit of back-up ya know. It's alright now (I think).

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texasranger2

camps, I've been accused of being tactless all my life. so I probably deserve what I get most of the time. I have to admit I took offense when ganged up on and have gotten a bit fired up on occasions in the past and all hurty on the forum we are referring to when the easterners get like they get at times. OTH, you seem to be very popular over there.

Seems to me comparing the UK and the US is like comparing apples and oranges, to quote an overused phrase, when it comes to this subject. Those highbrow designers you mentioned are not talked about or important down here. As a matter of fact I cannot ever remember hearing anyone mention any of those names and I've only run across them on the PF from the NEasterners and Canadians who seem to live in on a different planet than me in several regards half the time anyway. Sounds impressive as all get out but guess I'm just a peasant at heart and it makes me yawn. I looked up a couple names and then lost interest immediately but I get the gist. We don't get into such high fallutin' high society gardening ideas and other stuff here where its predominantly farm, oil and cattle country.

What has been informative and hard to get my mind around comes from reading posts of wisconsitom who has prairie grass and forbs perpetually shoved at him as being appropriate plants choices in his location where its supposed to be covered in native trees, meanwhile, people here seem obsessed with planting trees and hell bent on making the grasslands into a forest here on the Great Plains where trees were once rare. We've discussed this crazy upside down and backwards insanity several times before. I found out real quick that to complain about any place having too many trees to some folks is offensive and the idea of removing any of them is tantamount to suggesting murder or sacrilege and leaves a body labeled as a nature or plant hater who doesn't care about the planet. I am not exaggerating.

I really like what you wrote docmom. I could almost get a visual from your description and I think you are my kind of person in that regard. I'd be tramping through it just like that, collecting, dispersing seed and claiming it as mine to improve in just that same way with the same frugal attitude. Its true, it doesn't have to involve lots of money.

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Campanula UK Z8

Ah, no sweat - I'm a peasant too and get chippy as hell about it (and have to continually remind myself that politics needs to be kept out of planting (although personally, I they are intimately entwined). Tactless too (so I am told - frequently).

Yes, the treehugger thing exists here - and in truth, it has proved a useful riposte to rapacious developers who would, given the chance, build rabbit hutch 'investment opportunities' on every square inch of land. Tree Preservation Orders have sometimes been the only thing which stands between a community green space and the greedy eyes of capitalists...but on balance, a tree is just another (large) plant and grows in much the same way - even the lifespan of a paeony is comparable with a birch or poplar so I am not inclined to be overly precious about them just because.

Despite not being a nativist myself, I have been growing many US natives so will hang out here a bit as well as over on perennials. I find I am insatiable when it comes to reading about new and interesting plants (I think the quest for novelty is one of my less attractive aspects but we are who we are).

I do agree that the interweb allows for a certain type of obsequious or bullying behaviour - not meeting face to face skews communication a bit but, in general, I get more from it so will put up with the irritations.

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texasranger2

I'm not sure what you mean by politics being intertwined with planting unless you are talking about different groups attempting to force ideas on others? Perhaps you could think of Piet Oudolf as one of those people who gets a following of fans who start forcing ideas? I suppose the need for a perfect green lawn could be considered political now that I think of it in those terms which I never did before. I always just called it knee-jerk behavior. When I was a kid, no ones lawn was perfect and you always got bee stings if you went barefoot.

I came to the conclusion that the thing that drives people to want novelty in plants, having to have the newest thing or create the latest style is plain ole consumerism rather than gardening. I don't see how its any different than any other obsessive shopping habit, be it clothes, shoes, housewares, electronics or plants. The US is a consumerist nation so its no surprise that people line up to buy exotic plants, hybrids and imports or anything eye-catchy and new that hits the market and they keep the demand up. Sometimes it seems like the US has become a nation of spoilt brats.

Back in my childhood people just gardened (or they didn't). It was mostly seed packets and vegetable gardens with hoes and shovels but it seemed more like gardening than a lot of what I see going on these days which seems superficial and more for show in comparison and which involve more fun shopping sprees rather than working on the soil and plain old fashioned hard work. Keep in mind, that opinion is coming from someone here in the Midwest US who lived in a small town rather than England where large scale gardens have been around forever and are world famous. I imagine where we live and what our background is determines how we look at things like that----don't you think?

BTW, I'd never heard of P. Oudolf when I started my prairie garden and he didn't pop up on my radar until last year.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Here in Texas, the prairie garden and mixed prairie with Northern Mexican woodland, woodland edge and subtropical gardening with palms gets all mixed up in old gardens. This was the way people gardened before the invasion of the northern European ethos and now the birth of the eastern Big Box thoughtless picks. Lawns browned and died with the summer sun, barely watered. I don't know when it changed . I like that it is getting a rebirth here. It has been going on for three decades quietly. Lady Bird Johnson, Peckerwood Gardens, Barton Springs Nursery, and a host of other collectors. John Frairy has made about 80 visits to Northernn Mexico searching for tough plants. The Mountains west of Monterey Mexico are closer than Oklahoma City. I know some say I should keep my choices to 100 miles but I can't.

Now there is a great many ways that these plants are used. The plants are material in different gardeners hands. We have those that copy the biome that they reside in diligently. Some, like me, are not purest and are incapable at following a plan or even diligently following ones own plan before diverging down a different path. I like natives because I am a lazy schlepp and garden in a rough situation so I like the tough ones that surround me. I don't mind the differences that Mediterranean and Australian plants add to the biome that I live in. AHHH Moroccan and Spanish salvias do rock my boat but it is the Salvia Reglas, S. romeriannas and S. farenacias that do the best in my garden. I do not see any of this as a trend since it is so connected to the land that surrounds me. Things have to survive. Some Gardeners are very good at using these natives in very modern minimalist gardens. I like looking at them but it takes a lot of discipline to stick to that look. Some get these natives to mimic a cottage garden and some get them to be almost formal. I think that these plants are but material for whatever garden one wants to create.

