August 2011

Tallamy emphasizes importance of native plants to wildlife corridors

In Broad Ripple, Ruth Ann Ingraham’s landscape is heavily planted with native plants, including the front yard. Photo courtesy Ruth Ann Ingraham

Doug Tallamy is the Pied Piper of native plants. Hear him speak or read his book Bringing Nature Home, and you’ll grab a spade, dig a hole and plant a native plant.

That’s what happened to Jeff Pitts of Ratio Architects in Indianapolis.

“I was already on the road to understanding the native plant thing, but his lecture (in 2009) and book made the connection” between native plants and a healthy eco-system,” said Pitts, a landscape architect.

Jeff Pitts. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

He realized that his training was “one dimensional — visual. There was not an ecological component,” said Pitts, a member of the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society, one of the co-sponsors of a return visit for Tallamy at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 13, 2011, at Clowes Memorial Hall on the Butler University campus. Tallamy, professor and chairman of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, also will speak in Fort Wayne and South Bend, Ind.

Photo courtesy Doug Tallamy

The boring sameness of most residential and commercial landscapes — lawns, evergreens, non-native plants and lots of pesticides — has contributed to a crisis in biodiversity, Tallamy said.

The message hits home.

Photo courtesy Marianne Beal Peters.

“We have developed so much farmland and wild places, robbing our precious native species of habitats,” said Tallamy fan Marianne Beal Peters, a Master Gardener in Plymouth, Ind. “For instance, monarch butterflies depend on milkweed exclusively” in their life cycle. “We don’t realize how much humans depend on that balance, how much the quality of our own lives is improved when we have contact with these creatures,”

People need to think outside the backyard to create neighborhood and community corridors of trees, shrubs and flowering plants that support birds, insects and other wildlife, Tallamy said.

The backyard can be an important link in the chain of biodiversity. “We need to connect these isolated fragments” and working as a neighborhood is one way to do that, he said.

Tallamy challenges local, state and federal highway and roadway departments, too. “There are millions of miles of roadways that could serve as a start to a functioning wildlife corridor.” Roadside plantings of native plants also reduces mowing and other maintenance costs.

Ruth Ann Ingraham amid brown-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia triloba). (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

The professor’s message is hard to resist, said Ruth Ann Ingraham, a co-founder of INPAWS who frequently writes and speaks about native plants and Tallamy’s book. “He combines the passion, which many of us have, with the science and that’s a winning combination, as far as I’m concerned.”

Doug Tallamy to speak about wildlife corridors and native plant in South Bend, Ind.

September 15, 2011
7:30 PMto11:00 PM

Who: Doug Tallamy, professor and author of Bringing Nature Home.

What: Networks for Life: Addressing the Biodiversity Crisis through Landscape Connectivity

When: 7:30 p.m., Sept. 15, 2011

Where: Northside Hall, Indiana University-South Bend

Admission: Doug Tallamy in South Bend.

Doug Tallamy to speak about wildlife corridors and native plants in Fort Wayne, Ind.

September 14, 2011
7:30 PMto11:00 PM

Who: Doug Tallamy, professor and author of Bringing Nature Home.

What: Networks for Life: Addressing the Biodiversity Crisis through Landscape Connectivity

When: 7:30 p.m., Sept. 14, 2011

Where: Walb Memorial Student Union Ballroom, Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne.

Admission: free. Doug Tallamy in Fort Wayne

Doug Tallamy to speak about wildlife corridors and native plants in Indianapolis

September 13, 2011
7:30 PMto11:00 PM

Who: Doug Tallamy, professor and author of Bringing Nature Home.

What: Networks for Life: Addressing the Biodiversity Crisis through Landscape Connectivity

When: 7:30 p.m., Sept. 13, 2011

Where: Butler University, Clowes Memorial Hall

Admission: free. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Info: Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society

Black-eyed Susans bloom along I-70 in Indianapolis

'Goldsturm' black-eyed Susan. Photo courtesy

Native black-eyed Susans cover patches of I-70 with their golden orange flowers. For more info about these great plants and their role in the ecosystem, check out my blog at Keep Indianapolis Beautiful’s Website.

