[Wren Song] 102-Extreme Weather

Catbird cooling down in my wildlife garden

Catbird cooling down in my wildlife garden

Welcome to Wren Song

Volume 102

Wow, this weather is so wacky this year! Here in Philadelphia, we set a new record for the wettest June ever, with a total of 10.55 inches of rain. The days are very hot and humid, and we had an afternoon or evening thunderstorm almost every day last month.

I feel kind of guilty about the abundance of rain we’ve been getting because 10 inches is more than my friends in the high desert of Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico get in an entire year, and we got more than that in one single month.

Meantime, it’s 128 degrees in Death Valley right now, and much of the southwest is suffering under this extreme heat, with not a drop of rain in sight. Fires are raging out of control, and my heart goes out to the families of the 19 firefighters who lost their lives last week near Prescott, Arizona (where I attended graduate school).

These extremes of weather–whether too much rain, or not enough, too hot, etc. put an incredible stress on wildlife, as well as our wildlife gardens, making it very important to make sure to put the right plants in the right place in your garden.

We have an excellent resource for helping you choose the best plants for the conditions in your wildlife garden. We’re thrilled to announce the first course in our new Wildlife Garden Academy: Ecosystem Gardening For Wildlife, a 4 week online video workshop series that starts July 10, 2013. Enrollment is still open. Click here for more details

Good News From the Team

Catherine Zimmerman (videographer):  “I am shooting a documentary in Poland, Ukraine and South Africa starting July 18th. This is an exciting opportunity and I can’t wait to share the story with you. We will have a trailer cut once we get back from the main leg of the trip to Europe.”

Ben Vogt: “My wife and I will have educational booths at three farmer’s markets in August and Sept, showing off butterflies and caterpillars, native plants, etc, with something crafty for kids. Also am trying to create a fall garden tour in Lincoln for 9/21, showing that things DO INDEED bloom in fall, especially natives.”

Susan J. Tweit, spokesperson/chief project manager for the Be A Habitat Hero: “We’re a pilot project of Audubon Rockies, aimed at teaching gardeners and birders how to restore habitat for birds and pollinators at home. High Country Gardens, a major supplier of native and regionally-adapted plants in the West, has begun promoting us. They’ve signed on as a partner for the project unofficially, and will announce their partnership when their fall catalog rolls out in October”

What’s New in the Wildlife Garden?

Great Spangled Fritillary and Spicebush swallowtail on Asclepias tuberosa. Fritillary caterpillars need violet species, S. swallowtail caterpillars need a spicebush, Lindera benzoin.Learning from Leaves

It’s elementary, my dear Watson: start with the leaf. The leaf, little factory of light and life, makes a good introduction when trying to explain to the uninitiated the intrinsic value of native plants. Simple explanations are usually the most powerful. Leaves are essential food for people and animals, directly or indirectly, and even young children soon learn that we can’t eat just any leaf. Same for animals. The fact that Monarch caterpillars can eat only milkweed leaves is now known by many people who aren’t ordinarily attuned to the needs of wildlife outside of zoos… ~Suzanne Dingwell

E Tiger SwallowtailAnnouncing the Wildlife Garden Academy

Did you know that I, and many of our team members at Beautiful Wildlife Garden and also our team members at Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens frequently travel around the country giving workshops and speaking to various conferences and organizations about topics relating to native plants, wildlife gardening, attracting native pollinators, creating wildflower meadows, birdscaping your garden, and much more? During our travels, many of you have remarked that you wished you were close enough to come hear us speak and attend these workshops, but due to distance or available time you weren’t able to come meet us. Well, I’m so thrilled to announce that we’ve been listening to you!

Ocean SprayCreamy Bright, Roadside Delight

I’ve been on the road since the summer solstice, traveling through much of western Washington and Oregon to teach photography and to photograph gardens. One of my near-constant roadside companions up and down the I-5 corridor has been ocean spray, Holodiscus discolor. This medium-sized spreading shrub is in full bloom in a wide range of of habitats. It’s a tough shrub, well adapted to the garden as well as the wilds of the northwest. Back home in Bellingham the graceful sprays of its blossoms brighten many front yards along the route I take between my home and my studio. It tops out at about 10 feet tall, but is sometimes shorter…. ~Mark Turner

Solidago canadensisAll-American Perennial Winners for Wildlife

In celebration of Independence Day, I present the all-American perennial winners for wildlife*.  It is amazing how many wonderful and beautiful native perennials we have. Just ask people in other countries – they love our plants and new cultivars are being bred overseas all the time. Our plants are so great, I often wonder why people feel the need to use non-natives! Enough about beauty – that is not the only point of this post. These plants are not just beautiful, they are beneficial. That’s right, while you’re oohing and aahing over their pretty petals, the wildlife around you is eying your plants and their leaves like a hungry man at a buffet… ~Ellen Honeycutt

Eastern Box Turtle at Native Return®Eastern Box Turtles

In the past month, I’ve spotted three lovely ladies, on four separate occasions, here at Native Return. Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina) are a species of conservation concern in Pennsylvania. They appear only rarely in developed areas, preferring deciduous or mixed forested regions, with a moderately moist forest floor and good drainage. These are slow crawling land turtles, and their numbers have been devastated by cars, illegal pet collection, and agricultural equipment. Lawn mowers regularly maim and kill them… ~Christina Kobland

Day two they began to spread out someSaid the Spider to the Owlfly

Back in September 2012 I wrote a piece on the beneficial Owlfly, a relative of the antlion and lacewing bugs.  Owlflies, in both their larval and adult stages, prey on other invertebrates keeping various pests in check. At the time I remarked that since I learned about their lifecycle during my research for the article, I was going to be on the lookout for their eggs on my native grasses so I could see it first hand. As luck would have it, I finally found some eggs.  Amazingly…since they are about the size of a pinhead.  Two tiny inch long rows of eggs were waving in the breeze on the dead stalk of some rush grass… ~Loret T. Setters

Ferns create a soft edge between a wooded area and a lawn.Ferns in the Wildlife Garden

Ferns are Living Fossils Ferns belong to the Pteridophyta Division of the plant kingdom in that they have leaves, roots and stems, but since they spread by spores, ferns do not have flowers, pollen, fruits, or seeds. Ferns descended from ancient plants that covered the earth long before the seed plants (the gymnosperms and angiosperms) made their appearance. And even today with millions of insects and other bugs available in the ecosystems, the ferns carry on their life cycles without any animal involvement…. ~Ginny Stibolt

American goldfinch feeding on a common sunflower.Plant it and they will come….

This interview with the founder of the Habitat Hero project, Connie Holsinger of the Terra Foundation, shows the power of that ”aha!” moment when we see the importance of gardening for wildlife, and how that message can change our lives. In Holsinger’s case, a chickadee was the messenger for the realization that eventually turned Holsinger into a wildlife evangelist. The mission of the Habitat Hero project is simple: Make a positive difference for birds and wildlife right at home where we all live. Share the joy from nurturing wildlife in yards and other everyday landscapes… ~Susan J. Tweit

Polished lady beetleLadybugs, Lady Beetles or Ladybird Beetles. How Good are They?

What is in a name? Most call it a ladybug; others, ladybird or ladybird beetle or just lady beetle. Is one name more appropriate than others? Is there just one kind, or many kinds of this insect? Now that we settled this, we can move on. If you are thinking of just one generic lady beetle, think again. The 500 species of lady beetles in North America vary in size from a pinhead to almost half an inch. They are not all red with black dots; some are entirely black or mostly red or have a pattern of black and ochre or black and yellow… ~Beatriz Moisset

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