I can see that prairie is not the Biome that Camp lives in so it might come off as not OF her land but pasted on. That is how green lawns look on my arid hills, ESPECIALLY in the recent droughts.. BUT her fields probably has a dirth of flowers that have naturalized into an order. But maybe , the fields of England have been in a condition of Human interference for so long that this has become a balance of imbalance in an ongoing condition that changes to the character of the interfearance. There is no baseline that does not include Human interference. I think we in the US are arriving at that also, but we think we have baseline that humans are not a part of. Maybe that is delusion. Many in the East are so far removed from the Native landscape , they wouldn't know it if it bit them.

Most land here in the US has just started this imbalance in the last 100 or so years. More in the East. Here it started with a huge bang with the overgrazing of European immigrants that stripped the prairie grass and caused massive run off of topsoil off our rugged little hills.. Our land is still recovering from that. I have no topsoil. Now the grazing has gotten so bad that the cover is being overrun by cedar and invasive unpalatable grasses. Scraping the land opens the seed bank and distress the tilth of the soil. The grasses used to keep the trees and woodies from rooting. The interest in restoration is also accompanied by the break up of the large ranches and the sloughing off of commercial grazing in much of the areas surrounding the larger cities in Texas.( I am in 20-40 acre per cow area.) I see so many abandoned farms and ranches when I drive around that have gone towards the weedy look because their reentry into wildness was not managed. Thus the cedars. I am grateful for the resurgence of interest in restoration and management of fallow land.

I am not making much sense. I am pretty overworked these days and am blathering in circles. I actually have not touched my garden since returning from a trip to New Mexico where I collected bags and bags of mysterious and non mysteries seeds.I need to start my yearly brush clearing but my back is out and this large job just won't end. AHH, Cry me a river.

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docmom_gw(5)

I recognize and understand the frustration Tom and Tex are expressing related to what seems like the misguided attempts of well-meaning people to plant the wrong plant networks in the wrong places. Michigan and Wisconsin were solid expanse of hardwood and evergreen forests when Europeans first set foot here. And Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas, etc. were endless prairies with wild flowers, etc. So, why are people trying to turn the upper Midwest into a prairie, and the Breadbasket into a forest? Well, I think part of the reason is purely physical. Much of the Midwest is built up into cities and suburbs with strip malls and power lines. It's tough to find a spot to plant one tree, let alone replant an extensive forest. But, we can find a few spare acres here and there to throw down some grass seed and wildflowers. And that's going to go a decent way toward helping the pollinators, right? Now let's look around out further West. Well, here's a place that could use some trees!!! There's not an inch of shade anywhere around here. So, they plant trees. All of these projects are done with hearts in a good place, but not always with complete information and certainly not with an understanding of the complexity of the situation we currently find ourselves in.

Realistically, what can we expect to accomplish, either short term or even long term? Can we ever restore anything close to an expanse of woodland that could hope to resemble what was here even 50 years ago? Don't get me wrong. I would give anything if that were possible. I would gladly lay down my life and the lives of my family, without a second of hesitation, if it would bring back the forests or the prairies from 50 years ago. But, even if we got public and political support to do it, what would/could it look like? What would each of you want to see happen, and how. And I ask because I really don't know what to do, and someone should probably have a plan. So, why not us?

I need to go to sleep.

Martha

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texasranger2

I wouldn't mind seeing a big public native garden put in here like The Lurie Garden in Chicago which I just discovered online a few weeks ago (better late than never). Matter of fact, I'd like that a whole heck of a lot better than those many rows of cold sterile empty chairs and the rest of the memorial which is set on concrete they installed after the Murrah Federal Building got bombed in 1995 by Timothy McVeigh here in OKC. Planting more wildflowers along the interstates would be nice, they already do this in some places but they could do more. More offerings of native plants in local nursery's would be welcome, hey if Texas can do that why can't Oklahoma?

I'd clap my hands and be real real glad if they reset our state flower back to the mistletoe or even the second choice, native Gaillardia along with admitting and realizing their mistake in selecting that ridiculous hybrid Tea Rose named 'Oklahoma' created by the Japanese plant breeder guy who probably has never even visited the state and even if he has it makes no difference. ITS A DUMB SORRY CHOICE. Yea, I'm still carping about that one, any excuse to bring it up again is a good enough excuse.

Oklahoma looses 447 Million dollars per year (2013 report) due to Red Cedar invasion with a 40% increase in the past 50 years, the acreage lost is calculated on a daily basis. How about on Earth Day instead of mindlessly saying "Plant a tree for Earth Day", around here we could say "Cut a tree for Earth Day". Maybe tax incentives? Like you could get a rebate on your state tax or something like that? You could get similarly rewarded for cutting trees down around power lines as well so we don't keep loosing power when its stormy and have to call in help from the surrounding states. Make it illegal to plant more that X numbers of trees on a given lot size and make it totally illegal to plant trees close to buildings and power lines like idiots continually do here in the city.

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Campanula UK Z8

Yeah, that sort of thing boils my piss too. Right now, there is a series on TV - The Secret History of British Gardening, but I will fall on my (sharp) trowel if there is any mention, at any point in the series, of a single garden which is not some National trust stately home...and if a working class history of gardening gets even a token mention, I will faint with incredulity because gardening, despite being the most egalitarian hobby on earth (apart from running, maybe) has been completely epitomised by 'great stately home or manor garden' or the queasily claustrophobic design world of fads and trends...if us peasants get a look in at all, we are relegated to vegetable growing, especially if a comic turn such as giant leeks or huge gooseberries is included. Never a sniff of 'florists flowers ' the tiny jewels which can be grown on a windowsill, such as auriculas, pinks, anemones, saxifrages...or a look at the immense knowledge passed down from mother to daughter (they called us witches)...or the perfectly formed rockeries, a world in miniature. Yep, England has a garden history alright but it is deeper and wider than enormous status symbols created on the backs of slaves and empire.

