Serendipity Gardens |

Planting a Native Plant Garden

October 7, 2015 by Jo Ellen Roe
New Native Garden (2)

My new native garden looks a bit bare at present, but it includes 19 bee-and-butterfly-pleasing plants.

Today, I helped create my first totally native plant garden. I and the person who helps me in the garden planted 17 new natives to accompany the two that were already there. (This same bed formerly held overgrown day lilies that I had grown thoroughly tired of. Therefore, the crescent-shaped bed itself was already made.)

In its new iteration, the bed is in its infancy and is therefore not beautiful. But I am confident that it will be in a year or two.

Design Considerations

As we designed the garden, we aimed to complement the two existing plants, a button bush and a thimble weed, both planted last year, both doing well. We put the tallest plants — wild monarda, or bee balm (3), and penstemon (2) — in the middle. Around the edges, we planted Virginia Mountain mint (3), prairie dropseed grass (3), nodding wild onion (2), coreopsis (2), and golden alexander (1). At the end of the garden, where it extends out further, we planted an aster. We purchased all these plants (plus a few more) last weekend at the annual Native Plant Sale at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. We bought the original two there at last year’s sale.

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Seven Reasons to Plant an Oak Tree

September 28, 2015 by Jo Ellen Roe
Red oak

My baby oak tree, in the fall.

The Value of Planting a Tree

When my grandparents married and moved into the home they lived in when I knew them, they planted an oak tree. Many years later, I played under the majestic spreading branches of that very tree, which shaded a good portion of their back yard and sported a swing that I loved. I suspect that this childhood experience was the beginning of my love of trees.

My own oak tree, planted from an Arbor Foundation seedling about four years ago, is growing well. It’s a red oak, and true to its name, the leaves are a beautiful rusty red in the fall. Although it will be years before it’s tall enough stand beneath or attach a swing to, I am enjoying watching it grow.

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5 Citizen Science Projects for Kids and Grownups

September 21, 2015 by Jo Ellen Roe
Monarch Mirror Image

This image of a tagged monarch butterfly was taken from the web and made into a mirror image.

The monarchs have started their long journey south, to their winter homes in Mexico.

Many birds have already begun their southward flights, too — an annual event many of us notice when our backyards become noticeably quieter.

By becoming citizen scientists, observers of these migrations and other phenomena of nature can help scientists learn what is happening to butterflies, birds and many other creatures.

What is Citizen Science?

According to the Scientific American, Citizen Science is a way non-specialists can join teams of scientists in research. adds, “Science is our most reliable system of gaining new knowledge, and citizen science is the public involvement in inquiry and discovery of new scientific knowledge. A citizen science project can involve one person or millions of people collaborating towards a common goal. Typically, public involvement is in data collection, analysis, or reporting.”

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A-B-Cs for a Great Garden!

September 11, 2015 by Jo Ellen Roe

Sometimes, you might wonder what you can do to make your garden even better than it already is. Here is an A-B-C list to give you food for thought. Many of these suggestions will help attract wildlife to your garden, but some of them are just for your enjoyment as well — and some are just plants that I happen to like, some native, some not.

Many more items for each letter are available. I started to do at least two per letter here, then decided the post was getting too long. Perhaps I will do another A-B-C before long.

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4 Ways to Create Habitat for Native Bees

August 25, 2015 by Jo Ellen Roe
Swamp milkweed

A bee enjoys the nectar of a swamp milkweed — good for butterflies, too!

Listening to an episode of The Environment Report on NPR recently, I was surprised to hear these words:

“Scientists are looking to see if other bees can fill in the gaps left by honey bees.”

This idea made me laugh, if somewhat ruefully. The speaker seemed to be implying that the bees were just hanging around, waiting for humans to discover them, rather than simply going about the business of feeding themselves, as all bees and other pollinators do.

The story went on to explain that nearly 20,000 species of bees already do a great deal of pollinating. Most do not live in social hives, however, like honey bees. Rather, many of them are solitary. They nest in the ground or in hollow reeds, or even in a modern “bee hotel.”

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