Where Do Camels Belong?

wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Wondering if any of you are aware of this book by a Ken Thompson, evidently a professor somewhere in England. I've read excerpts and have got to admit, I find merit in much of what he proposes....that many of the arguments being made against invasive exotic plant species are based less on scientific rigor and more on hearsay and other less-than-solid sources. I won't re-write the book here, but just to touch on purple loosestrife-for a long time, the poster plant for aquatic invasive (emergent zone actually) plant species....Thompson finds scant actual science demonstrating the main tenet of invasion biology-that the invaders drive down species diversity. Now I will readily admit that in a sense, I was primed to pick up on his arguments as it relates to that plant. For whatever reason, I just simply love how purple loosestrife looks. I'm a fan of the color magenta in the landscape, frequently reaching for it in my own ornamental displays, and no species does magenta quite like Lythrum salicaria. I know too that it is an extraordinary attractant to a wide array of pollinator insects, such as many types of bees. I just read one summary of a study conducted in Maine's Acadia National Park where bee surveys conducted prior to the loosestrife invasion were less rich than after.

In any case, at least as it relates to this widespread and uniformly condemned plant species, I find Thompson's arguments compelling. Another main point of this work is that nature and so-called native plant communities were never static, and that much of restoration ecology seems to spring from some imagined static tableau, whereas it is easily demonstrated that even the landscape here in N. America as it existed prior to European settlement was itself a fairly novel arrangement. Kind of a type of heresy within the context of much of what we discuss on this board, but if one is to be scientifically honest, even views that challenge your cherished notions must be welcomed. At least I think so!

+oM

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Campanula UK Z8

I surely have - read it, that is, and find much to agree with myself - a pertinent example in my part of the world concerns the swallowtail butterfly - now reduced to a tiny rump of less than 10 square miles (my wood is precisely situated at the epicentre). The swallowtail has been travelling down an evolutionary cul-de-sac, by surviving entirely on a precarious biennial - milk parsley, aka peucedanum palustre. This capricious plant is difficult to establish, prone to die-offs, does not always set seed and is growing in a man--made habitat always under threat - the Norfolk Broads. However, global warming is heralding the appearance of the European swallowtail on our south coast...and this butterfly exists on a much broader range of apiaceae. A few fortunate interactions between species and we may yet see the return of the swallowtail to our island...and naturally, I am growing peucedanum...and fennel...and even milkweed...because life is tenacious and will adapt. It is entirely possible that a species will abandon millenia of feeding practices in the face of imminent starvation and we, humans, can be prepared for this by adding to diversity...and of course, with 600 years of rampant colonialism to offset the paucity of glaciations and isolation, the British have a jumpstart...many UK citizens are utterly convinced that rabbits are a native species...so we tend to talk in terms of naturalisation rather than native..

Camels - even Sarah Palin noticed the closeness of Russia to the US - we were all related back when Pangaea was a solid landmass.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Hah! Touche. I would not have been able to predict that our former vice presidential candidate-the "our" in this sentence being used under a heavy cloak of satire-would be appearing in this thread! Too funny. Now, in truth, those of the most purist strain of natives-only fervor are particularly worried about species loss through precisely what you describe-the hybridization of the "pure" native animal or plant with a near-relative, eroding or obscuring the genetics of the original. Me...I'm more like you, in not being so sure at all that this won't be the path, or one of the paths, to salvation. Another example: Luckily, not yet where I live, but in the eastern US, the tree eastern (or Canada) hemlock is being decimated by hemlock woolly adelgid, itself a non-native introduced insect. Some of us freaks are suggesting that one possible way to still retain a more or less similar tree in the landscape would be to purposely introduce genetics from Asian hemlock species, all of which are highly resistant to the ravages of this insect pest, with a view towards having that hybrid fill the ecological niche being vacated. I'm not at all saying this is "right", whatever that means within this context, but it is something we think about. And exactly the same route is being considered for Fraxinus, as the emerald ash borer decimates that genus. Again, Asian species have resistance to this pest, and it is at least possible that if we are to have any ash trees at all-currently, there must be a billion in this state alone-we may have to make such choices. I don't know, but I also know that nature herself hybridizes with abandon in some genera. Oaks area a good example. Most of the bur oaks around here, as well as most of the swamp white oaks, are actually Schuettes oaks, a naturally-occurring hybrid of the two species. I've stood with other highly skilled arborists and looked at large old trees, one of us sure it is a swamp white, the other a bur. Of course, now that I know about Schuettes-I didn't back then-I know we were both right. But the tolerance of the hybrid-whether naturally-occurring or the product of human manipulation, should not be cast off out of hand, IMO.

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Campanula UK Z8

pffft- purists! Here in the UK, a particularly pernicious canine breeding organisation, the Kennel Club has, for the past century, maintained a lineage of pedigree for numerous breeds of dog...and over the years, inbreeding especially that bizarre process beloved of some breeders known as 'selfing', along with an increasingly cartoonish exaggeration of 'conformation' has led to a sorry state of canine affairs where sturdy working dogs are ludicrous creatures beset with the full range of health problems - many of them dying horribly of respiratory problems, tumours and skeletal issues...but the last 10 years or so has seen a revival in doggy fortunes with the deliberate commercial hybridising of 2 pedigrees - most especially poodles and either labradors or spaniels ( cocker-poo, cava-poo, labra-doodle) and spreading across to other breeds (although I have suspicions that some of these are created for comedy naming potential). Just widening the gene pool is showing definite benefit to canine health and has broken that damaging insistence on the primacy of aesthetics over utility.

There are many ways of maintaining a gene-bank of plant species - seeds are fully amenable to long-term storage. Dogged insistence on any sort of purity, whether genetically, ideologically, culturally, can lead to dark places.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

You have a point...both of you, and it was interesting reading. The only concern I would throw would be that lets say that Canadian Hemlocks have evolved a gene that allows production of a cancer stopping serum. Asian Hemlocks do not, but Asian hemlock genes are more dominant than the canadian in that position.

You *may* have just eliminated any chance anyone will ever find that serum, because most if not all the future progeny will have that gene sequence masked, and never evident.

It's a silly example, but it *could* happen. Basically I guess I support diversity and maintaining diversity versus homogeneity.

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texasranger2

I haven't read the book myself but it seems like worrying about things like one hemlock vs another kind of is a relatively insignificant matter when we have entire areas being totally deforested, acres of grasslands disappearing before our very eyes and wetlands being altered to the point of killing wildlife or becoming toxic due to chemicals. Its interesting to read about or talk about individual species like this but in the bigger picture it seems like obsessing about the color of paint you are going to choose when the whole house is in need of structural repair. In a nutshell, purists come across like that to me.

If an introduced plant is aggressively taking over a wetland and killing native wildlife, its an obvious problem. If an introduced species isn't going out of control, whats the harm? It is probably a benign introduction. Here in Oklahoma, Purple Loosestrife has only invaded areas in 4 counties but its still not allowed and you will get fined for growing it. There must be something behind the warning. Multiflora Rose and Japanese Honeysuckle are more serious invaders than loosestrife, at least currently.

If trees are invading grassland its a problem or if these areas are being replanted in shallow rooted plants that cannot survive drought its a lost cause. Size of area matters just as much (if not more) when it comes to the survival of native prairie animals, probably more so than the purity of types of plants in this situation.

If portions of or entire forests are being (or have been) removed destroying entire habitats, obviously thats another big problem. Replacing those trees with introduced trees seems like a decent idea, especially if its a matter of those 'impure' trees or no trees. Exceptions would be trees such as those buckthorns you hate or Bradford Pears which seem to be taking over large areas here.

Each situation has specific introduced culprits that are well known enemies and these vary from one place to the next. Whats a problem in one area of the country is not a problem elsewhere. To try to achieve perfection at this late date is utterly unrealistic. Native plant purists are idealistic at best and usually rather irritating.

Anyway, like I said I haven't read the book but it sounds interesting, I like reading stuff like that.

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Campanula UK Z8

Ah yes, the bigger picture.In fairness, many native plant enthusiasts are arguing not just for the preservation of single 'pure' species, but for a recognition of the primacy of habitat and my glib suggestion of seedbanks doesn't really cut it as a future means of preserving species. Anyone who grows plants from seed will, sooner or later, come across seeds which, with every condition met for germination, still prove to be utterly recalcitrant, unwilling to sprout no matter how they are coaxed and faffed with...until they are thrown on the compost in disgust...where they sprout with vigour...because they are part of a wider community of microbial life, some of which will produce the necessary trigger for germination and which is not present in that sterile tub of planting medium.