Interestingly, as prairie growing has gained traction in the US, the wildflower movement is gathering pace in the UK too...but as ever, with some massively skewed assumptions of what a meadow is and how we can recreate them. As with any garden, human intervention is usually intense, even if the overall effect is of artless wilderness...and of course, on our tiny little island, there are no places of genuine untouched wilderness anywhere. The soil has often been denatured, overfed, overworked, overgrazed...so the restoration involves brutal spraying of herbicides and scraping of topsoil, careful planting and intense weeding, at least for the first year...and once many people figure out the wildflower meadow is far from the easy laid-back option they fondly imagined, it rapidly returns to weedy chaos.

The lack of space anywhere does impact on our attitudes towards invasives. Despite enthusiastically importing plants from across the globe (British nurseries offer 70,000 species), we have only a handful of plants we consider invasive. I was at a loss to see why cytisus, for example, was regarded as a threatening horror when it is a much treasured shrub over here. It took quite a while and more than a few exasperated dialogues before the obvious (in hindsight) reason for US caution became clear to me - and it lies in the sheer amount of unmanaged wilderness, inaccessible space and total vastness...zones of non-intervention which just do not exist in the UK, not even in the highlands of Scotland or the hills and valleys of rural Wales.

I am enjoying the rambling stream of consciousness this forum seems to generate - a refreshing change from 'show me your roses' or 'shall I buy this...or that' sort of posts which dominate most of the other GW forums - not that this is a bad thing, just a bit...dull.

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docmom_gw(5)

Great ideas, everyone. And I agree with you, Campanula, that this forum allows for some much deeper soul searching about how and why we garden and what we see when we watch others garden. It feels very welcoming and encouraging of unorthodox ideas of how we might change our world to take advantage of safer and less "efficient" ways of accomplishing goals.

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texasranger2

"A Meadow In A Can". Makes a great gift! Create your own meadow in one easy step (complete with sowing instructions).

How many times do I read when people write in and ask stuff like this:

Do I just toss out the seed or do I need to clear the area of weeds first, will the new plants shade out the weeds?

Do I need to remove the bermuda grass, will the plants just crowd that out?

or this one which really jangles my nerves....

HELP! What are kind of weeds are these? How do I get rid of them growing among my plants?

or..... My garden is infested with bermuda, what do I do?

A picture is often included of a common weed or one where its obvious to anyone who has ever had a callous or dirt under their fingernails and who has lived around the stuff will know that the bermuda was never got rid of in the first place (lazy). This level of bermuda takeover didn't come in from seed or next door and it didn't happen overnight either.

What happened to simply pulling weeds the old fashioned way? You see one. You pull it. You don't even need to ID it. Then you do the next one. Do that regularly and things will come around. By the time they type out the SOS call for distress, they could have had a whole section cleared and be well into clearing the next one. To get rid of bermuda you must either spray it to death first or dig it all out, and that means ALL OF IT. There is no such thing as a 'no-work' way to go about establishing a meadow or a prairie pocket. People seem to think since the plants are tough, that means no work. Lots of people want results but they think once its planted it will take care of itself.

Self sustaining does not mean no maintenance. And where's the fun in that anyway? Working on it is what its all about, or so I always thought. I'd hate to run out of garden 'chores'.

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Campanula UK Z8

Couch grass is our Bermuda and for sure, the only way to deal is to rain liquid death from above or invest in a sharp daisy grubber and kneeler and weed out a square foot (thoroughly) at a time - you can think mindless thoughts or sing along to an Ipod ('a murdering we go') but there is no escaping the grind...unless, and this is the very popular 3rd option in the UK among first time allotmenteers - invest in lots and lots of cardboard and mulch and go away for a year or 2. And then, when you do come back, the couch (or bindweed, or dead-nettle) will have laughed at you while a vast slug hotel will be living it up on your plot...but for a large number of people, this method has legs. Not me though - I lifted several corrugated sheets of metal from my plot which had been in place for over 2 decades and what was underneath - yards and yards of thick, white rhizome and a seed reservoir of great variety. If you are going to declare war, it is no use at all to creep off for a year or so...hands need to get dirty.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Good convo going here as always. But if I might digress just a bit-Campanula, not sure if you frequent the Houzz Trees forum, but if you do, you may be aware of a fellow countryman of yours who goes by the handle "Pine Resin". Well, this individual shows signs of being very highly educated in terms of the world's plants. Periodically, he has posted pics of primarily NW US native tree species used in the British Isle as commodity forest plantings....and the photos are amazing. The maritime climate you guys have, so similar to that region of the US, results in very, very impressive growth of these trees, things like western hemlock, western red cedar, redwood, and others. Not one native thing about it....I could not personally care less. So again, far from purist here-I actually really like such attempts around the world-I'm sure New Zealand has done much the same-to import climate-appropriate species for, again, commodity purposes, but in the process, creating a novel ecosystem of rare and impressive beauty. And if I'm not mistaken, this very thing has its detractors in your homeland, does it not? Nativist purists, but I can't help but wonder....what plant community do they think should occupy those areas? Hasn't the vast majority of the British flora been expunged for millenia now? At any rate, if nothing else, this blurb on my part serves to show the twisted and schizoid nature of my thought processes. I don't like "just one thing", lol!

+oM

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Campanula UK Z8

mmm, 'twisted and schizoid' - right up my street. Indeed Tom, Brit gardeners are emerging from a decade of grow your own mania right into a resurgence of interest in our 'lost' imaginary landscape of the heart - meaning wildflower meadows and pollinators. You are quite right that there is barely an inch of the UK which could qualify as untouched - the primal forest was enthusiastically felled resulting in a massive shortage of trees/timber right across the UK. This shortage, in fact, created my local landscape since the search for fuel in the middle ages resulted in the extensive peat cuttings which eventually became the Norfolk Broads - a huge area of marsh and wetlands. We actually had the least amount of wooded areas in Europe, leading to the founding of the Forestry Commission...which might just possibly be one of the causes of controversy here in the UK since FC plantations are monocrop plantings with limited habitat value (although traditionally on the poorer soils of England and Scotland.