Here’s an excerpt:

Along I-70 from Indianapolis International Airport to downtown, the black-eyed Susans ‘Goldsturm’ have begun blooming again, revived by the recent soaking rains.

For several weeks before the rains though, these summer perennials look fried, if not dead. But even in their decrepit condition, the plants served a purpose beyond beauty.

Wet or dry, mosquitoes thrive in the landscape

Standing water in the landscape attracts egg-laying mosquitoes. Photo courtesy Purdue University

You’d think that as dry as it has been, that the mosquito threat would be reduced.

However, depending on the species, mosquitoes lay eggs in two ways: direct hatching or delayed hatching. Knowing the life cycle of these blood-sucking, disease-carrying insects is key to controlling them in the landscape.

Most of us are familiar with direct hatching, where female mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water. That’s why we dump water from saucers under pots in the garden, buckets, tubs, birdbaths or other receptacles. (For birdbaths, replenish the water every few days to serve the birds and keep mosquitoes from hatching.)

It takes two to three days for the eggs to hatch in the water and begin the first of four larval stages before becoming pupae as their final transformation. Within a week to 10 days, adult mosquitoes emerge, eat blood meals, mate and start the process all over again.

With delayed hatching, mosquitoes lay eggs on soil that is moist, such as low areas in the yard or crevices around trees. Some eggs will winter over in the soil to be awakened with spring rains. In summer, the eggs must go through a dry period before they hatch. Eggs in the soil may remain viable for days to years. Those that breed in the soil may do so up four to six times a season. To help control for these mosquitoes, fill in low spots in the landscapes.

In ponds and water gardens, use a natural pesticide, Mosquito Dunks is one brand, which is safe around fish and birds.

When you think about all the human and animal diseases carried by mosquitoes, you wonder what their role is in the environment. Sometimes, creatures are there primarily to feed others. Birds, fish, dragonflies and bats regularly dine on mosquitoes. For more info, download Purdue University’s  Mosquitoes in and around the Home.


Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day August 2011

'Serotina' honeysuckle berries. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Brutal is how I would describe the last 30 days. Plants, animals and humans gasp for breath during hot, densely humid days and nights while suffering from a lack of water. The local water company instituted voluntary lawn-watering restrictions.

Even in droughts, the Midwest has enough water to make watering restrictions voluntary.

Here in Indianapolis, like many other cities in the country, we set heat records throughout July — the driest and longest string of 90-degree days since 1936. Altogether, about six weeks of misery.

Head clipping weevil decapitates sunflowers, coneflowers and other blooming plants. Photo courtesy National Sunflower Association

Coneflowers decapitated by head clipping weevil. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

My friend over at May Dreams Gardens (originator of Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day) likes to tumble down rabbit holes and I asked her to check out what happened in 1936, since that was the year that held all these weather records until 2011. The next day, the newspaper told me that 1936 was the Dust Bowl and I immediately thought of Red Dirt Ramblings in Oklahoma, where record breaking temperatures and drought are much worse than in Indiana.

Besides the weather, my garden has been plagued by the infamous sunflower head-cutting weevil. This insect nearly decapitates the heads of many plants in the daisy-aster family, including coneflowers, sunflowers and false sunflowers, leaving the flowers attached only by a sliver of plant fiber.

<p>Mini roses survive. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp</p>

I must say that the 24 roses I got to trial this summer are holding their own in these trying times even for established plants. Several are blooming and they seem to be miniatures, rather than full-blown roses. Their next challenge will be transplanting (if their luck continues), then winter.

The lack of rain has reduced the number of flowers on plants, but right now, ‘Sunshine Daydream,’ the false sunflowers (Helianthus x multiflorus) from Plants Nouveau is nearly 6 feet tall, but is amazingly disease and insect free and hardly shows any stress from the weather. It did lose a few heads to that sunflower head-cutting weevil, though.