The idea of habitats and communities is one that has only recently arrived on my radar. My entire gardening life has been based on selecting plants, ideas, themes and artificially creating the circumstances in which the chosen plants will thrive (raised beds, soil enrichments or impoverishment, drainage, messing about with ph, storing tender pennials and so on and so forth. My tiny home garden has no native soil whatsoever and my allotment has simply been a place of rampant experimenting. while I have been accustomed to creating customer's gardens from a fairly blank starting point in generally man-made urban situations. Only now I have too much space to 'manage' have I been looking at the whole area as already complete in itself, needing nothing much from me except the addition of only those plants which will do well in the prevailing circumstances. And this has meant opening my eyes, working with nature and not against it... in truth, I am finding it liberating, having limitations...instead of the endless choice and underlying arrogance that I am mistress of my domain. Many of the questions which you mention, Tex, along with other thoughtful gardeners who have arrived at a philosophical, ecological, utilitarian viewpoint (as opposed to aesthetic and purely botanical) have given me a whole new aspect of horticulture to get jazzed about.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

To me, if there is one bottom line here, it's that if we were actually a wise species, we'd be doing much more to save remaining intact ecosystems the world over. That gets at your mention, dbarron, of the potential that exists in the worlds botany, if only we keep it around long enough to find out. Nature's laboratories, are plants, and it's sickening to think we're too dumb to realize what we're doing. There are efforts in the direction of such preservation and conservation, of course, and we all make our own contribution, but the pressures taking things in the other direction are strong and happening everywhere. Worst-case, we'll just be looking at areas of thistles, reed canary grass, some box elder trees growing out of the crack between a parking lot and an old building-that actually can look nice, in a dilapidated sort of way-some buckthorn overtaking a bit of "woods" off in the distance, and every now and then a good plant or an interesting scene. And this repeated around the globe, each area developing its plant palette depending on what does good there under more or less continuous disturbance.

I flip through web pages sometimes of scholarly journals dealing with ecological restoration issues-the full gamut from how-to stuff all the way through philosophical questions. I noticed quite a bit of concern being aimed at the proliferation of escapes from conifer plantations in some southern hemisphere countries for which these are non-native plants. All I saw was a land that probably long ago lost its tree and associated cover, which now had "natural-looking" pockets of pines or whatever they were growing around there. To me, where's the fun in panicking every time some plant successfully makes use of some unproductive space. Then again, I like conifer invasions of disturbed lands, have that as a de facto situation up on a part of my land, and am primed to accept this as ok, while admitting, the very words I use to describe and validate it could be applied to your Juniperus v. invasion down in Oklahoma, Tex, or my own disdain for what buckthorn is managing here. But all that said, I liked the photos in the articles that showed the purported problem. But I guess, that's just me!

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texasranger2

A small area like a yard, garden, allotment etc--- like you, its the only real place I personally have any influence about what happens and whats planted or removed but thats not what this is about (I don't think). What a person does in these situations is artificial and severely limited no matter what. Planting purist type native plants might feel good or give a person a false sense of superiority but it doesn't do much in the large scheme of things (although some butterflies, insects and some birds might benefit and every small drop in the bucket is good). What I object to in these particular situations are chemicals used on lawns which make their way to streams, waste of water resources for no good purpose except keeping up the looks of the landscape or to coddle unsuitable plants, planting exotics that are known to have the potential of causing havoc in the surrounding countryside and things along those lines. Even if a plant never makes it to the countryside, stuff that will invade your neighbor, like running bamboo for instance, gets me riled up especially when people do it after a fit of pique due to having a noisy neighbor or because they "just like bamboo" and don't care if it spreads or not. Seems most of the time they leave what ever they do to the next owner to deal with along with the poor neighbor as they keep moving up from one house to the next.

Size counts when you are talking about habitat areas. Several acres are nice but that won't even come close to really helping no matter how good it makes a person feel when trying to do right by it or how purist they are in their choices. I assume its true for forested areas but I know for sure we need big spaces, REALLY REALLY HUGE, uninterrupted and further than the eye can see, space that you cannot drive through to get to the other side of without driving a long distance in any one direction when it comes to a real prairie or grassland. That is the critical problem from what I can gather, all the rest amounts to fiddling around & bandage solutions offering limited help to the larger problem. There are hardly any significantly large open places like this left anymore because we are reduced to pockets of reserved areas and as a result will continue to loose animals to extinction, never mind the what the plants are or whether they are native or not.

The Red Cedars aren't bad Tom, they just need to be kept from proliferating at the expense of loosing more of the grasslands like what happens when bully trees move in. You tree guys are hopelessly partial to trees, I do believe. Hopelessly smitten. I still say public opinion supports saving trees over saving 'nuthin out there'. What I mean is, us 'grass huggers' have a harder PR sale when it comes to the need for saving places and those popular campaigns encouraging people to plant native plants like echinacea or butterfly weed or milkweed to save the Monarchs is not going to do it, not even almost.

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Campanula UK Z8

ooh yes, size surely matters. If you want a lot of plants (and I do) having a tiny garden meant growing tiny plants - miniature alpines and tiny little bulbs. Only when I had 1/4 acre did I have space to grow those enormous perennials I bloody love...and now, although only a pocket wood, I am definitely drawn to the biggest plants of all - trees. For sure, my little woodland makes zero difference in the general scheme of things but for me personally, it has forced me to adopt a different way of doing things just by virtue of having no money and being too haggard, ancient and crocked to fight against the current.

In truth though, there isn't much that is 'original pristine habitat anywhere in the UK - maybe tiny little pockets in Scotland or Ireland but everywhere else has been thoroughly manufactured - my wetlands are utterly artificial peat cuttings and the great flat open fens of East Anglia were once dense alder carr until drained and cleared - now it is the best agricultural soil in England...or was, until the 1960s or so when big.Ag stripped the land of hedges and wrecked the soil. What happens next remains to be seen - my own wood was a water-meadow in 1947, so habitat is a fluid construct (often quite literally).

Sheesh - apols for waffling all over 'native plants' - I am all over the place, confusing myself. Especially now the nights are drawing in and a lot of time is spent idling, posting aimlessly and waiting for spring (which will obviously be better than this year).

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I have also heard that the invasive looestrife has a more diverse and more plentiful amount of fishy critters under the water where it has a good population.. Studies have been made of the Tamarisk clogged riparian Zones in on the Rio Grande and they have way more birds living in them than the native zones. BUT the water tables are being depleted by the plants. SO it might be a bad thing. I am not a scientist and could not tell you if the info I heard was right or wrong. I am a victim of hearsay so I better watch my mouth. The person that sold the book loves exotics and makes his living selling exotics. I am very wary of to many radicalized ecological movements but I think the conservation and conservativeness when it comes to the environment is not a bad place to park ones beliefs on especially when one is a delitant as I am and know not what I talk about. Nothing will make me like Arundo donax. It is one very big angry evil weed.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

My 18 acres up north is-as my dad once correctly observed-therapy for me and a few family members. It is also a bit of the tapestry of the area, which is still farm country, but just barely. 6 or 7 acres was woods already-part of a much larger string of woods-and so far we've planted about 11 acres of the former field with trees, which besides being valuable in and of themselves, capture the site for forest. Now no longer will ragweed and lamb's quarters, all the ag weeds, have success, as each tree takes over its area and by dint of shading it out alone, plus all the other things going on, is able to colonize and hold that spot for a long time. Then too, we've planted a bunch of trees in bottomland woods my son owns a little south of here. I guess what I'm saying is, for people like myself, the relationship with trees long ago went beyond the hugging stage. One way or another, that's really been my life's work and my avocation too, albeit not the only one. But we've still got a strip of land at the interface of the woods that is all asters, giant goldenrod, mallow, and a host of other roughly-speaking prairie plants, and every year, especially late summer/fall, it is a glorious site. It too will be "overrun" by trees eventually, those that are moving up the field from the woods itself. And we have actual planted prairie-hey, that sounded funny-actual planted-around the pond we dug, had an actual "native restoration contractor" install the mix, the whole bit.

Not even sure where I was going with that but I think it clear that a few of us here enjoy an outlet for more wide-ranging discussion! Nothing wrong with that by me, not that I run things here.

Tex, I know how you feel, that in having a keen appreciation for some feature of the land-or this could be a lot of things-it tends to make one feel isolated. Surprisingly, it is the very predominance of the prairie thing_we've talked about this-up here in this state that sends me to distraction. I would scarcely be lying if I wrote that I'm as good as training one such company-the one that we've hired to do vegetation work around our ponds, etc. to look beyond that one plant community. Crazy stuff, I'm telling you! But despite all of this, I can and do often stop and look out over some well-established prairie planting of ours and marvel at the beauty that can be achieved.