In my long-winded way, I am labouring the point that 'native' tends to become conflated with naturalised in the UK (hence my own interest in North American plantings, many of which sit very well indeed in our varied landscapes). I will check out the tree forum - had been vaguely under the impression that it was far more specialist with great emphasis on the many varieties of hickory, oak and such...a sort of tree version of the Antique Rose Forum (I tend to like simple species which can be grown from seed)...and the woodland forum seems to be a bit moribund with few postings.

I have been unable to resist the lure of redwoods myself - growing metasequoia glyptostroboides and sequoia gigantea - very easy from seed...and am desperately lusting after madrones - I had always assumed these were impossible but hey - take a look at this gorgeous thing - my top tree in Cambridge, growing on our Calcareous bedrock and all. Everytime I pass this tree, I have to pay homage to it's gloriousness.


eta- apols about sideways - I am a tech- dimwit.

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Campanula UK Z8

And here is the photo I wanted to post but being a nitwit....



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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Camp, I may have missed the mark slightly. Thinking about those posts with pics by "resin", it was likely in "Conifers" since these were invariably shots of the timber plantings you describe. I do not agree with the assessment that such plantings are devoid of wildlife habitat, the key factor missing in that assumption being that of time. Here in Wisconsin, back in the 1930s, vast acreage of red pine-Pinus resinosa-were planted to provide future timber, to stabilize the land following catastrophic forest fires, and so on. Much later, when I was growing up, it was common to hear folks say that such plantings were "biological deserts". Yet today, if one cares to look, what has actually happened is that these plantings, now in many cases very large trees, have "captured" these sites for forest. All manner of other tree and shrub species are gradually moving in. An extremely common sequence is for white pine, with its fair shade tolerance, to form a thick understory under the maturing red pines, but red maple, red oak,elderberry, and numerous other species can be found. The earlier assessments simply lacked patience. I would guess humans today are making similar false assessments. But my main point above-I hope I made it adequately clear-is that for the British Isles, a land decidedly lacking in forest cover, where is the harm in the importation of what turned out to be marvelously well-adapted exotic species? I don't see it. I only see a "novel ecosystem" and one of much wonder. Even if the giant western hemlocks and redwoods are only being grown to be cut down for lumber, is that so bad a thing? There appears to be rampant regeneration going on in many of resin's pics. there too, some would advance that as evidence of a great tragedy going on-the proliferation of these non-native species in a new land. I just don't see that at all.

Similarly, one of my favorite tree species is Norway spruce. A well-grown specimen of this tree is an impressive sight. And to wit, I have now planted probably close to 5000 seedlings of this species on reforestation land I own 60 miles to my north. There too, I have planted the hybrid larch-Larix marschlinsii-a tree with attributes that must be seen to be believed. Super-fast growth rate (not an indication of a short lifespan in conifers like it would be in angiosperm species), delightful larger needles than our native larch, golden hued twigs all fall and winter, these things are just plain cool. Of course, there too I have many native trees which I also am fostering and love. It's just not a pure picture in my world view, and given the reality that we're not going to go back to 1840, or whatever year one would pick where the N. American continent still was relatively intact, it is these novel ecosystems that are going to predominate. Not everywhere like what I'm doing, but my point is, we're involved whether we want to be or not. May as well make choices we actually like and care about!

+oM

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texasranger2

It is apparent that different attitudes about the subject of natives we are having are formed by what the surrounding area is like where we live. Tom, in comparing camapnula's conditions to the maritime climate here says volumes. In a nutshell, you and I live in different worlds if that is the case. The history of both America & England says the same. If there'd been no Revolutionary War who knows? Every tree growing in this country might have finally been shipped there to meet the insatiable need and demand for wood back in the day. Here we still remember the Dust Bowl years.

In Oklahoma, until recently, the most important natural land resource considered to have any value was what was underneath the plants which were of no value for anything along with the birds and animals who lived there. For example, prairie dogs are still legally shot down as sport by redneck jerks. The visual vista view of flat land under a big sky was also considered as worthless and being without "anything to look at or break up the monotony" (it needs some trees). Interest has always and only been directed toward the soil underneath which is great for farming & grazing along with oil & natural gas. Otherwise, to quote the majority of folks both here and elsewhere: "There's whole lot a nuthin out there". No one has ever thought one single thing about plowing it into oblivion until it was almost gone.

Imagine my surprise, pride and amazement when I realized that prairie plants have become a 'fad' and are being used by well known designers and are in high demand. People actually paying money for these plants, over $10 for a single Little Bluestem. I would have never thought it possible not so many years ago. Here in the lowly heartland where most people who visit from elsewhere or even those who are from here and who visit or return are quick to comment about how depressingly dull and ugly this place is. Visitors hardly ever think of this as a destination, usually they are only passing through. Its enough to give a body a sense of inferiority. Most people around here think the place needs a lot of fixing up and they import plants because the native stuff is just "a whole lot a ugly weeds" and that mess needs to be cleared out completely so a lawn, garden or landscape can be installed worthy to be seen and enjoyed by human eyes and be proudly shown off to others.

Personally I have always been drawn to this type of landscape in its natural state and have always felt damp and claustrophobic in places with lots of trees & hills. My dad was like that too but we are a tiny minority. When I am speaking of how awful trees are, I am not looking out a window and seeing anything remotely resembling Colorado, the Pacific NW or Canada or anywhere else that is naturally forested land. I am often looking at something truly ugly growing like big weeds tangled with vines and underbrush and often leaning heavily from constant southern winds. Not that I don't see lovely trees used all the time in landscaping or gorgeous photos from other parts of the country, that is NEVER what I am talking about.

