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#ChooseNativePlants Photo Contest – Win $100

WHY DO YOU CHOOSE NATIVE PLANTS?
Submit your photo for your chance to win $100 in web credit at www.prairiemoon.com.

Gardeners everywhere are learning more about the benefits of landscaping with native plants. When you choose native plants, each patch of habitat – large or small – becomes part of a collective effort to nurture and sustain the living landscape. With each small act, we do our part to clean water, reduce resource use, and provide food and habitat for pollinators, birds, and other animals.

We are asking for your help to inspire others to choose native plants! Our goal is to increase our collection of photos showcasing native plants in relationships with various subjects – Property, People + Pets, and Pollinators. We intend to use these photos in future publications for education and marketing. Submit your photo for your chance to win $100 in web credit at www.prairiemoon.com. Three winners will be chosen, one in each photo category.

1. Property – Photos that include native plants with hardscapes like: buildings, paths, benches, bird feeders, fountains, fences, etc.


2. People or Pets – Your loved ones among native plants


3. Pollinators – Insects or birds visiting your lovely native plants


Contest details: You can submit as many photos as you like! Submissions must…

1. tag us using the @ on your preferred social platform, and use the hashtag #choosenativeplants
2. include native plants

3. include a reason why you choose native plants
4. be taken by you
5. be high-resolution, digital format

Deadline to submit photos: September 15th, 2019
Finalists will be announced on October 1st.
Winners will be announced by October 15th and will be contacted through direct messaging on the social media platform they submitted from.

Instagram: @prairiemoonnursery

Facebook: @Prairie Moon Nursery

Twitter: @prairiemoonnrsy

If you do not have any social media accounts please send submissions to molly@prairiemoon.com

Whether it’s a few square feet or several acres,
Hope grows in every backyard.
#ChooseNativePlants

Earth Day 2019 – Healthy Lake Winona

Your unwavering support of native plants allows us to donate to worthwhile environmental groups every year.  Earth Day offers another chance for your online purchase with us to make a difference. 

HEALTHY LAKE WINONA is a citizen-led, community group dedicated to local lakeshore restoration to enhance water quality and ecological integrity. Their mission is to create a healthy, natural environment that supports a wide variety of native species and provides recreational opportunities for all ages.  This small group of volunteers has already accomplished so much in its 2 years since inception, from removing invasive species to planting diversified native seed mixes, and native wetland plugs. Their commitment and organization is an extraordinary example of what can be done by a small group of dedicated people at the grassroots level. To keep future Healthy Lake Winona projects going, they need our support! 5% of profits from your online purchases April 17th through Earth Day 2019 will go directly to funding this environmental action group. Plus, we’ll throw in a free seed packet of Early Sunflower!

Earth Day 2019 - Free Seed Packet of Early Sunflower
In addition to donating 5% of our profits from your online sales to Healthy Lake Winona, you will also receive this free seed packet with every order through April 22nd!
As a business located in a small Minnesota community, as advocates for ecological integrity, and as promoters of environmental education, we are proud to support Healthy Lake Winona for Earth Day 2019. Support Healthy Lake Winona!
Shop PrairieMoon.com.

(No coupon code or mentioning of this donation or free seed packet is necessary when you make a purchase on prairiemoon.com, now through midnight, April 22nd.  Look for your free Early Sunflower seed packet with your order, and stay tuned to our Facebook/Instagram pages for the Healthy Lake Winona donation amount!)

Free Partridge Pea Seed Packet

In an effort to contribute to the resurgence of native insect populations, Prairie Moon Nursery will include a free packet of  Partridge Pea-Chamaecrista fasciculata seeds with every retail order. No need to mention this offer in your web, mail or phone order!  Just look for the free packet to arrive with your order.

We love Partridge Pea for its cheery yellow blossom and attractive delicate foliage, but mostly because it benefits all kinds of wildlife.  The flowers attract long-tongued bees, the seeds feed birds in the winter months, and the foliage is host to many beneficial insects.  Unlike most native wildflowers, Partridge Pea is an annual and it offers a welcome source of color in any newly established planting.   Thriving in sunny spaces, this low-growing plant prefers medium to dry soils.  It blooms from July through September, and complements native wildflowers like Lead Plant, Blazing Stars, and Sky Blue Aster.