May as well clean up that last thought; So, the thing that really gets me about the paradigm of the I'll just call it the Chicagoland prairie folks (that's an approximation, we're 200 miles north but they're all from down that way) is the relentless belief that all land prior to European settlement burned regularly, on a regular schedule, and that every example seen today of a thickly wooded area is the result of a corrupted system. Sheesh, talk about a one-size -fits-all approach. So evidently, the American Indians did indeed burn the hell out of places like Illinois and south and westward, and as such, bits and pieces of Wisconsin were in on some of that. But take where I live-the original-that is, 1840s-vegetation was northern hardwood mixed forest, so things like sugar maple, basswood, beech, hemlock, red oak etc. with other mostly (but not only) forest types covering the lowlands. There would have been extensive stands of things like tamarack, white cedar, etc. in riverine areas, etc. Well anyway, getting back to the main community-northern hardwoods-they did indeed catch fire and burn. So what was the wildfire interval for such land? It is thought to have been right around 400 years!

+om

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docmom_gw(5)

I guess I'm encouraged by the idea that some of the "foreign" plants might be beneficial to wildlife. It is also good to remember that nature has always been in a state of flux. Humans just make changes occur at a completely different speed. And I never thought of a new species of tree causing the water tables to drop. The birds who are currently enjoying those trees will have to move on or die, when the water runs out and the trees can no longer survive there.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

There are actually a number of such cases, some brought on purposely. Malaleuca, a tree originally from the tropical/subtropical parts of Australia-where ironically, it is now nearly extinct-were brought to S. Florida to help "dry up the land". There are other such cases. And then there's allelopathy, the ability of one plant species to poison the soil for competitors. That's not at all strictly the domain of foreign invaders-native plants do the same thing-but in the case of buckthorn, it is considered yet another strong method whereby this species is able to push out everything except more buckthorn. But yes, I alluded strongly above to nature's inherent flux. Some treatises I've come across suggest that even the magnificent forests that draped themselves across the upper Great Lakes where I'm at were themselves of considerable novelty. After all, there had previously been a sheet of ice upon this land, some miles thick! Hard to wrap one's head around that degree of change, but of course, it had thousands upon thousands of years to unfold. Nothing compared to the rate of change we're exacting on the land.

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texasranger2

Tom, it seems like what should be restored to different areas could become very confusing when living in a place that was composed of both tall grass prairie and large stands of trees during preEuropean times. Lines would tend to get hazy as to which should be growing where. With naturally occurring stands of forest its not as if people are thinking they need trees to break up the monotony if only for sanity,windbreaks and some much needed shade like people did around here when Oklahoma was originally settled so perhaps the idea that killing a tree is tantamount to murder doesn't exist with common folks there.

I guess the difference lies in the fact that when you live in the center of the 'Great American Desert' which was once a sea of grass without a single tree on the horizon in most cases, you simply know that if you are now seeing trees, they have been introduced even if its an American native tree. (It shouldn't be any surprise to you that we have those people here, a kind of flip side to your prairie freaks). Its even worse when you see them invading and covering the entire landscape. That makes it a clear alien species to anyone who cares and has half a brain. Personal taste is another matter. I have come to see them as huge perennial weeds with vicious roots causing serious problems, competing with grasses. And, unlike the deep rooted grasses which replenished the aquifer for centuries, trees suck water while simultaneously killing off the grasses and the animals who depend on them, but that only applies to this part of the country.

Around here no one involved with land management is ignorant about the problem of the Red Cedars. The solution is another matter. How to go about addressing it and how to pay for it. Controlled burns are no longer a viable solution, masses of the trees are too big for that now anyway and once deciduous trees join the mess of cedars, it appears quite hopeless.

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texasranger2

I ran across this picture online last night showing Indian Grass roots. Speaking of Where Do Camels Belong? and what was indigenous to different areas way back when it helps to understand the conditions that existed. Most of those conditions have changed over eons.

In order for plants to survive the freezing cold, fires, tornadoes, excessive heat, strong winds, alternating droughts and floods on the prairie they developed long tenacious roots perfect for surviving these exact conditions. Pretty cool in my opinion. Its different but also rather like what occurred over time further west in xeric conditions where plants developed several ways of storing water, small leaves or leaves that developed into storage bladders with barbs or thorns for protection from nibbling and for holding water over long periods and fuzz or hairs on leaves making so many plants appear grey or blue out there. Wish people took more note and would quit planting mostly unsuitable species with shallow roots that require constant irrigation or watering around here. A picture is worth a thousand words.

When people move away from the city or urbanization occurs the first thing they want to do is cut down the grass. The biggest fears are snakes and fire. Its quite understandable but its a bad mix and bad for the land, living in a place inhospitable for humans results in altering the landscape. I don't think that would ever change.

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texasranger2

I just noticed that bucket under the grass. Do you think she is letting it soak up water at the tips with plans to transplant it? Then there is the question. How'd they dig it up?

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I live in a place that is both grassland and trees. I have been out all day protecting desirable trees today. I am starting that yearly undergrowth clearing duty. The wet spring and fall has given me a lot of small seedling trees. There are also a good amount of two and three year seedling to protect. I keep the tree line fairly fixed otherwise the grass would disappear into a cedar brake if I allowed it to do the creep.. Fire is a part of the mix here. I am still a bit frightened of it. I found another 3' madrone in a steep section of the gorge. A cedar tree had fallen down around it and I need to remove the fallen crown and cage the small madrone once the branch is removed. Today was a day of babying and taking stock of the little guys. I was ripping dead branches noisily and the nearby buck did not even flinch, even when I started talking to him. This is his territory.

This is my yearly broken record, my cyclical obsession is kicking into gear with the holidays. The world is singing in the malls and I am cranking up my saw. All is as it should be.

Wow , that is some root. Do you think they grew it in a aqua farming set up?

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Heh, I'd give odds of success-if attempting to transplant that grass-at right around zero, take or leave a few points! Way too mature a plant, not at all suitable for transplant IMO. All the same, a most impressive example of what you-Tex-are talking about, the tendency for prairie species to eventually develop very deep root systems where soil conditions permit.

More generally though, so-called native restoration is a nuanced endeavor. There are many routes to some semblance of success, but knowing what and where it is you're dealing with-obviously-must come first. As such, there's nothing for me to disagree with in any of the recent words added to this convo. Take where I live-vast acreages were once wetlands, dominated by shrub-carre, swamp conifers, and even open marsh. Could not be more different from where some of you folks are operating, and this should inform the choices being made. But again-and again-and again-because the "native restoration" movement as known in this part of the world mostly originated in Chicagoland, an area that really was largely given over to prairies and associated cover types, this is the model that is used everywhere and anywhere, and it stinks. Like I said in the other thread, I am literally educating one of this area's leading providers of such services on the parameters of plant communities that are not prairie. It is amazing to me to see the one-size-fits-all mentality that has taken hold.

+om

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docmom_gw(5)

The one-size-fits-all mentality is caused partly by lack of time and education. My brother is a PhD entomologist and dedicated conservationist who recycles, lives primarily on venison he hunts, keeps his Michigan home at 55 degrees all winter, etc. But, he is passionate about trees. Any and all trees. And he has been planting them by the hundreds since he had a paycheck. But, he doesn't pay any attention to which tree goes where, except for the evergreens that will create a visual barrier between the neighbors and us. Clearly he picks swamp-tolerant trees for wet spots, or drought tolerant trees for sandy spots, but he just wants any empty space to be filled with trees. I'm sure he is knowledgeable enough to understand the concepts of restoration and habitat and ecosystem. But he has decided that his contribution to the greater good will be trees.

I think lots of people choose their behavior in a similar way. Find something that clicks with you and then go with it. Trying to stay up to date on the most recent research into what is actually best for the environment on a large scale, or in your small corner of the world, is too much work. Honestly, if even half of the population would be so enthusiastic about some conservation issue as my brother is about trees, the world would be a very different place.

I think we just need to find a way for people to talk openly about their nature passions so others can learn about them. But, it's not something that comes up in polite conversation as often as I wish it would.

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Campanula UK Z8

We don't have prairies in the UK but (and I know this absolutely boils Tex's piss) they have been a fashionable planting style for the past couple of decades or so. Took about 10-12 years to filter into the mainstream but blimey, the 'New Perennial Movement' are all over the English horticulture scene. Like any 'movement', it more or less has a manifesto and anointed experts who issue diktats - no woody plants...AT ALL, no annuals, unless those on the approved list, a bizarre and limited pallette of 'appropriate' plants...and there had better be many grasses blah blah, blah - i swear I can no longer bear miscanthus.