Rain lilies. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

We’ve had a couple of decent rains, which always revive the rain lily (Zephyranthese). I got from another Master Gardener from a clump that has been in his family for more than 100 years. Quite a prize.

The goldenrod (Solidago shortii) is about ready to bloom and the rains renewed the coneflowers (Echinacea), black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) and flowering tobacco (Nicotiana). The hydrangeas (H. paniculata) seem happy, too.

Sometimes the best part about gardening are the surprises. Whole Life Gardening suggested replacing ‘Gold Flame’ honeysuckle (Lonicera x heckrottii) with ‘Serotina,’ (L. perichymenum) because of the latter’s resistance to powdery mildew. The blooms are quite similar, including fragrance.

The powdery mildew was so bad on ‘Gold Flame’ the year before last that the leaves looked white and I swore I was going to tear it out. But last year, I treated it several times beginning early in the season with Safer fungicide. The mildew was greatly reduced. This year, despite all the rain this spring and hot temperatures that has fed powdery mildew on dozens of other plants, there’s none on ‘Gold Flame.’

‘Serotina’ also came through summer without any disease and only minor insect damage, even thought it is still in the gallon pot I bought it in early this summer. By the way, ‘Gold Flame’ and ‘Serotina’ are not invasive honeysuckle species.

Oh, yes, ‘Serotina’s surprise. It’s the berries. Beautiful, fat, red berries that seem to get redder as they age.

Despite the much needed, slow, soil-drenching rain, last night’s storm was deadly a couple of miles south of here, where a stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair. As of this writing, five people were killed and at least 40 were injured. The fair was closed on Sunday and was expected to reopen Monday.

The weather the last week or so has been decent and with more time at home since I resigned from the garden center, I’ve been able to catch up on weeding, tending plants and mowing the sedge, er lawn.




Weevil takes heads off of coneflowers, sunflowers and other plants

Coneflowers decapitated by head clipping weevil. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

All over Indianapolis, coneflowers and sunflowers are losing their heads.

The sunflower head-clipping weevil (Haplorhynchites aeneus) is to blame for the near decapitation of the flowering plants. The shiny black bug is about 1/4-inch long and is distinguishable by the trademark of most weevils — a pointed snout.

With an incredible precision, the weevil girdles the stem an inch or two below flowers in the family of asters and daisies. The top dangles from a thread of plant fiber, not quite severed.

The head clipping is all about sex. Sometimes, if you break open the dangling flower heads, you’ll find mating weevil pairs slurping nectar and rollicking in pollen.

Kansas State University Extension entomologists say the weevils lay eggs in the flower tops. The eggs hatch after the top falls to the ground and the cream-colored grub like larva over winter in the fallen flower head. The adults emerge in mid-July, which is when the decapitation process begins anew.

Head clipping weevil decapitates sunflowers, coneflowers and other blooming plants. Photo courtesy National Sunflower Association

This insect’s lifecycle illustrates why a fall cleanup of vegetable and flower beds is an important practice to control for insects and diseases.

In the Sunflower State, the Kansas entomologists say an insecticide usually is not recommended for the home gardener because the weevil affects only a small number of plants.

In my garden, though, the weevils decapitated all of the coneflowers in one section, after which the stems turned brown. Cut back damaged plants and be sure to remove any lopped-off flower heads.

Fall Master Gardener classes

If you’d like to learn more about identifying insects, flowers, diseases and how to grow your garden successfully, consider signing up for Master Gardener training.

The fall session runs from Sept. 22 through Dec. 8 at the Purdue Extension-Marion County offices, 6640 Intech Blvd., near I-465 and West 71st Street.