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texasranger2

Tom, You may disagree but from my experience and understanding it seems it would be less daunting and easier to replant a forest as a restoration effort than it would be to clear a dead prairie choked out by thick trees in an attempt at restoration. I don't think the latter is even possible on any kind of significant scale. The ecosystem is much more delicate, trees & woody plants always win. It just seems like once its gone, its gone.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

No, actually I think you are right. Now, a forest is a whole lot more than a collection of trees. Indeed, it is thought that fungi may-well make up the largest single amount of biomass in a healthy forest! But still, once the site is "captured" for forest via even machine-planted rows of pine trees, these various other organisms seem to easily recolonize. Now this process can only go on where there is surrounding forest land, but I'm sure you get my drift.

Speaking of prairie establishment, since so much of what I do here for the stormwater utility is just that, I'm only all too well aware of the many necessary steps. Your " a meadow in a can" remark had me chuckling, it being so very wide of the mark to think it's anywhere near that easy. We routinely do a boom-spraying of a non-selective herbicide to begin, then let new weeds grow up, repeat, and where the time budget permits, actually go through a third round of non-selective, just to begin the process of eliminating weed seed bank. Then, once the prairie plants are up, there's high mowing, to knock down flowerheads of weed species, there's spot-spraying, there's burns once the whole thing is ready for that....just a lot of inputs to get a prairie planting going. In the forest paradigm, the biggest challenge in some areas is elimination of woody invasive species. I am blessed where my tree plantation/woods is in that that area has not been overrun by buckthorn, non-native honeysuckles, etc. But here where I write, 60 miles south, those plants would present a daunting obstacle and would simply have to be dealt with if success was to be achieved.

+oM

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texasranger2

Tom the reality is we have created settlements in places that are unsuitable for that purpose and built cities on land that is not, well, friendly or up to the task of supporting them. I'm stating the obvious of course.

Here the big bad wolf is prairie fire and the extreme weather.

Just as one example, there was a person who posted recently on another forum from one of the SW desert states where the average rainfall has been about 3 to 5 inches per year. I won't name the state to avoid sounding like I am singling someone out but....when the garden pics were posted I was hoping to see some interesting desert plants and anxiously perked up thinking I might see something different on that forum for a welcome change. I was wanting to see desert plants I can only wish I could grow but can't due to too much water and humidity etc, the ones you see and say "Wow! whats that??!!" but know I'd wouldn't have a chance of ever hoping to grow them.

The garden pictures shown had a very lush green look with plants like delphiniums, geraniums and many various common flowering garden plants, the more ordinary kinds needing regular water. What gives? Thats it???

I mean, its bad enough that we as citizens are using up resources out there that are not adequate to support our basic needs without importing in water from elsewhere without this added insult to injury. Anyway, I quickly looked at the pictures posted with much disappointment and downright boredom and thought yep, thats a geranium, looks like a geranium, nice geranium without much caring what was what so I can't list what was growing by name. We've got lots of geraniums here too in peoples yards (and at Home Depot and Target).

Point is, oftentimes people don't appreciate the suitable and garden worthy regional plants growing all around them, I suppose because they are too common or thought of as boring or weedy or just "out there". Those same plants seen in other parts of the country will cause ooh's and aah's if offered in the nursery trade and people will often go through torturous means to attempt to get them to survive, saying they will thrive and be happy is another matter. Sounds like maybe the same thing goes for trees where you are? Its hard for me to believe, all I ever hear is "save the trees, they took so long to grow" when anyone thinks of building around here outside of the city.

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Campanula UK Z8

For sure though, Tex, both the size and longevity of trees have dictated a different way of gardening for me. Although growing stuff from seed tends to slow me down a bit, I have always grown tons of annuals - often 100s of new species each season because they are cheap and easy and cheerful and I had the attention span of a gnat...but now I am on tree-time, we (laughingly) drew up 5year, 10 year and 50 year plans for the woods...and although the history of my land has always been contingent with numerous changes, I still feel more of a weight of responsibility to attempt a balanced and inclusive sort of gardening rather than the manic, whims and crazes I have indulged myself with...and it's true, growing trees from seed is easy too...just long. Still growing lots of annuals as well.

Mild maritime England tends not to do extremes - we honestly grind to a halt if we get 6 inches of snow and of late, we are seeing a distressing tendency towards flooding (where we are also woefully unprepared)...however, our temperate climate

does encourage us all to be ridiculously eclectic with gardens...and working in the design and build industry can get a bit surreal at times.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

I'm reminded of the Florida Gardening forum here at Houzz, which I frequent. Many great posters there and good threads, but just like clockwork along comes the northern transplant-a person, not a plant, lol-who simply must have a lilac, or a hybrid tea rose, or a......

I love S. Florida (although decry the absolute brutal treatment of nature down there) and by gawd, if I were to take up gardening down there, I'd put maximum effort into not just native plants, but regionally appropriate species. I don't get the ethos of moving to a place with an obviously very different climate regime than where you're from, then pining away for what you had. Just makes absolutely no sense to me. Meanwhile, of course, this is the subtropics! Many, many (many!) wonderful species to choose from, but lilacs?

+oM

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Campanula UK Z8

Grief no - I have been reluctantly transplanted from full sun to woodland...and have sadly waved goodby to my scree beds, gravel gardens, species roses (although some of them are surprisingly adept at life in the shade). The chance to try mertensias, amsonias, woodland phlox, hepaticas....ooh, on and on. And trees. TREES! What could be better than a whole new world to explore.

I swear I will chop my fingers off with blunt secateurs before I go down the hosta route - might just, for the sake of completeness allow a single h.plantaginea

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texasranger2

I use lots of Salvia greggii under trees, currently its a mass of red out there that looks neon especially on cloudy days. They put up with shade quite well, don't mind the poor, dry soil from tree roots and bloom amazingly well with good upright form.

Wantanamara sent me a start of Scutellaria ovata that is happily making a colony. Its got heart shaped fuzzy leaves & puts up purple blooming spikes in late spring/early summer. She also sent me some starts of Phlox pilosa that has massed in, spread quite nicely and has very fragrant pink flowers in spring.