Not that this has any relation to any sort of attempt at land restoration (we do have meadow purists though, who conjure up an entirely mythical 'english meadow' - the likes of which have simply never existed anywhere except in the imagination).- although in truth, I couldn't say what a native landscape might look like. Every scrap of British soil has been worked and re-worked - from a heavily forested island (there are tiny residues of ancient neolithic forest such as the Great Caledonian Forest, Forest of Dean) to an agricultural void with less than 8% tree cover. Over a few hundred years, the English denuded the landscape of trees until we were reduced to burning dung, brown coal, peat My land was a waterworld of marsh, with alders and willows able to survive standing water. Far too wet to take a plough, small island communities existed in the wetlands...but peat cuttings, land drains, deforestation, reforestation, essentially our landscape has been sculpted by human endeavours and is dynamic, fluid, mutable...and this changeability is one of the great joys of living and gardening on an intensely cultivated island.

And make no mistake, the aesthetic appreciation of plants is just a tiny aspect of gardening - it has its roots quite literally embedded in every part of our culture. There are no plants or planting styles which are not heavily nuanced with deep symbolic meaning. Chrysanthemums, which have such an intense importance in Japanese culture, are relegated to the allotments and gardens of the working classes - dahlias though, while equally bright, have escaped the proletarian label given to 'mums' and allowed past the good taste police of the upper and aspiring middle classes. The humble pelargonium, perfectly acceptable as long as kept to one colour but 'vulgar' when mixed willy-nilly. Vegetable growing has reached unprecedented levels of popularity - for the first time ever, a large seed merchant reported sales of veg seeds overtaking flowers...but not just any old vegetables - goji berries, okra, aubergines, tomatillos - anything which reflects a 'sophisticated palate' and travel experience...or better yet - has history as a 'heirloom' F1 is almost akin to blasphemy in some veggie circles..

Nor is this a recent thing - since horticulture became available to the general population, certain plants have always been ' a bit common' - classed as 'florist flowers, auriculas, dianthus - beloved of the industrial workers who had only a windowsill...while Capability Brown was cheerfully creating entirely fabricated landscapes, channelling rivers and transplanting fully mature trees...for the landed gentry. Curiously, the process of 'bedding out' - all those tender perennials which needed lifting and replacing every year, were the preserve of the rich, while the poor grew herbs and perennials such as foxgloves, madonna lilies...and yet this has been completely reversed with the illuminati of the RHS looking askance at the working class love of petunias and growing 'cottage' gardens dividing their large estates into 'rooms' (Hidcote, Sissinghurst et al)....Oh yes, snobbery still flourishes in the UK , faithfully reflected in the practice of horticulture.

For all that though, in the UK, lacking the extremes of US climate and geography, we are hugely fortunate in having a long, long tradition of gardening, with a mild and temperate climate and a brutally imperial history which has brought immense diversity from all over the world, right into our gardens. Hard to draw a line under our desire for novelty, the rare, precious and yet so easily available. Responsibility is often in short supply when balanced against the modern aquisitive, consumption driven mindset...but gardening can offer us a kinder, more inclusive framework to step a little lighter on the earth, which many of us are sincerely attempting to embrace.

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texasranger2

What!!? It doesn't make me angry what people do elsewhere as a gardening trend such as creating a theme for a chosen spot or the desire to create a pocket prairie, a pollinator garden or anything along those lines. If some people are weary with it, so be it, I understand.

What I am referring to is appreciating, protecting & placing value on the surrounding countryside, the 'Whole Lot of Nuthin" countryside here in the central plains area where thats what its supposed to look like and where the fragile ecosystem is being lost. Before anything can change, it first needs to be recognized and understood as having value in the first place in the exact same way as the majority of people take for granted that appreciating and protecting National Forests and other places considered scenic is important and a worthy cause.

As a result I am obviously glad that people are interested in this 'look' as a gardening style. Considering the original place the plants originate from, its a small but rather long distance step toward prairie preservation. Sorry it has become tiresome to some but I hope that isn't just another trend away from the appreciation of such plants that at least provide new areas for pollinators who have lost so much needed sources of appropriate plants due to habitat destruction and farming.

Camps, I hope to finally clarify this.

99.9999% of people do not consider prairies scenic or as having value beyond whats underneath for farming or oil and gas production. In fact the average Joe can hardly wait to drive on through this tedious and boring part of the country if they are out sight seeing or on vacation. I hear that sh*t all the time and have heard it all my life.

True, people consider the individual wildflowers pretty or interesting--no problem there -- and several want gardens planted with those plants, yes thats also a trend. The grasses do add to the 'flavor' when thats the 'look' you wish to create but that isn't and never has been the point of what I have tried to get across. The key phrase is 'the look you wish to create'.

What does irritate is people who cannot seem to grasp this simple and obvious point. Thats irritation.

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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

If you think about invasive species, there are few more damaging, aggressive or widespread than Homo sapiens.

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Campanula UK Z8

Ah, Tex, I live in this landscape too - the fens are analogous with the MidWest in soooo many ways ....and you are right, the delights of open space and big skies are not always immediately apparent to everyone - it certainly took me (used to big hills and wooded areas) quite some time to come to terms with what I first considered to be brooding, boring and even a bit malevolent. I love it now though. Suspect there is an element of misinterpretation going on here - what I really mean is that to you, this open, grassy landscape is MORE than just an aesthetic principle - it embodies a history, a philosophy and a culture and is not reproduced by merely growing a few appropriate plants... so when elements of it are parodied by a fashion or trend which has little substance other than just being another fad, it can be infuriating...and I agree wholeheartedly (probably a bit of projection going on from my side) which is one of the reasons for my irritation with it - in that many of these plants are being uncritically used because they are part of a design theme which has been in the ascendent here in the UK, REGARDLESS of every other aspect which should (I think) be also taken into consideration when designing a garden.

The bigger issue, for me, I think, is a general beef with designers who are not plantspeople. I don't like to see any plants, themes or styles which are inappropriate for the soil, the climate, the architecture, the location...but we must have them because they are this weeks top trend. Shall we agree that we basically agree and put this one to bed?

True Hoovb - we have buggered it up left, right and centre.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Most interesting Camp. And while I do gain from your perspective, I've got to admit, cottage garden style suits, or I should say can suit my tastes very well. But anyway, a nice synopsis.

Tex, your own work is a very fine example of your ethos in landscaping, that is for sure. Believe I saw a pic or two once-quite beautiful!

Was out in Wyoming-Casper-for a little while one time and got talking to a guy that grew up out east. He'd lived in Wyoming for a long time by then, and he said whenever he went home to Maryland or wherever, he'd feel off, like claustrophobic perhaps. And on some of those same trips-seemed like the band I was playing with at the time did lots of stuff out west-we would go through the plains-Iowa into Nebraska, eastern Colorado...It had its own kind of beauty. Stark and big horizons. Every place is cool.

+oM

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Campanula UK Z8

I like the mix and match and make-do aspect of cottage gardens myself- a pleasing informality which looks as good around a lot of US timber houses, Craftsman type bungalows and barn structures as it does around old English cottages...but less so with formal redbrick townhouses in an urban situation. Definitely works well at my allotment but I had to severely reign myself in for my minuscule house garden with carefully designed geometric raised beds (no bloody soil - new-ish build - rubble - would have leapt for joy if I had clay...but broken bricks! I like to try to integrate house, garden, neighbourhood if possible...but customers though (exasperated shrug).

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texasranger2

It would probably help to tell you I have no interest, past involvement or much knowledge in professional horticulture, trends, landscape designers, the nursery trade, big name designers, garden shows, the latest trend in hybrids, and stuff like that. I have never been in the biz myself or paid much attention to it. Frankly, its boring. What goes on in this circle or that circle at any given time is not something I keep up with so I probably have witnessed several gardening trends with my own eyeballs without even realizing it.

Along those lines, all I know is lately the city is planting natives on a large scale where they used to plant stuff that looked like it started in a flower pot that came off a shelf at Home Depot and it looks damn good especially in summer when its hotter than hell and visually it fits right in and looks like a million bucks. You still see the expected boring nursery fare around houses and businesses but that whole area is so artificial it sort of fits right in in its own way along with the lawns and who's looking at it anyway? Its like background noise.

Put it to rest? Were we arguing?