Pollinators are critical to human food crops yet our practices result in habitat loss, environmental toxins, and monocultural cropping that compound stressors on them, threatening their survival.  To counter this trend and introduce more pollinator-friendly plants, please consider planting more North American native plants.  Even in small urban pockets, these true wildflowers can provide personal satisfaction and education while helping to counter increasing threats to our native insect populations

The Long View

 

As I turned onto a red dirt road and crossed the narrow WPA-era bridge, a shaded road of washouts and coarse gravel opened into bright oak savanna. Upon entering the Wedel property a diversity of ecosystems greeted me; I immediately loved the place. Oak openings on both sides of the lane, leading to upland savanna on the left and saturated sedge meadow to the right. Beyond that a large shortgrass prairie, which I later found out had spurred the Wedels initial love for prairie.

No more than a minute after meeting, we were talking prairies. Their enthusiasm for native ecology was like caffeine and our conversation bounced between plant communities, birds, insects and natural history; but the primary subject was prairie management. At Prairie Moon we frequently emphasize that establishing a native plant community from seed is a long-term process, requiring 3-5 years. It takes rare dedication to see a long-term restoration project expand and thrive; especially over 30 years.

All members in the Wedel family show an impressive patience in successful prairie restoration while maintaining a strong sense of “land ethic,” both attributes that have grown and evolved with the farm. (Tom) “When we bought [the property], I knew nothing about prairies. Literally nothing. I grew up in Tennessee, and I was a woods person. I figured if somebody gave me 1,000 acres I could fix it with trees. I was going to turn this property into north woods. Then we discovered prairies and now, if it’s not Oak, forget it.”

Starting with Prairie Grasses
The Wedel’s connection to their land originates in 1972, when Tom and Eva purchased the 398-acre former dairy farm. They opted to rent out portions of the land for field-crop production.  In 1986 the tenant stopped farming and a decision was made to put the cropped areas into CRP. Their county agency offered several lists of cover planting options, one being “warm-season grasses.” Tom inquired what these were and the county agent replied, “They’re prairie grasses”.

TomAndyAdam
Tom, Andy and husband Adam, standing in a field of brome that will soon be over-seeded with native species.

Wedel_Savanna

The Wedel Family (L to R): Tom, his wife Eva, Andy and husband Adam,  Davin’s husband David, and Davin. Taken in Tom’s “Retirement Gift,” which was seeded in 2008, after the site was cleared of invasive and weedy underbrush. At the time of photographing (mid-July) the planting showed large stands of Butterfly Weed, Wild Quinine, Hoary Vervain, Pale Purple Coneflower and Prairie Coreopsis.

Unexpected Returns
Along with the list of warm-season grasses, their county agent suggested that “to do it right” they should consider planting forbs (wildflowers) with the grasses. After seeding the initial site with grasses there was $214 left-over. Tom contacted (a young) Prairie Moon Nursery and ordered small amounts of a dozen or so species. This initial planting site (see photo above), has developed into a wonderful plant community. In addition to species introduced as seed, a growing number of plants have appeared that were likely in the soil seed-bank all along.  (Davin) “Since we’ve been managing [the land] a lot of unexpected species have come up. After seeing [those species] we’ve had other remnants pop up that we didn’t know were there.” (Andy) “Most people are going to find that if they have some land that wasn’t completely abused for decades, if they start treating it well, burning it, and seeding in native plant [species], they may see some things coming up that they didn’t expect.”

In the Wedels’ case this rings true. Species unseen on the property, maybe in fifty or more years, have appeared and are recolonizing the landscape. For example, following the clearing of underbrush and two controlled burns, an oak savanna area has yielded two species that were never reported in their county.

Fostering the unexpected return of species once  thought to have been plowed away forever requires a patient approach with realistic expectations. A rare model that the Wedels adopted early in the process. (Eva) “[We thought] maybe we should concentrate on what is here, instead of what we can make be here; and then we can supplement [species] later on.”