Mealy Cup Sage also grows and blooms quite well in shade.

The shade I deal with is along my west border and comes from the volunteered trees due neighbors neglect so my attitude toward it is to plant anything that will put up with it but also, which doesn't cost me a dime. I will not spend not one single dime. Its technically on his unkempt side but thats a long story. I start all plants from either cuttings or seeds. Echinacea has done well which is no surprise but I have good luck with Silver King artemisia. I get a bit of morning sun in that spot but not lots. A few starts of those will quickly go a long way for filling space. Who would have thought they would do well? It adds some nearly white masses to lighten up the creepiness of the dark. In our part of the country, shade is several degrees brighter than it would up north and it extends our choices from having to use strictly shade loving plants. Several sun loving plants which would fry in the summer sun down here do much better in various levels of shade.

Turk's Cap (Mavaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) is another good one for large sized plants with big leaves and bright red flowers. I ordered seeds from American Native Seed and sowed a lot of them, they have filled a large area and are blooming like crazy right now, too bad the hummingbirds are long gone south. Seems I have lots of attractors that don't time out with our late fall peak bloom time. I also have some kind of wild white aster and Achillea millefolium from a weedy area I got along the roadside.

The big prickly pear cactus that you commonly see in yards here and all over Texas (its a very large cactus, spineless large pads, obviously O. englemannii that has huge yellow blooms followed by giant red pears) will take full shade. I have two very large ones filling in large areas in the back in full shade and they add some nice sculptural contrast. This cactus doesn't seem to mind it too wet either & will grow anywhere so you see them in quite a few yards around here, most types need better drainage. I 'planted' one of those common NM tree cholla cactus by the fence in the shade where the neighbors dog liked to dig and its looking pretty good too. Really, all you need to do is toss a piece of the cactus on the ground which is what I did on top of his hole. Worked like a charm.

Hosta is not allowed here. If I had the space, I'd plant a grove of Smooth Sumac.

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Campanula UK Z8

Salvia Greggii - that so, Tex? If there is one thing I am not short of, it is shrubby salvias (have microphyllas and jamensis too) - nothing being easier to propagate...and yep, got some malvaviscus too - the salvias are still blazing away cheerfully. I confess, one of my favourite combos is the rich green and scarlet of chaenomeles X superba and I have a few schisandra chinesis with both red and creamy white flowers and strings of scarlet berries - red and green never seems out of place to me although the prevailing woodland colours do tend towards the pastels (apart from heps and berries). Ipomopsis - full sun or a bit of shade?

I despair of the municipal planting around my home town - a very wealthy place indeed - 'silicon fen' as it is named...the powers that be have no civic pride when it comes to green spaces - we have a dismal landscape of buy to let investment opportunities (or, in other words, tiny little one-room apartments for a huge transient tech population) and an utter blankness of a handful of nasty petunia beds (currently planted up with pansies) - Oh, the scale of imagination is overwhelming...and yet, the poorest towns in the UK version of the rustbelt can display heartbreakingly beautiful displays of plants and have embraced an aesthetic based upon wildflowers and cheerful bloomers such as rudbeckia hirta, tithonias and gaillardias, planted en masse along the roads, on bare sites and even rooftops - mainly because Sheffield University has a great horticulture department and the north is broke and looking for more sustainable ways instead of the dreary and costly seasonal bedding style still stuck in a timewarp. Time to send another irate e.mail to the local council (they know me and hate me - I have actually seen workers run away as I appear in view).

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Camp, I'm mildly surprised you guys can even deal with Tithonias, what with that plant's susceptibility to white mold, AKA Sclerotinia, an equal-opportunity destroyer making its best "growth" in cool, damp conditions. Heck, I had one marvelous and marvelously varied planting at an office entrance one time long ago, during which, in the space of just a week, we received 15 inches of rain. Then more warmth and humidity. To say the least, the Mexican sunflowers were true to their reputation as the poster-plants for that particular pathogen! Anyway, more power to you.

+oM

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texasranger2

Well, one thing about the pansies is they do bloom their little hearts out all winter. I like the Johnny Jump Ups better myself but I don't begrudge the people who fork out the cash for the pansies. They are OF COURSE, always planted along with the Ornamental Kale and Cabbage. I really like those best when they've gone to seed, looks rather wild-flower-ish and weird sometimes.

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Campanula UK Z8

Heh - we certainly don't get 15inches of rain in a day...ever. That's like 6 months of average rainfall. I looked at the records and I think the UK had a foot of rain in 1 day back in 2009...and in Lancashire, the unlucky county, tithonias would have been the last things on their minds. Flooding is becoming the biggest environmental catastrophe here in our overcrowded, watery little island...exacerbated by failing flood defences and lack of investment.

I generally grow tithonias, along with a slew of African and SA daisies - ursinia, osteospermums, zinnias, felicias as cheery annual waves of colour amongst the veggies - as long as I grow the tall species and not that titchy little 15inch variety, they sit amongst the dahlias and achilleas looking quite at home.

Red cabbage and swiss chard are wildly ornamental - I have grown them with zero intention of actually eating them. True, the pansies do bloom (I have a couple of gorgeous violas - Etain and Rebecca), but hundreds of them, six inches apart and 4inches off the ground, sets nobodies heart alight.

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texasranger2

It depends on where you live, I mean about the pansies. Here its mostly brown everywhere in winter, all different of shades of it so its a tapestry of buff, whites, shades of brown and grey along the roadsides with mostly bare trees (of course there are the invasive cedars too but they are a drab kind of green). I see photos from up north where it looks pretty in winter, all white on the ground with deep green/blue pines in sharp contrast-- looks like a Christmas Card. Its not like that here at all. Of course, you'd never see or grow pansies for winter color up there either, they'd be buried under feet of snow and I doubt you'd see anything from them til spring anyway. There is cold and then there is COLD. Up north it looks winter dormant but lively, here we get what I think of as winter drab and really dead looking but I personally like the stark look and subtle neutrals in the countryside during winter more so than when its all one shade of green in spring. Think Andrew Wyeth and you sort a get the picture. In the city, color is welcome no matter where it comes from and thats not 'real life' anyway, not in my opinion when it comes to the surrounding plants. Nothing is normal in the city and I don't expect it, its all artificial so pansies fit right in.