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texasranger2

Tom, You've brought up Chicago so many times I finally googled to see what the deal is. Is it that thing called 'Wild Ones' and Lori Otto? Whats the source of all this influence you are dealing with? I have never heard of any of it or Chicago being behind anything. I don't know if there is an outside influencing factor here or not and wouldn't know where to find out if there was. The results are the only thing I'm familiar with but it seems to be large areas of massed in grasses planted quite nicely and uniformly along with larger plants for contrast like hesperaloe, various small trees, shrubs etc. I haven't seen mixed prairie plantings going in anywhere. There's even a native vegetables garden up around the Capitol by the Agriculture building.

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Campanula UK Z8

Grief - my city is shaming - a wealthy university place yet the civic horticulture has slipped back to the 70s with exactly that sort of bedding stuff - drives me insane. Time for another round of e.mails and offers.\ - what was the critical factor in making the change to a more appropriate garden style in yours, do you think? Climate, funding, a visionary team? In a few of the more cash-strapped northern cities, there has been a change to planting large scale seeded areas - will be interesting to see how this endures over time. In the meantime, I travel between Cambridge and Norwich on a new stretch of road which has been planted, in part, with pinus sp. (not sure which - doubt it is the threatened Scots pine) and only 1 in 6 trees are still alive after 2 years.. Disturbing. The way a lot of our native trees are succumbing to various disease threats is alarming, especially so in East Anglia which not only has little tree cover, it also grubbed out nearly all the ancient fruit orchards and boundary hedgerows - some summers, the remaining topsoil just blows across the surface in dismal dustcouds - a worrying sight since we (people) have conveniently either forgotten or ignored past catastrophes. On the other hand, life has been returning to Chernobyl in increased vigour and diversity so all that is needed is enough time to regenerate without human interference.

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texasranger2

I'm not sure what the critical factor was. It seems to reflect state pride along with life sized bronze statues of buffalo that have gone in , new roadways in the area and elsewhere in the city with decorative images embossed in the concrete of things like our state bird (flycatcher) along with the renovation of the capitol and other surrounding buildings. Urban renewal is active in the area and its been being worked on for quite some time now. All of this has happened only within the last 10 years.

As for the choice of plants, the exact same grasses grow wild along the side of the road less than a mile away in a natural state of mixed plants but they aren't really noticeable (except to nerds like me) and all along the highways going out of the city. What makes these grass gardens a standout, to me anyway, is they use the exact same grasses as those in the country. In the designated garden areas & street medians however, they are simply organized in large swaths of differing heights as a garden in a more formal way or artistic way as if using found materials that were dug up locally from a few miles away, except I know they wouldn't do that.

This shows how local plants can be used decoratively, just ordinary local grasses we see all the time, every day all around us but no one much notices. In one area for example, it looks like there are 700 or more identical switchgrass plants all the same height on the top of a huge hill with maybe 2000 or more identical little bluestem plants all neatly planted a bit lower down and then in front of that at the lowest point, a huge mass of blonde colored blue grama grasses all the same height, all on a big hill with large rocks and the buffalo statues in the short grass with some hesperaloe here and there for texture. Looks fabulous in late afternoon sun.

Each section of grass is somewhat different than the others so it makes a nice subtle texture that blends from one level to the next, the result is rather modern and 'Oklahoma-ish' all at the same time in a rustic friendly sort of way that seems so familiar, like old friends we've known all our lives.

There is an oil derek on one lawn and various plantings interspersed throughout the entire capitol complex of state buildings and the History Center which is new and has a large native garden of grasses, wildflowers, trees and shrubs with plaques and statues etc and walkways. From a distance on the highway it looks very nice and soft.

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Campanula UK Z8

envious! We have some manky polyanthus (not flowering) and hopeful wallflowers (also not flowering)...oh yeah, the ubiquitous winter pansies. An effing disgrace.

My daughter lives in impoverished Norfolk and a few of the traffic roundabouts feature dozens of stipa giganteas, heliotrichon, and red-stemmed osiers while stepping outside the railways station, there are dozens of black slate planters filled with scarlet begonias all summer...and midwinter fire dogwoods all winter - not exactly earth shaking but certainly someone with an eye for form and colour has had a hand in it.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

I realize I've conflated the Chicago school of landscaping, which I agree is quite appropriate, with another entity altogether, the ubiquity of the prairie paradigm in native restoration contractors. While there is a bit of overlap, they are two distinct things, and all I'm saying is, here in east-central Wisconsin, in an area previously (and still in patches) thickly forested, the single-minded focus of these contractors, staffed with highly educated people BTW, on just one plant community type is extremely disappointing to me and what's more, since I work closely with these folks on larger projects, I am witness to their mindset. To wit: We were doing a stream restoration in a deep and deeply-wooded ravine here in town. Short version-the stream had become extremely "flashy" due to development in the upstream watershed, now almost completely paved or in rooftops. So, to repair the extreme undercutting and other erosion that was going on, we regraded the slopes, placed coir logs and blocks in carefully-arranged fashion, and a host of other aspects. While working on this-it was an all-summer project-one of the main guys from that company said something one day about how we should be reducing the tree canopy so as to better enable the new vegetation we were installing to take hold. OK fair enough, and in truth, to do the regrading of the stream banks, many large trees did have to come down. But then he said something that has never left my consciousness-that in looking up at the ridgetops and so on, he saw signs that this area was formerly more open and savanna-like. Well, it is not his fault he didn't know who or what I was very well but I internally said bullsh*t! I know very well what this area was prior to European settlement and his hypothesis was pure bunk. But it was said in support of the usual paradigm under which these companies operate-that all was prairie, that all places burned uniformly every three or four years, and that there was not one stitch of difference between what was the case in central Illinois and what existed in NE and E-Central Wisconsin.

Biologists long ago cited something called the tension zone, a region of overlapping vegetation complexes that crosses right through our area. So, to our south and west is more the oak/hickory/basswood/sugar maple forest, and indeed, there were significant "oak openings", what would be called oak savanna today. This was 100% manmade-the Indians doing lots of burning down in that area, but still nowhere near the scale of a state like Illinois. Then to the north is the northern mixed forest, which is a catch-all term for a complex of forest types. My city lies directly in this transition zone, so in a sense, many things are appropriate here. But at any rate, as this book gets written!....that's what I'm talking about, not some amenity landscaping style but a school of thought regarding large-scale land management. My job involves both realms. Heck, I have actually moved backwards towards more annuals in my display beds, and away from a more naturalistic style using native and non-native perennials, simply because as my responsibilities have grown, I need to simplify somewhere, and in truth, for the average resident or visitor to our city, driving by at 35 or 40 MPH, the big bed of begonias and sunpatiens actually make more impact than any number of more perhaps horticulturally interesting groupings of grasses and perennials. Heh, things are all a-jumble.

Meanwhile, my real interest is in forest succession, a topic about which I could talk all day. And about which, my project up on my land is dedicated too, along with purposeful plantings of a few tree species which would not otherwise occur there.

Our DNR today is a shameful and corrupt outfit under the control of a bunch of fools who have no interest in conservation, odd in that these same dopes call themselves conservatives, but in years just prior-I have to make that separation because all is lost at the moment-there was a schism between "foresters", those who understood this was primarily a wooded state, and "wildlife managers" who, in a direct quote form a forester with whom I worked on my land for a while, said "want to make everything into a prairie". That schism was in full effect already then. But as I said, we've got bigger problems now, a DNR whose mission is to enable businesses to pollute, to fill wetlands, all with permits and approval, of course. But that's distinctly another matter!

+oM

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texasranger2

camps, I just re-read your other post and had a belated laugh. I am in the category of people you describe as designers who are not plant people. As it is, my favorite plants happen to be natives, namely xeric SW American plants or prairies. The nursery kinds bore me so in the end it works out environmentally. I guess this makes the result a bit like when using the incorrect way to solve a math problem but getting the right answer in the end although you still get an 'F' on your report card. In other words, I am high on visual but low on science, horticulture or technical matters.

In my own defense this is typical of how artists operate and is probably why I glaze over when technical related subjects come up and why I drive past most typical gardens around here without having much interest at all because most look contrived like a living room. I'm not into buying lots of expensive furniture and fancy interior decoration either and these kinds of landscapes come off as the same thing.

The plants themselves are no different than any painting medium used for composition. I tend to look for what works visually together with a personal preference toward neutrals with a few accents of color but in the end, its all about the way it looks rather than science. The way I see it is that nature functions in the exact same way because the same design & color rules apply if you look at various native landscapes from an artistic perspective. Plants that need the same conditions and come from the same place or from similar conditions tend to compliment each other and I insist that God is an artist.

The pictures posted by wantanamara on the bonsai/grass thread are stunning mini works of art. That particular type of landscape draws me in with intense interest while other types of landscapes & plants do not although I can see the beauty in those as well but without the 'plant envy'.

