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by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener
October 2 brought the energetic Brian Zimmerman from Four Season Nursery back for a run through colorful, native (mostly) plantings. He shared photos of trees, grasses, shrubs and some perennials and ferns that will add interest and color throughout the year. Larch, sugar maple, tulip tree, and black gum are a few of the trees mentioned. Shrubs included witch hazel, bearberry, ‘Gro-Low’ sumac (my personal favorite) and snowberry. Little and big bluestem grass, which I just saw at the Botanic Garden, looks awesome near the Gift Shop and I sure wish I could find a place for some in my own gardens!
I love how Brian reminds us of landscape design fundamentals such as function, pathways, water drainage, symmetry (or not), size and shape. Remember you are the artist, the landscape is always in flux and “nature is semi-controlled chaos”!
I think I can say we all love whenever and wherever Brian does a presentation- – we know we are going to get an ear full!
by Whitney Miller, Advanced Extension Master Gardener
This summer was a rough one for gardeners. Drought plagued us in June and July along with soaring temperatures. It was during this time that the MGANM green roof at the Boardman River Nature Center in Traverse City was put to the test.
Knowing that the roof had an average of 4” of growing media, and was fully exposed to the sun, we had selected for it native plants with shallow roots and drought tolerance. All were Michigan native plants that are quite drought tolerant.
But did it work?
Even in the best of circumstances, all gardens, even native ones, occasionally need a human to give them a drink when experiencing extreme drought. This summer I stretched that to the limit. There was a period of four weeks in the midst of this summer’s drought that I was not able to visit the roof and provide supplemental water. Yikes! When I visited in July, I had to apologize to the plants. Everything looked dead. The hairy beardtongue turned into dust when I looked at it. The coreopsis, which usually is blooming at that time, had turned brown and retreated into itself. There was no wild lupine to be seen, whereas there were at least 30 of them last year (I still can’t wrap my head around that one).
The only plant that was bright and happy was bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi). And I’ll be darned if that wasn’t the one plant that we struggled to get to take root last year. Oh, how the garden can give you surprises!
Fast forward to August. I waited another three weeks before watering the roof again (yikes again!). Things were looking roughly the same. The bearberry was holding strong, though I noted that the size of the plant has not grown since last year.
Finally, at the end of the summer, we got rain consistent enough that I didn’t have to worry about the roof. I visited in early September and noticed that the prairie smoke was looking a little more perky. Everything else looked like it was holding on.
The last week in September I visited again and this time had plans to spread a light, organic fertilizer as well as a light layer of mulch. I gave most of the plants a gentle tug to see if the roots were still holding. All but one was holding on tight! Much to my happiness, when I got on top of the roof I noticed that some of the coreopsis had sprouted new greenery. The New England asters also had new growth. And the prairie dropseed looked quite nice and fluffy. It seems native plants truly can handle some tough situations!
My plans for spring include removing the Pennsylvania sedge from the roof. Its performance on our roof has been lackluster and tends to look patchy- – almost like the scalp of a man’s head who just can’t let go of those last three hairs. I also intend to incorporate some wild petunia (Ruellia humilis), which looked quite happy in other gardens during the drought. If anyone has any extras, I’ll gladly accept!