Speaking of vegetables, I'd like to grow native amaranth here. I don't have the space but I sure would like to see all that red in a big area and maybe try the gold & green one too. I love the size of the plants and look of the tassels. I tried to at least get the visual effect with red celosia but the heat got them and scorched them into dried stalks before summer even really set in, I quickly discovered they like it moist.

I like the idea of an all native vegetable garden with plants suitable for dry SW areas and would try to do one if I had the space. Wonder if anyone here raises native vegetables?

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

To be certain, a week featuring 15 inches of rain is not common here, but it did happen. Also took out all the beds of 'Tidal Wave' petunias we had planted that year, they too being excellent subjects for the Sclerotinia. But what I really wanted to comment on is your (Camp's)_ description of using those "African daisys" such as Felicia, Osteospermum, et al. Some of my very favorite annual compositions featured those items, along with such stalwarts as Argyranthemum 'Butterfly', etc. Absolutely nothing to do with native plants, not even perennials where I do my work, but some interesting and just plain delightful garden plants.

+om

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

Native vegetables... Hmmm, well there's the obvious corn, squash, and beans. Tomatoes I guess could be considered "natives" well native to the new world anyways. Same with potatoes. Peppers would be more "SW" native, I believe tepins are found in Arizona.

Amaranth is a good one.. Lambs quarters too. And sunflowers and tomatillos I think (at least, we have wild ones here).

Miners lettuce and nodding onions are other native edibles, and ramps too. When the Mormons first arrived in Utah, they survived a really terrible winter by eating mariposa lily bulbs. Cattails would be another if you have a perpetually saturated location.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head... Oh wait, there lots of berries and other fruit that are native too!

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texasranger2


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texasranger2

I ran across this website, its fun to look through. I ordered several packets of native wildflower seeds from them a few years ago. I had quite a bit of success with them. Seeing all those different types of amaranth they have makes the idea of trying some very tempting.
http://shop.nativeseeds.org/collections/amaranth

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Campanula UK Z8

If you are counting the New world - there are some very interesting Andean rootcrops. Over here, a fella called Rhizowen has been publicising lost plants of the Andes for years - oca and a whole host of other rooty crops - confess to trying mashua (I think -one of those tropolaeum tubers) - not all nice but some of the potato varieties are very good indeed - I think going by the varietal name of Yukon Gold. Camassia is one of your as well, is it not? Lots of interest in apios americana as well...but seems like a lot of faffing for a small output.


At some point, if you grow veggies in the UK, there will be an attempt at the famous 3 sisters...which inevitably is destined to fail - the beans are always too vigorous and I suspect the original indian corn was much taller and stouter than the puny little tendersweets and supersweets we grow today. Purslane is rather lush though, also miner's lettuce and lambs quarters

I have been exploring fruits and berries - particularly rubus types, and of course, chokeberries, saakatoons, juneberries etc. I would, I do believe, draw the line at pokeweed though.

Do you call amaranth 'Love lies Bleeding in the US too. I know Tex is a fan of plant folknames - a particular sort of regional poetry.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Yes, that is one colloquial name for it. Back some eons ago, I used to subscribe to Organic Gardening magazine. Really, this was likely right around 1980-they had quite the push going for grain amaranths. Don't hear so much about it now, the big rage being, of course, quinoa. But I'll bet that amaranth could still make a comeback.

+oM

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texasranger2

The original corn (maize) was probably puny compared to the big sweet ears we like today and we'd probably consider them inedible, just my guess. I found this picture online showing phases of development. It was cultivated for centuries by Native Americans from the native plant Teosinte. I think the history of corn is interesting but, corn has also become the big bad guy in this country. On any account, I look forward all year to fresh corn from the Farmer's Market even more than watermelon and its way higher on my favorite list over fresh tomatoes.



Love Lies a Bleeding is a good grain amaranth. My understanding is, the grain is pretty much the same on all types.

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Campanula UK Z8

Given the craze for paleo diets, I would expect amaranth and chenopodiums to be more popular. Good King Henry grain was found in the stomach of various neolithic, bog-preserved early humans and, as you say, Tom, is often mentioned in mags such as 'Organic Way'.

Ah Tex, my teeth first bit the dust after an unfortunate incident with a concrete-block coldframe and a dodgy bit of bamboo stake - sweetcorn, as a consequence, (along with apples) are just a memory. Rapidly heading towards a liquid diet (although, as a completely crap cook, I would happily resort to a hungry pill).

I had always assumed that US native maize was more like african maize - which is generally 8 feet tall. My farmer grows maize for animal feed and it is also being grown a lot for biomass...and the varieties are also humongous - nothing like the luscious sweetcorn I used to grow back in the days when I could actually chew.

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texasranger2

Camps, maize was introduced into Africa, I think it was in pre-columbian times, I saw some sort of docu on this at some time and that bit of info sticks in my feeble head.

I watched a show last night on PBS about early life in America and they said camels are originally from America. Go figure that one.

Corn is one of the oldest plants to be hybridized into cultivars on the planet. As an English girl, technically and genetically speaking (my great grandparents had English accents), the best tasting way to prepare corn is to blanch the ears and then scrape it off the cob. You get those nice kernels with the 'milk'. Then you put this into plastic freezer bags. This was an all day affair which my mother, sister and I did each summer when I was a kid when they used to buy it by the bushel. The worst part was some of the ears had crawling surprises, inevitably there were always those awful white grubs behind the shucks with no forewarning so each ear was a gamble.