It sounds as if you're in the thick of the horticulture business as both a professional and a consumer. Tom you are obviously an expert in restoration & land management. I wouldn't know which end was up on the subject of forest succession or stream restoration, however, obtuse attitudes and ignorance are irritating no matter where or how they present themselves. I deal with clients, many who think they are professional artists without the ability to do the work themselves but they make great dictators. I always say a dollar does not create an artist.

As far as gardening styles looking dated, I'd never heard of such a thing until reading what you wrote but I am not up on the well known 'Biggies" when it comes to landscape designers although I have heard of Gertrude Stein. I wouldn't recognize a garden of hers unless it was pointed out to me and probably wouldn't care for it because I have this long held notion that too much color is usually equal to no color at all. In other words, I've never been drawn to flower gardens for the sake of lots of color in flowers, my preference is for texture with accents and simplicity.

That in mind, I cannot even imagine local native plants used in landscaping as ever looking dated. What a thing. If that is the case, the whole countryside would be dated. In my world of garden interests, I think more in terms of plants or gardens looking like Texas or New Mexico or Oklahoma or Colorado or Kansas because those are the states that have the native plants I'm interested in and are the places I am drawn to for favorite plants. Whenever I see a plant I like, its almost always from there. The harder part is exercising control and keeping my little garden simple rather than a collection of specimens which is what would happen if I tried to get every plant I liked and grow it.

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Campanula UK Z8

What do you think I mean by 'plantpeople'? Tex because it isn't people who have degrees in botany or plant science...it is purely people who love plants, recognise their intrinsic natures and realise that plants are not just consumer pretties which can be planted anywhere, but have to live in a community of other plants and planting medium in gardens or landscapes. I have seen your gardens and to say you are not a plantperson is laughable. Over and over, we hear people wanting roses....in the desert....or cannas... in Nebraska. Now generally, I tend not to get prescriptive with what other people want since they are the ones who are paying and will have to maintain said plants...but these plants, unless you know what you are doing, will not thrive (and even then, its no guarantee) and when I see large scale schemes which are chosen purely because someone liked the colour of agapanthus with no consideration for the plant needs, water requirements, general architecture, surrounding plants, and then these plants die a lingering death, damn right, it gets my goat.

By pure coincidence, many of the plants you are growing, have been popular with designers for the very qualities you appreciate - tough, xeric, textured, reliable, mannerly...but this has not always been the case, and it probably won't be again. The 70s were the conifer decade - everyone had dwarf conifers in a heather bed with loads of that spreading juniper. When it became possible to buy huge mature trees from nurseries, everyone wanted an antarctic beech or cryptomeria (now the top craze is niwaki and cloud pruned ilex. and the 90s saw a huge craze for big-leaved exotics...but these are the preoccupations of the garden design industry - where I have been backing away from...and have nothing in common with history, ecology, culture, but a lot to do with fashion.

But hey, are we not fortunate? I have been starved for good plant convos - the perennial forum is moribund at the moment and (ssh, whisper) not terribly interesting a lot of the time, while specialist forums are even worse (although trees is fast moving and interesting to this tree novice) so chatting to restoration experts, native plants people, artists, even people from such radically different locations is thrilling to me - plants I have never heard of before are suddenly on my radar to get to know. And yes, where there is passion, there will be heat...but I can take it. I go a long way to avoid confrontations but plants are always worth getting worked up about.

So Tom, tell me, has this prairie push been around for a while? Can you ascribe it to designers or environmentalists...or politics even? If this is not a pure design thing, how has it gained traction as a land-management theme? And how prevalent is it in other parts of the state? On my land, I expect to be fighting a battle to maintain flood defences (have you seen the english flooding this week - heartbreaking?) - this will be especially pertinent because political funding is rapidly vanishing which segues nicely into one prevailing current to increase wetland areas by flooding all the river valleys in a huge part of Norfolk. I expect the tensions between housing needs, flood defences, human habitation and wildlife charities (rich and powerful, similar to the Audubon soc.) to start ramping up over the next year or so.

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texasranger2

camps, I was speaking professionally thinking of how it seems from reading various posts that our different occupations create subtle nuances concerning where our main interest lies and how we view the subject of plants, native or otherwise. Mainly I meant I am not a horticulture professional in any way nor do I have much interest in the nuts and bolts of that.

You wrote that the aesthetic appreciation of plants is just a tiny aspect of gardening. Gads woman! For me that is easily the largest aspect and interest followed by the physical labor part because I love any kind of physical occupation especially the tedious kind that involves hours of solitude and nit picking. On that note, the class you took in Botanical Drawing would keep me entertained for weeks, (the drawing part that is, not the botanical parts-part, ie ovaries, pistons etc like in science class) my only objection is why a class is offered at all, seems a bit of a scam to me. That would involve patience, lots of practice and most of all knowing how to actually see what you are drawing no matter what it is you are drawing, which is where most people fail, and you can't teach people that.

Regional differences also determine general attitudes, prejudices and priorities. Some people simply garden to eat what they grow and could care less about the looks or the environment or native plants.

You also wrote that where you live is not so different than here. How can you assume that? I see a difference between conditions and people who live in Texas and those living in Oklahoma on attitudes toward plants (and many other things) but its nothing compared to the Grand Canyon gulf of difference between the attitudes of people living here and those living in the NE coastal states and Canada.

Then there is California.......A world within a world unto itself with its own set of priorities and attitudes. I would never fit in well on either the east coast or California but I could manage to live in Texas. The UK is an unknown alien quantity and my impression is completely hazy with few visual images or things to relate to.

I'd assume our ancestors experiences play a large role in how we look at most everything. I know people living beyond Independence Missouri who settled west are different than those who stayed in the east and when I lived in the South it was in many ways a completely different world.


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Campanula UK Z8

landscape wise - not much of a difference - flat, flat, flat, fields, fields, fields, sky, sky, sky, -Isn't that Oklahoma too? A world away from the place I grew up in.

Happy to spend hours weeding...less so spending hours drawing. Have always been nifty with a pen or pencil but it was the time aspect - hours drawing a single bloom. Guess I am utilitarian at heart because after drawing it, I couldn't think what to do with it...I can sit and drink tea in my weeded garden.

Shocked to find I prefer the business of growing a plant to the business of planting and looking at it...although I like that too - it's just that complete act of faith and hope in sowing a seed - addictive. Once I have grown it and seen it, I am ashamed to say I am bored and want to try something else...which is why my garden is a bit rubbish.I like to look at other gardens (better than mine)...and make plans to have a plan. So many plants, so little time. No discipline.

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texasranger2

Docmom rather hit the nail on the head in her post except she was briefer while mine went a bit winding off the spool.


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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

So, i know of situations where our DNR-not the whole shebang mind you, but a division within-cleared whole maple/basswood (that's lyme to you Britons) forests to install prairie. I call that monstrously misguided. But allow me to back up. This really all comes down to certain individuals, who, correctly identifying a slice of horticulture which had been allowed to remain unknown, led the charge for "native plants". Funny thing about that description though-it was still firmly set in the human-sized and humanity-centered world of "gardening", not large-scale land management. So homeowners were encouraged to "go native" which in this context meant ripping up some of their Kentucky bluegrass lawn-itself a completely foreign construct, and install prairie gardens. So far, so good. But then, it somehow escaped and people across a wide spectrum of responsibilities heard the so-called "native" call. Thus, when I was transferred from the Forestry division, where I had worked for decades, albeit as Horticulturist, and moved into Engineering, the purported reason being that a guy that knew ornamental horticulture would surely have a handle on this "native vegetation" thing, this despite their being two wildly differing disciplines, I was thrust into the world of Stormwater Engineers, who, being engineers, not plants persons, had lapped up the message that so-called native vegetation consists of prairies, regardless where you happen to be operating. So it is this tight box which I rebel against. Now mind you, the main person I work with in Engineering is the finest man I've ever had the pleasure of working with. And to my everlasting delight, he is very willing to learn and allow me to both broaden and deepen this concept of native vegetation. Thus, we are -gasp-planting groupings of native swamp conifers in appropriate areas, we are-again gasp-allowing forest succession to take place in limited circumstances. Still, because all of these drainageways are modeled on things like 100 year floods and even the 500 year flood, all woody vegetation must be kept strictly out of these zones, since it will catch debris and cause flooding up the watershed. I can accept that-these are first and foremost flood control systems after all. But at least, I'm able to bring in other plant community types around the edges. But the preponderance of the "prairie movement" still galls me. I think many of these folks see the remaining woodlands as some sort of aberration, so brainwashed are they. That's sad.