Final weekend for Garfield Park’s butterfly exhibit

July 23, 2011 10:00 AMtoAugust 7, 2011 5:00 PM
<p>Monarch butterfly on sedum. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp</p>

Monarch butterfly on sedum. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

An exhibit of native butterflies begins July 23 at Garfield Park Conservatory & Sunken Garden, Indianapolis’ oldest city park.  Among the events:

July 23-Aug. 7, Backyard Butterfly Show, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m, Sunday. A display of live native butterflies and how to attract these beneficial creatures to your backyeard. Admission: $3 per person or $8 for the family.

July 25, Metamorphosis Monday, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Learn all about betterflies and their interesting life cycle and other characteristics. Make a craft and see live butterflies. Ages 3 and up. Admission: $5 per child, $3 adult. Reservation required, (317) 327-7580.

July 31, Butterfly Gardening, 2 to 3 p.m. Learn which plants work best and what features to consider when attracting these beautiful insects. Ages 18 and up. Admission: $3. Reservation required, (317) 327-7580.

The Friends of Garfield Park, Inc., has provided support for this exhibit.

For more information, (317) 327-7580.

Vote early and often for your favorite new plant at the Garfield Park Arts Center

<p>Vote for your favorite plant on display at the American Garden Award exhibit at the Garfield Park Arts Center in Indianapolis. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp </p>

Vote for your favorite plant on display at the American Garden Award exhibit at the Garfield Park Arts Center in Indianapolis. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Want to have your voice heard in the gardening industry?

The public is invited to vote for  favorite new plants on display in a garden at the Garfield Park Arts Center on Indianapolis’ south side.

The Arts Center is one of 24 sites in the United States participating in the American Garden Award. The goal is to have gardens in all 50 states, said Diane Blazek, head of the interactive, not-for-profit, three-year-old program.

<p>Garfield Park Master Gardens accepted the challenge to plant the steep hill at the Arts Center. (C) Photo courtesy Jay Hagenow</p>

Garfield Park Master Gardens accepted the challenge to plant the steep hill at the Arts Center. (C) Photo courtesy Jay Hagenow

In Indianapolis, 18 members of Garfield Park Master Gardeners tallied about 100 volunteer hours on the project, says Jay Hagenow, president of the group.

Plants or seeds were donated by the American Garden Award program and grown locally at no charge by a commercial grower. The Friends of Garfield Park, Inc., purchased planting mix, soaker hoses, mulch and other supplies. (For full disclosure, I’m president of the Friends’ board.)

Master Gardener Thomas Graham designed the garden based on the number of plants, their size and horticultural needs. He and others weeded the steep hill, hauled 8 cubic yards of planter’s mix, planted, laid soaker hoses and installed mulch.

“As you might imagine, the opportunity to work with plants that aren’t yet available to the general public is very exciting for Master Gardeners,” Hagenow says.

Awaiting your votes are six annuals and one perennial. Dahlinova Hypnotica Lavender Dahlia, Easy Wave Neon Rose Petunia, Picobella Rose Star (Petunia milliflora), Surdiva Light Blue fan flower (Scaevola) and a spreading white SunPatiens (Impatiens) are the annuals. The perennial is the fragrant Kahori Dianthus.

“I am so pleased with the improved look of the garden beds surrounding our entrance,” says Lesley Meier, manager of the arts center. She says the public and Indy Parks’ staff have been complimentary.

“Encouraging visitors to pick their favorite planting has provided an extra point of interest to compliment summer exhibits” and other park activities, she says.

<p>Kahori cheddar pink dianthus.</p>

Kahori cheddar pink dianthus.

<p>Dahlinova Hynotica dahlia.</p>

Dahlinova Hynotica dahlia.

<p>Uchu ornamental pepper.</p>

Uchu ornamental pepper.

<p>Surdiva Scaevola fanflower.</p>

Surdiva Scaevola fanflower.

<p>Variegated White SunPatiens.</p>

Variegated White SunPatiens.

<p>Picobella Rose Star petunia.</p>

Picobella Rose Star petunia.

<p>Easy Wave Neon Rose petunia.</p>

Easy Wave Neon Rose petunia.