To cook it, you add some bacon bits and cook until just done, adding no water. You don't need your original front teeth for that. That accident sounds awful, usually its boys that get their teeth knocked out. Not girls. You do know that don't you?

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Horses are originally a new world thing too. It is in our fossil records and came over the frozen bridge up in Alaska to Asia and Europe during the ice age . So all those guys that are killing wild horses out west because they are banning invasive species are a bit ignorant of their historical record. Camels were used as military animals in Texas and became feral in Central Texas. There was a small wild herd of them there for a while into the 20th century. I think until the 50's.

My grandmother would sit at her table and gracefully grab her ear of corn and scrape it clean onto her plate. All her kernels always staid on her plate obediently. When I do it , they fly all around the planet . She pealed apples with her knife at the table and did not eat grape skins either. Weird, We were always to heathen to submit to her regimen of food.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Keep in mind, woolly mammoths are also a native beast, albeit an extinct one. What happened eons ago cannot, IMO, be used as a guideline for what's appropriate today. I don't know if wild mustangs should be controlled or not, my not being sufficiently well-versed in that set of issues. But I'm not sure the folks attempting control are ignorant.

+oM

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docmom_gw(5)

I think most of the control of large herbivore numbers is for their own benefit as much as human's convenience. White-tailed deer are hunted routinely by humans because many of them will starve over winter, anyway, so culling the population prevents a prolonged, uncomfortable death, and decreases damage to property. Before human's took over so much habitat, there were larger predators, such as wolves and mountain lions to keep the deer population in check. I assume a similar situation exists for wild horses. I don't know what the situation is for moose and elk, though when I travelled through Yellowstone we stopped in a small tourist village and there was a herd of elk wandering through the public areas mid-day, nibbling on ornamental shrubs in people's yards and at commercial establishments. There were hundreds of people around, but the animals didn't bat an eyelash. I'm sure that could get dangerous if some ignorant tourist did something stupid.

Martha

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Campanula UK Z8

mmm, Lyme disease has popped onto my radar recently - cases in the UK doubled (including my farmer neighbour and his dog) - and that's only the diagnosed ones - there are thousands of cases going undiagnosed, sometimes for years. Introduced to the ghastly job of tick removal (I swear Mr.Campanula is still traumatised by one which he had to pick off his chest).

No-one is really clear why this increase has happened - are we are spending more time 'in nature'? - is it a climate issue? or habitat loss driving deer and other carriers into closer proximity with people?.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

I live in a hot spot for Lymes. So far so good. I've had plenty of wood ticks on me-it doesn't even phase me. Just pick them off. But the Lymes thing is spread by the much tinier deer ticks. Those I worry about, but like I said, so far so good.

We too wonder how and why Lymes is proliferating. So many contributors, but climate change itself is implicated, as so many pest species are now able to reproduce at an exponentially-greater rate. But I'm not sure what's going on.

+om

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texasranger2

During the last few years and especially last year with the early heavy rains and flooding, West Nile seemed to be more a danger here than Lyme or else we just heard more about it. Lots of warnings and advice to use DEET. During the drought one good thing was there were no mosquitos--- none-- and that was nice. The newest threat is a bug called The Kissing Bug which has found its way into Texas and Oklahoma. They carry a parasite called Trypanosoma. Not to worry about in Wisconsin or the UK, its only a problem in the southern US, Mexico and South America.

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Campanula UK Z8

oooh, The Kissing Bug - sounds so harmless doesn't it?

Examining a deer tick was possibly one of the ghastlier sights I have seen through my loupe....and I really shouldn't have shown sweetheart after he had tweezered it out...I know I made his horror loads worse. Until recently, we were townies (the countryside is full of things which bite and sting) so we are travelling up a really steep learning curve.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

We have had a several deaths from West Nile here in Travis county, and everyone is a lot more diligent about mosquitoes. I am tying bows of fabric softener sheets on my glasses. It kind of works. This year was less bad than other years.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Not to refute anything said here, but I recall drought years in your (Tex) area from just a few years ago wherein warnings of West Nile went up because of lack of rainfall leading to stagnant water. So it can work that way too apparently.

But yeah, you folks really had monumental precip there for a while, and it's not exactly dry now I'd wager. For that matter, this being an El Nino situation, we were supposed to be warmer and dryer than average up here in the western Great Lakes. So far, the warmth has certainly been the case, but we're also right in the storm track, time after time. Once again, another biggie is taking aim at us for this weekend, and it rained somewhere in the state every day this week, mostly to the north. The next big one will not miss any real estate, it looks like.

+oM

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texasranger2

Thats interesting about the Great Lakes area being dryer, El Nino means warmer and wetter here and they have been describing this one as the El Nino to dwarf all previous El Nino's.

Warmer = too warm to get snow but perfect conditions for rain which means high probability for ice. We already had a doozy ice storm, it looks like a war zone around the city. Just one degree made the difference. If we'd stayed at 33 all would have been fine but no, we dropped to 32. Worst of all, the trees were still covered in leaves so the extra weight really added to the disaster. We had no power for two days, widespread outages all over the city and they are still working on it along with tree trimming and removal. We haven't had a really hard freeze yet. I have zinnias still blooming among other plants. Today is mid 70's.

Tom, you ought to see the Callery Pear trees right now and hear stories on the local news of people saying how sad it is to loose such a wonderful tree. A great many of the poor things just ripped completely in half straight down the main trunk all the way to the ground, others simply dropped all their major branches and only the trunks are left with maybe a branch trying to hold on here and there.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Seems this year's long-range forecast is a bit of a moving target. Just looked at an updated map where we're in "normal" as far as expected precip amounts into winter, and northern Wisconsin, NE Minnesota, and Upper Michigan were depicted as being in for above-average amounts. So we'll see. But yeah, usually El Nino years around here are what I call "nothing winters", nice and not too cold, but boring, with not much snow-I'm a snow lover.

+om

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