+om

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texasranger2

Do these people provide documentation to support this idea of prairie vs forest? My first thought--that is a lot of $$ to spend clearing trees just to satisfy an idea for purity. I find it amazing that they have enough power to warrant the go-ahead to do something that costly & drastic. Who pays and who has the final word? Is it a committee-- a committee of people considered 'experts'? Until a while back I didn't think much about committees but now the very idea of dealing with a committee sends up dread because it insures everything will take longer, delays, decisions will be made that don't enhance a job and if not done according to the committee or if a case is made in disagreement, anger will ensue as egos surface.

What you are describing sounds like its based on opinion rather than fact. Around here, the only way they'd do a thing like that would be to save the state funds from the millions spent suppressing fires we have with cedar trees or OG&E removing them from around power lines. Or, someone wants to put up some big building or a housing project.

I guess an idea can get so locked into peoples head, there is no talking to them?

Amazing.

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Campanula UK Z8

What a thrilling opportunity Tom. Here in the UK, we are, I think, still at the start of thinking creatively about flood management and waterways. Used to be dredging was always the answer...and barriers, but we are seeing the folly of working with just one side of the equation - engineering without really looking at other building methods, land management and conservation. What is DNR by the way - I kept thinking Do Not Resuscitate.

Large parts of the country have been flooded again this week - the third time in the last decade - these are the 100year, 250 year and 500 year floods we had been used to living with... but our public services are being lost in something of an ideological war against the so-called 'big state' (but only when it suits capital, that is - private profit, social risk). Water is a gigantic force on our island - even semi-arid east anglia sits below sea level and is crossed with dozens of man-made drains, cuts, canals, and broads - waterways were as big a form of transport as the railways - if not bigger until the road network grew and we are a riverine island too. We are going to have to become very creative with berms, swales, channels, drains and appropriate planting - town planning in a very different tradition.

Still, something whimsical which might interest you. My son and I came across a medieval building method for areas which flood (ain't the interweb great?) which relies on using alder as living platforms, inosculating them (approach grafting) so they grow together to make a framework and then adding timber platforms atop these living structures. Of course, this is only viable as temporary dwellings - a decade or 2 rather than a century but it piqued my interest. We have a set of alder saplings growing in 3 quincunx patterns ready to train on a timber framework to bend the trunk and laterals into a flat top then carrying on upwards to form the sides of a cobb? structure. Take a dozen or so years but why not. We have a hornbeam gazebo planted as well to make a live shelter. Not unlike living willow but grafted rather than tied in. We are just arsing around really but it's entertaining.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Since when did timber loose its $$$. Not at the Tax office. LOL Ahh life is so filled with peculiarities. I think it might be the same mindset that make Saudi head of the Human rights commission of the UN. WTF! ... I know I took a real jerky right off the topic. But I find that opposite speech and opposite thought is getting a real boost these days. WE always prided ourselves as practical and moral people. We have GreenPeace defaming hugely important archeological sites in the name of environment. Our "scientific world seems to have lost sight of verifiable facts that reside in history. If it doesn't fit our theory we just look past it as if it didn't even exist. I could go on but I will most likely piss someone off so, I will leave it vague.

My day is very much about practicality, successional growth, weeding the unwanted and cuddling the vulnerable. I am , as always bringing in the holdaze by decking the hills with swales of cedar. I killed 20 small cedars this morning and am in for another tank of gas and sip of water. Today I am a girl after the mold of TX but yesterday, I was out protecting baby trees and channeling +om.

Here is my photo from Jimez Falls , NM . It is my ode to successional forests. This area just missed a couple of huge fires up around the area. God this place was lion country. The oder was everywhere. Seems like they like the same outcroppings that I like.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Camp, DNR=Department of Natural Resources. Now this is tricky-I don't wish to malign the DNR-they get enough of that in totally unjustified ways. But remember-differing opinions amongst differing divisions within. So the guys converting northern hardwood forest into prairie were undoubtedly wildlife guys, since so much of wildlife management is and has been concerned solely with those species that are hunted or trapped. All the rest be damned. And that, believe it or not, was before the current situation, where the very mission of the entire department has been co-opted by business interests. So we've got bigger problems now.

I'm leery of even continuing with this. It would be oh so easy to lead someone to the wrong conclusion to that I'm trying to bring forward. I think perhaps I've done so already. With that said, I'm going to restrict myself from here on out to answering direct questions. Great discussion, but I don't want to lead folks to questionable conclusions.

+oM

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Campanula UK Z8

Well how about recommending some reading for this mini-forest novice. I have struggled to find woodland management pertinent to rank amateurs with tiny spaces and no money...as opposed to large scale forestry for commercial use. My little wood is in a river valley which has been dependent on flood defences upstream. The flooding is always tidal - not fluvial- but Yarmouth, the town on the river Yare is in an absolute poverty hotspot and the flood defences are going to fail in the coming years. So, I am looking to make a small levee next to the land drains (of which I also know little - dredging them out for example). In effect, I am still out of my comfort zone (which has been growing plants and design and build) and thrust into a watery, woody world which is still utterly foreign to me. Where would you suggest I start to look at lo-tech, cheap preparation for the inevitable overtopping where I can keep maximum protection for my moles, voles and worms (these died in the meadow and next-door wood in the 2012 flooding)...or am I just being sentimental. Ideas pls.

You can see my wood on Google or Bing maps - will find details if you like.

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texasranger2

Leery is right. Internet is too public, too easily misread. I'd delete.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Camp, I do not feel confident answering your request for a book. I did not get what I know out of a book but cobbled it together from all sorts of sources. What you would do in your woods will be different than mine. I have a book on prescribed burning but your area is not a fire based ecostructure..Most of my knowledge has come from workshops and seminars. Some were put on by agricultural county agents , Some by a rancher that has been working on his 5000 acres for 40 years. A wildlife preserve brings in people that give lectures. I am supposed to be signing up for Master naturalist classes for small landowners that the county puts on in the winter till the spring. I have discovered some blogs of Naturalist and ranchers that give me something to chew on. I have a Biologist that I talk to about techniques and he comes out to my land (for a price) and gives me suggestions. I just went to a lecture put on by the national butterfly association who has a garden down on the Rio Grande valley by the gulf. Even their info did not fit well here. They were recommending plants that were too tender. Their was a lecture put on about riparian zones that I got a lot out of. Your concerns would be different than mine. I suggest finding a park or woods and volunteering or looking for blogs in your area.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Camp, I'm surprised that your property is not subject in some way to regulations regarding flood plains, wetlands, and the like. Is that not a thing in the UK? I'd be most surprised if there weren't resources available from actual local-based experts in your area. What am I missing here?

Like Wanto, I've synthesized what I know today from myriad sources. I don't think I could ever point somebody to one book, one website, one publication, and think my job done. My path has been utterly unlike that, which is not at all to say no books or web pages have contributed-I review such items all the time. But I can't even begin to wrap my head around how I could really assist you from this remote location, except-again-by answering specific questions where I happen to know the answer!

+oM

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texasranger2

Tom I have a question but its not exactly on this topic. There is a voluntary hackberry tree coming up behind a tall fence to the south behind my property in a neglected spot, right next to the fence. Its now large enough to show itself over the fence and sending branches toward us. When I saw it, I just slumped my shoulders and thought, "Oh no, not a hackberry over there too".

This is the question. Can I cut the branches I can reach and apply Tordon to the cut ends. Will that kill the tree? Do you ever use this product or have any opinions pro or con? I can't physically get at the tree except on the top portion from my side so I wondering if it can be dealt with before its more mature and beyond doing anything about. Its about 8 ft tall. There is nothing of worth growing around it so I am not worried about killing anything of his through leaching, this area is a kind of no mans land but technically in his yard. Peeking over the fence, I also noticed there was a good sized mulberry sapling next to it and I stood on my ladder and bent over and poured Total Vegetable Kill on it, it looks dead. These people don't tend to their side of the property line and I am kicking myself over and over for not dealing with the problem volunteer hackberry trees all along the west side of our property, a neglect situation that got a foothold and then out of hand back when there used to be a tall privacy fence that the tree uprooted and knocked over toward our side which is downhill from his. We plan to hire a professional tree trimmer for those (again) and the expense is ridiculous, the trees are an eyesore in that situation. We plan to do that in February waiting until I cut back the 'prairie'. The leaves will be dropped so the big branches can be dragged through without wrecking the place.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

A bit confused-those look like big trees. Are you talking about them or are there smaller ones there too-can't quite make it out in the photo? In any case, no, I wouldn't use picloram if I could at all help it. Very persistent, leaches to groundwater, just not worth it IMO. Since I'm not sure which trees, or which size of trees you're talking, I'll wait until you get back.