Increased biodiversity starts with native plants, and the resurgence of native species brings with it a greater understanding of ecological relationships. It also brings more responsibility to approach land management with open eyes, open ears and patience.

New_Mowed1The woodland in the upper-left has been cleared of invasive woody vegetation and burned while the adjacent wetland flourishes after several years of management and over-seeding.

New_Mowed1Everyone gathers around a young Lupine, the first seen since this savana restoration was started. After removing overgrown woody vegetation and conducting controlled burns, this area was fall planted one year ago and is being mowed through the entire first growing season.
New_Mowed1A new restoration project is started with repeated mowing through multiple seasons. Persistent mowing prevents weedy vegetation from dropping additional seed on the site.
New_Mowed1The Wedel Family (L to R): Eva and husband Tom, Andy’s husband Adam, Andy, Davin’s husband David, and Davin. Taken in the initial 18-acre site which was seeded in 1987.

Hummingbird Haven

The Hummingbirds of Hummingbird Haven

With frequent talk of neonicotinoids in the news, awareness of pollinators like butterflies and bees has grown in recent years. What is known: habitat loss, lack of suitable forage, and pesticide use are the primary causes of pollinator decline. What is seldom noted is that these pressures are not limited to insects. The perils faced by all pollinators continue to escalate but some are getting help.

Hummingbird Haven

For over forty years Lois White of Smithfield Illinois has admired, studied, fed and advocated for the protection of hummingbirds. The Central Illinois farm where Lois and her husband Creel reside has been their home and livelihood for over fifty years. Perched along the Spoon River valley, their property bears more resemblance to a diverse wildlife preserve than to the agricultural model on which it was founded. With prairie and woodland, streams carpeted by stone, and a legacy of sensitive farming practices, the farm, now known as Hummingbird Haven, is a sanctuary devoted to the wild occupants that it benefits.

 

The devotion to one species in particular began several decades ago, when Lois started noticing a few Ruby-throated Hummingbirds near the house. She observed the hummingbirds more closely, putting out feeders and plants to serve as forage. As her knowledge of hummingbird behavior expanded, so did her passion for these tiny but capable birds.

Now, with four decades of experience, Lois White is an outstanding advocate and citizen scientist, and her efforts are utilized by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which conducts hummingbird-banding sessions three times per year (May, July and August) on the property. Hummingbird Haven is also open to the public, at no charge. During my visit, a couple from the Chicago area arrived unannounced, having driven almost four hours, to relax and observe hummingbirds in the comfortable shade of Lois White’s front yard. Thirty minutes later her phone rang. The coordinator of a master gardening program was calling to arrange a field trip for a group of participants. “We’ve had bus loads of people arrive,” said Lois. In 2014 more than 2300 visitors traveled to rural Fulton County to visit Hummingbird Haven.

Hummingbird Ecology

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) sustains on nectar and small insects. Nesting within deciduous woodlands of the eastern United States and Canada, it is the only breeding hummingbird species native to the eastern United States. Every year Ruby-throated Hummingbirds migrate north from Central America to mate, often undertaking a direct flight over the Gulf of Mexico, quite a feat for a bird weighing less than 0.2 ounces. After reaching their breeding ground, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds will mate one or two times per season, with females occasionally building new nests while their first fledglings are still dependent. According to Lois, she has observed 3-4 fledglings per female in a single season, due in great part to the ample food, protection, and nesting supplies provided at Hummingbird Haven. Unaided, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds usually fledge 1-2 young per season and have been known to live up to nine years. A recent banding session at Hummingbird Haven captured an adult that had been banded seven years earlier. “They’ll keep coming back, year after year,” Lois said.

Feeding Hummingbirds

While eating lunch at a local cafe, Lois pointed out a collection of hummingbird feeders that were hanging around the building’s windows. Some of the feeders were quite ornate, of which Lois said, “That feeder is for the people, not for the birds.” Indeed the feeder, forged in the shape of a fish, was quite ornate but contained many difficult-to-clean glass folds, and lacked a suitable perch. “Young [hummingbirds] can expend as much energy hovering for food as they consume from the food source itself,”  she said.

