Check It Out
Courier Article by Pam Locker
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Advice on Appreciating Nature in Your Back Yard
I work where I can spot hawks and red-winged blackbirds as I arrive in the morning, take a meadow walk among the wildflowers and butterflies at noon, and peek at the babies in the bluebird house as I leave for the day. So do I work in a nature preserve? No, at a library!
Oaklyn Branch Library, built into the side of a hill, features a green roof covered with plugs of Little Bluestem grass. Rather than plant the expansive surrounding areas as a standard lawn that would need constant maintenance, the planning team decided to go with native prairie plantings - a mixture of tall grasses and wildflowers.
Water draining from the hill mixes with runoff from the parking lot and flows into a bottom wetland, where sedges, grasses, bald cypress, and wildflowers naturally filter the water before it ends up in the lake below. Pigeon Creek and the lush forest that lines it run close to the property, adding a variety of wildlife, including geese, ducks, and deer to the mix.
This time of year the meadow is at its best. Larkspur, white wild indigo, penstemon, phlox, bachelor buttons, hairy wood mint, swamp milkweed, butterfly weed (both yellow and orange), coreopsis, sweet pea, and coneflowers are in bloom. Large stands of Mexican hat coneflowers, bee balm, black-eyed Susans, coreopsis, purple prairie clover, and mountain mint are getting ready to burst into color. A wide variety of grasses in all shades and sizes, in addition to the exotic rattlesnake weed and 4-foot tall cup plants, provide texture and ongoing interest.
Speeding along on busy Oak Hill Road, much of this isn't visible. So give yourself a treat and walk along some of the paths mown through the meadow as well as along the tree line near the wetland.
Here are a few recent books that can elucidate the wonders and advantages of nature in one's own backyard.
"Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants" by Douglas Tallamy (Timber Press, updated edition 2009) shows why and how suburban gardeners should use native plants in their own yards.
"Plant-Driven Design: Creating Gardens That Honor Plants, Place, and Spirit" by Scott and Lauren Springer Ogden (Timber Press, 2008) is a treasure trove of photographs and ideas for ecological and glorious home landscaping.
"Backyard Bird Secrets for Every Season: Attract a Variety of Nesting, Feeding, and Singing Birds Year-Round" by our very own Sally Roth (Rodale, 2009) solved my backyard lack-of-water problem. I am on the lookout for an old-fashioned concrete birdbath.
"Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder" by Richard Louv (Algonquin, updated edition 2008) is a contemporary classic that argues that we need to give our kids more opportunities to interact with nature.
"The Dangerous World of Butterflies: the Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists" by Peter Laufer (Globe Pequot, 2009) covers butterflies that most of us will never ever see, but, as one reviewer wrote, "is filled with informative tidbits custom-designed for cocktail hour."
IF YOU GO
Using Native Grasses and Wildflowers in Home Landscapes, PowerPoint presentation by Tim Griffith of the Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop, Tuesday, June 16, 6:30 p.m. at Oaklyn Branch Library, 3001 Oaklyn Drive
Wildflower and Butterfly Tour of the Oaklyn Meadow
led by Gold Master Gardener Debbie Goedde, Tuesday, June 30, 6 p.m. at Oaklyn Branch Library