+oM

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texasranger2


My question is will Tordon work in winter? I just read that you guys are using cut and poison method in winter. I didn't know you could do that, thought it had to be done during the active growing season.

I can buy Tordon at a local farm supply company.

As it is, I dig out all new ones each year along that west side but I can get in there easily by climbing over that hog wire 'fence'. I have no access to this other area but that tree is slap up against the fence on the other side.

I'm open to other suggestions, I'd just heard Tordon will do that.

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Campanula UK Z8

I am not quite clear on this - whose side are the trees on, yours or his? In the UK, we are allowed to cut back overhanging branches from neighbouring gardens (and you have to return the cut branches to the tree/shrub owner in case it is regarded as theft). If you attempted to kill a plant on some else's property, there would be horrendous legal repercussions. Can you have a dialogue with your neighbour to legally remove these trees? If he has neglected them, it would be to his advantage as much as yours. I think killing them without his permission could open a very worrying and even costly can of worms.

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Campanula UK Z8

Regulations, Tom - yes indeed there are. We are in an area which is classed as synonymous with a National Park so there are numerous rules regarding land use but only as a greenfield site which mainly affects construction. We couldn't, without building permission, plan on building a permanent dwelling but (and this is why we picked a wood) the rules for woodland are very different from land-use rules for agricultural land. It is The rules are considerably more permissive regarding what we can and cannot do in wooded land although we are just under the size requirements to qualify for grants and such). We can, for example, practice 'forestry' which has a loose definition in the UK and can include anything from charcoal making, bodging (furniture), agri-forestry and even establishing a nursery. We just cannot build a permanent dwelling. There are no covenants on our land to say we cannot fell trees - we are allowed to fell 5 trees a quarter without any licence whatsoever and could, if we requested, probably be allowed to clear fell the whole thing - bearing in mind it is not an ancient woodland and has no scientific interest (SSSI) or tree preservation orders. It didn't exist until 1947. In fact, the only covenant is an agreement not to split the plot into smaller plots for selling...and we are able to stay here in our horsebox for as long as we want.

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Campanula UK Z8

girdling can work - round the trunk with a chisel.I know it is not applicable here but I have been thinking about doing this on some of the poplars because I do want the dead tree to remain standing - I am getting a nice little population of woodpeckers which really make use of standing dead trees.

I feel your pain though, with crap neighbours - and not just seedlings and leaf and branch sort of mess but, on the allotment, disease is my main gripe (and I have certainly been tempted to take the matter in hand...and when plots become vacant, I will do a sneaky inspection for cane blight, big bud etc.etc. and whip in there with loppers and spade before the plots are re-allocated.

I have not used glyphosate for stump removal - I always thought that it only worked on foliage but a forester I know swears that a dribble of undiluted glyphosate on top of bramble roots which have been mashed with a mulching head (on the brush-cutter), are never coming back. I generally use Stump-out with a paraffin/kerosene carrier medium (too dark to go and find the label.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I use Remedy mixed with diesel and a bit of soap and paint it on the first foot or more of bark. It takes a while but it kills the consumption weed ( baccharris). I don't know anything about the winter time thing but fall is good because the sap is headed down to the roots. This is hearsay I have heard.


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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

As I said, I would not use picloram (Tordon) ever, for anything. There are better materials. For cut/treat, we use-depending on target species-either glyphosate (Roundup and its many generic equivalents) or triclopyr (Garlon and its many generic equivalents), always at the rate specified on the label for such use. In other words, not at the much lower rate of dilution specified for foliar application. Some pesticide labels are quite confusing, going on for page after page about large-scale applications, things like gallons per acre etc. which have nothing to do with cut/treat or even just small-scale spot-spraying. It is often necessary to extrapolate. And one version of generic is not directly equivalent to another, so read the label one must!

Bottom line, I'd much rather you use an appropriate chemical, not one which never binds to anything, such as soil particles, and is therefore free to continue leaching downward into groundwater. Just not my thing.

And too, since I obviously don't share what I'm beginning to see as your near-rabid tree hatred, I'm wondering just how out-of-place hackberry trees really are in your locale. Are these hackberry-Celtis occidentalis, or the southern variant sugarberry-Celtis laevigata? And depending on the answer to that, are they native to your location (I ask again)? They got there somehow. I do of course understand that the withholding of wildfire has changed many landscapes, and I'm on the side of wise use of fire where appropriate, so don't think I'm not sympathetic to your desire for what truly may have been the "original" landscape. But where I live, while hackberries are never dominant trees in the forest, where I do run across them, they are often very nice trees with an especially interesting bark pattern. So I'm not sympathetic to your apparent hatred for this tree species.

Additionally, using tree pruning tools on a ladder is something I can't recommend. That's how articles in the news show up about this or that person getting maimed or killed. there are reasons that people obtain extensive training in arial work in trees, using ropes and saddles. I'm just starting to see too many things that raise questions for me here. Finally, while I would not be at all happy if my neighbor allowed truly invasive and damaging species like buckthorn or non-native honeysuckles to proliferate on property next to mine, I actually like the effect of benign neglect when it's species that are of and from the given area. That's just me, but I like profusion of growth, I like seeing nature do its thing, even if a bit chaotic.

+oM

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texasranger2

Thanks for answering Tom.

I admit I did get angry this week especially contemplating the expense coming up due to a situation I have no control over and was hoping to stop another problem from developing to the south in a place I can't get to by traditional means which meant a ladder, a pair of lops and chemical to treat the branch tips.

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texasranger2

camps, girdling would work and trust me, I've been more than just a little bit tempted to do a lot of girdling but the tell-tale signs can be easily seen, if you get my drift. I have dreams of happily girdling every single hackberry along the property line along with dreams of strategic lightning strikes zapping mature trees into oblivion. Just call me "Mad Dog Tex the Tree Hater".

We have tar treated utility poles out back and of all things the woodpeckers visit them every year regularly. I love woodpeckers. Dead Hackberry trees wouldn't hurt my feelings, I wouldn't care if corpses were left for the peckers. I'd gladly go for that.

Another asset these trees have is they get aphids each year and produce black sooty mold that covers our white stucco walls and the stucco wall up front. Forget painting, it lasts less than a season. Its great on the car too, nice dirty look and its sticky. Advice is to spray the trees (yea right, on top of everything else) and to be sure not to "overlook the hackberry bushes as they can come up everywhere near a hackberry tree". Really????? Everywhere???

I have to agree 'everywhere' is no exaggeration.

The thing is, we came into a bit of tiny inheritance, in other words, a bit of extra money outside of the fumes we usually get by on. Typically we are too broke to even think of seriously cutting back the neighbors trees and must be content with nips here and there and keep it under $700 or so. So now, part of this money is being laid aside to cut HIS trees & hopefully three will come out if its not too expensive. It galls me when I think of the inheritance aspect but on the other hand, after years of eyesore its a decision we made.

Speaking of galls, the trees get those all over the leaves. Its part of the aphid deal.

Yes Tom, they are native trees but hey, this is an urban situation and there are native plants that are pests by any definition in urban settings. A forest is a different matter or somewhere out in the country. I can name quite a number of native plants I wouldn't think of having in an urban landscape and would consider on the list of Bad Choices For Urban Landscapes. For instance, Smooth Sumac would probably take over an average sized lawn pretty quick and be an unwise idea. Some of the larger Goldenrods might make regrettable choices.

When it comes to native plants, some really are better off for everyone growing "out there" somewhere outside of city limits rather than in the city under urban conditions with buildings all around. Hackberry trees hopefully would be in the natural wooded areas and not prairies, we have both situations and each needs protecting and of course as you probably gathered, I am partial to the prairies over the wooded areas but I've never denied the value or importance of the wooded areas either.

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docmom_gw(5)

Tex,

You said earlier that your neighbor is nice, but lazy, and he mentioned being "in a funk." I would strongly suspect he suffers from some mental illness, as 10% or more of the population, including myself, does at one time or another. Does he work? I guess I would suggest building a bit more on the communication between you two. If he really said he doesn't care what you do, just ask if you may come onto his property to kill the hackberry. Explain that it drops seeds and that it is going to tear up the fence if not taken care of. And the final step might be to ask him if he'd like to help. Or, just invite him over to see your garden. Offer him a lemonade and a tour, or sit and talk to him about his life and just get to know one another. Explain your goals for the garden and mention some things he could do to his yard that might help. I.e. Take down the bent wire fencing. If he balks, ask if he needs help with these sorts of projects. If he does have depression, he might just need someone to give him a little boost to get him off his couch. Go slowly and try to stay friendly and supportive. Remember, you're making an investment in a relationship that could last as long as you live in that house.

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