Feeders take up quite a bit of Lois White’s time. With over fifty feeders strategically placed around the property, a substantial effort is made to clean and re-supply them regularly. Bulk amounts of cane sugar, which is boiled into simple syrup “nectar,” must be replaced every 3-4 days to prevent fermentation. Fermentation and contaminated feeder reservoirs are detrimental to a hummingbirds’ health. Just as harmful are the red dyes added to commercially mixed hummingbird feed. “These feeders are designed to attract [humming]birds without the added red of food coloring” which, according to Lois, causes irreversible kidney damage. “We need to get the word out, and tell people that this red colored feed is killing our [humming]birds.”

From Feeders to Forbs

Several years ago Lois’ granddaughter Emma began learning the importance and significance of native plant communities through her undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois Springfield. With encouragement from her professor of Conservation Biology, Emma started planning a native pollinator garden at Hummingbird Haven. The initial garden was staked out and arranged two years ago, and included a Mix & Match Potted Tray from Prairie Moon Nursery. “The flowers [plants] we received were absolutely beautiful and strong enough with minimal care after planting” Emma said. “We have been very happy with the plants that were sent to us.”

After a few plants began to flower, Emma and Lois noticed that the hummingbirds were singling out the native flowers, favoring them over the non-native species. In the second year, they decided to expand the pollinator garden with another Mix & Match Potted Tray and seed packets of twenty-five species.

Now a first year graduate student with a focus in pollinator and plant interactions, Emma is pushing ahead with the research that she started two years ago at Hummingbird Haven. This spring, in the pollinator garden’s third year, Emma and Lois plan to expand the garden perimeter with native forbs (wildflowers) and grasses, utilizing their third Mix & Match Potted Tray. “It’s amazing how the hummingbirds fly right to the natives,” Lois marveled. “We’re getting so many people that want to see the native garden, even though it’s only in its second year. People want to see our native plants.”

Visitors are welcome during the summer breeding season but are encouraged to call ahead of time. Visitors are also encouraged to attend one of the seasonal hummingbird-banding days. There is no cost to attend, but for a $5 donation to the Lincoln Land Birdbanders Association, you can “adopt” a hummingbird.

Lois White, Hummingbird Haven
16411 N Co Hwy 2, Smithfield, IL 61477
(309) 783-4375
___________________________________

When referring to “pollinators,” most people think of the charismatic species: butterflies, such as the Monarch, or bees, such as the introduced European Honeybee. In reality tens of thousands of species provide the essential reproductive role of pollination. Beyond the 12,000+ North American Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) species, or 4000+ North American species of native bees, beetles, flies, bats, and birds, like hummingbirds, play an essential role in the reproductive cycle of plants.

A Deeper Shade of Green…

Keeping it Real

Understanding the difference between “wildflowers” and authentic native plants

Most people correctly understand “wildflowers” to be those that grow freely, without human intervention. However, the poor quality of the “wildflower” seed mixes now being offered in big-box stores and some garden catalogs prompts us to warn, don’t plant wildflowers!

Most of the “wildflower” mixes created to meet popular demand are, in fact, not good for wildlife or the environment.  Most contain Asian or European flowers which crowd out plants that are truly native to North America.  This degrades the environment and displaces the native sources of food and shelter upon which birds, butterflies and other wildlife depend.  Flowers to avoid include Oxeye Daisy, Dame’s Rocket, Bouncing Bet and Queen Ann’s Lace, to name a few.  Better choices are authentic native wildflowers, grasses and trees.

For more than 30 years, we have been selling exclusively North American native plants; native plants that are undeniably what our native butterflies, birds and all pollinators need to survive.  Reach out to us to learn more about the importance of true North American natives; we’re here to help!

Please, plant native wildflowers – As your native garden flourishes, providing much-needed food and habitat and beautiful blossoms, you can observe first-hand the critical link between native plants and native wildlife.

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