This past week’s warmer weather has been an exhilarating blast of spring when contrasted with the icy, extreme cold just one week earlier. The warmup has spurred many of us to get back out in the garden to start getting ready for spring. While our landscape beds and gardens will be places of burgeoning spring beauty as plant life begins its annual revival in the coming weeks, they are also ecological hotspots of awakening spring life in the insect world.
Fall is an excellent time to add new trees or shrubs to the landscape and many of us have already taken advantage of mild weather and sunny days to get new plants in the ground. With the lion’s share of work complete after digging, planting and mulching are finished, we often overlook some of the final steps to prepare new woody plants for winter.
For many gardeners, an entire season of continuously blooming plants is a primary goal. Not only do these fantastic flowers deliver ornate beauty throughout the year, but they are also greatly beneficial to pollinators by providing a continuous food source of pollen and nectar. Since many plants have a limited flower display, sometimes only spanning a few weeks, it is often difficult to find the right arrangement of plants for an entire growing season of continuous blooms.
In recent decades, insect populations around the globe have been declining dramatically. A 2019 study assessed global insect populations and determined that 40% of all insect species are in decline and some may reach extinction in coming decades if populations are not stabilized. Among the causes for these sharp declines, all were human induced, with habitat conversion to human uses topping the list followed by use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, human spread of pathogens and invasive species, and climate change.
A properly planted and well located tree can last longer than a human lifetime, so tree selection is an important decision.
Warming spring weather is often enough motivation to get many of us out looking for the first blooms of the growing season. In my home garden, snow crocus (Crocus sieberi) is about the only plant that has started to show life over recent days, reaching full bloom sometime earlier this week. If your garden is still as bare as mine, our local natural areas are a wonderful place to observe native spring wildflowers and some early performers are already beginning the show for 2020.
Bird migration is perhaps one of nature’s greatest feats, easily observed each spring as waves of species arrive from warmer climates each week. I always enjoy watching the spring progression, observing our bird feeders and the woodlands and natural areas around our house for the first signs of each particular bird’s arrival.
The cold of winter is absent in the Danville Area Community College (DACC) greenhouses right now, making them a wonderful oasis of green plants and horticulture in action. The 6,125 square foot facility, located in the heart of the Danville College’s campus is operated by various students and instructors in the Horticulture Program. It not only serves as a lush collection of beautiful tropical plants, but also houses a number of ongoing experiments related to coursework or specific projects developed by the DACC horticulture staff.
Last Tuesday marked the 210th birthday of the famous botanist and naturalist, Charles Darwin, who is most well-known for his groundbreaking work on the science of evolution. In 1859, Darwin published his most noteworthy book, titled “On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life” which was a foundational work that defined our current understanding of evolutionary biology. In this book, Darwin describes how all species on earth have descended from common ancestors over time, which has become a foundational concept in scie
Autumn is not only a time of brilliant fall colors, but also a time to observe the annual bird migration that spans our continent. Many of our feathered friends travel amazingly great distances to reach warmer climates with abundant food for winter. This lengthy journey spans thousands of miles, requiring birds to expend a ton of energy in the effort. As our avian counterparts make their annual retreat to warmer climates, it is critical that they build up fat stores prior to embarking on their trip and maintain this energy reserve by finding more food along the way.
If you are like me and your lizard brain apparently controls more of your actions than it should, then you can relate to a primal need to provide habitat for our reptilian friends.
Urban and developed landscapes can often be difficult places for reptile and amphibian populations to flourish although our cold-blooded friends do provide many desirable services: pest control, increasing biodiversity and providing opportunities for recreational observation of wildlife.