A Scent of Spring Awaits

by Jeff Lapp

Sarracenia flava

Preparations are almost complete for the 2017 Philadelphia Flower Show, March 11-19!

Whether the show team at EPA is ready or not, the time for set-up is once again upon us.  The official day to begin construction of our display is March 6, however, plants have been forced for weeks and the show design and construction is nearing the end.

The theme for this year’s show is Holland and celebrating the multitude of contributions which that country has given to the horticultural industry.  EPA’s display, “America: Land of Flowers” will focus on the wonderful palette of native flora which thrive right here in our own backyards.  Many of these were exported abroad and returned to us with bigger and brighter flowers, but underneath they are still ancestors of the region’s rich diversity of native plants.

The weather in the past week or so has whetted our appetites for spring.  The Philadelphia Flower Show will cure our need for flowers and the scent of a season quickly knocking on our door step.

If you are in the area, please stop by the EPA display at the show and share in our celebration of native species, the unique habitats they create, the water savings and runoff protection they provide, and the important ecological role they fill.

 

About the author: Jeff Lapp is a Wetlands Scientist who has been working in the Mid-Atlantic region since 1989 and has been designing and forcing for the show since 1991.  He is an avid botanist and grows many native plants, specializing in our native pitcher plants, at his home in Bucks County.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

An Early Spring in Philadelphia

by Jeff Lapp

These native pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea) will be in bloom just in time for EPA's Flower Show exhibit.

These native pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea) will be in bloom just in time for EPA’s Flower Show exhibit.

Just a few weeks ago, as I stepped out into the crisp air – 4 degrees Fahrenheit, to be exact – I was well aware that spring had yet to come to Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  Crunching through several inches of snow, I made my way to the greenhouse which harbored signs of a season yet to emerge.  I opened the door and was greeted by phlox, azaleas, pitcher plants and ferns; the scene looked more like May than the bitter February day outside.

Staff from EPA’s Mid-Atlantic office are in the final stages of constructing scenery, forcing plants, and designing posters for EPA’s display at the 2016 Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Flower Show.

In our 26th year of participating in this event, EPA’s display “Preservation and Protection: Saving America’s Natural Heritage” supports the theme of this year’s show: the 100-year anniversary of the National Park Service. Our National Parks play an important role in habitat and resource protection.  Increasing awareness of the significance of wetlands is an important part of EPA’s mission; EPA’s Flower Show display highlights the role of wetlands and headwater streams in maintaining watershed health and the diverse native plant palette contained within these ecotones.

Carex lacustris is a sedge native to the mid-Atlantic that can be used as an alternative to many of the invasive asiatic species used in landscaping

Carex lacustris is a sedge native to the mid-Atlantic that can be used as an alternative to many of the invasive asiatic species used in landscaping

If you plan to visit the Flower Show, be sure to visit EPA’s display and celebrate the wonder and awe of our National Parks. And you just may get an early taste of spring in the process.

 

About the author: Jeff Lapp is a Wetlands Scientist who has been working at the Region since 1989 and has been designing and forcing for the show since 1991.  He is an avid botanist and grows many native plants, specializing in our native pitcher plants, at his home in Bucks County.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Celebrating National Pollinator Week: Choose Native Plants

By Gayle Hubert

I discovered a few years ago that I’m a sixth generation resident of Platte County, Mo. I was living in a house unknowingly within five miles of where my third and second great-grandfathers are buried. It’s funny how we end up going back to our roots. My family’s roots grow best on our native land. So it is with my native plants.

As I was digging one day in my yard in Parkville, I marveled at the plant I was putting into the ground, back into the native Missouri soil it loves so well. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than putting these plants back home where they belong. My plants get their strength from the tan clays of the Midwest.

National Pollinator Week is June 15-21, and I felt compelled to write about one of my greatest passions: native plants. This week was designated to build awareness of the declining pollinator populations in the hope that we’ll begin to choose native plants for our landscapes, as one of many things we can do to help pollinators.

Why pollinators are important

Clockwise from lower right: Indian Pink, Wild Hairy Petunia, Caterpillar, American Beautyberry, Tiger Swallowtail on Purple Coneflower (center)

Clockwise from lower right: Indian Pink, Wild Hairy Petunia, Caterpillar, American Beautyberry, Tiger Swallowtail on Purple Coneflower (center)

Our choice of plants is even more important considering the connection they have to pollinators and to our food supply. Pollinators are responsible for one third of the food we eat, and for pollinating the plants that supply us with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients like antioxidants found in tea, fruit, and vegetables. Pollinators are also responsible for the meat and dairy we eat, because those animals eat the alfalfa, clover, and other plants pollinated by bees and other pollinators.

Many pollinator populations are declining, and one reason is that the number and variety of native plants they evolved with are declining too. Pollinators grow up with native plants, use them for food and shelter, and they often prefer only natives. Some non-native varieties are less hardy and have been genetically altered so much that bees and other pollinators can’t find the pollen because they no longer recognize the structure.

Not only do native plants provide nutrients and homes to pollinators, they also help the environment by thriving without adding expensive fertilizers, chemicals, or sprinkler systems. I believe they are some of the hardiest living things on earth.

The advantages of going native

Gayle’s first native garden in its third year, with her son Nate

Gayle’s first native garden in its third year, with her son Nate

I’ve witnessed their amazing powers to return to full bloom after being mowed down by mistake, eaten by deer and rabbits, and dug up by dogs. They’ve withstood drought, killing frosts, subzero cold, and scorching heat. They wait patiently until floodwaters disappear and stand tall downstream of a raging current. They can be trampled, transplanted, pummeled by hail and still thrive in some of the driest, hardest, and most compact soils on this planet – the clay soil of the Heartland. Their strength is in their roots.

I started gardening with natives at our first home in a corner of the backyard that I had no idea what to do with. The plot sat for a couple of years until I attended an event at a local nursery, where I bought my first native flower seed that began my garden. I was hooked on natives from that day on.

Gayle’s current native garden

Gayle’s current native garden

I was in awe of every bloom because I’d never seen these plants before. Each one had its own unique character and beauty. And then, to my astonishment, came dozens of butterflies, along with hummingbirds, Goldfinches, Cedar Waxwings, Indigo Buntings, and many more winged visitors. Native plants will lure critters you never knew existed.

Ten years later, we moved to a new home that was a challenge because of the strict covenants and neighbors’ preferences to manicured green lawns. However, I wanted to share my knowledge and designed my native flower beds in areas where the grass doesn’t grow. I even incorporated non-natives into the scheme.

It’s been 12 years since I installed that garden. To my amazement, I still get plenty of compliments about my native garden from passers-by. I‘m constantly adding and moving things around, but isn’t that what gardening is all about?

Create your own natural, native garden

I encourage you to incorporate a few native plant species into your own landscape. You can delight in the same wonderful blooms, joy, and diversity these plants have given me, and at the same time, give the pollinators the plants they grew up with. And if you don’t own land, you can still grow them in pots and give them to friends and family to place in their landscapes.

There are many native plant varieties that substitute nicely for the familiar non-natives we see every day, and will offer more value to you and the ecosystem. For example, Serviceberry or Dogwoods will swap for the Bradford Pears, and besides spring blooms, they display additional fall color and are less susceptible to ice damage. Golden Currant can replace your Forsythia, with thousands of yellow blooms and a wonderful clove fragrance! Not only that, it blooms in March when little else does.

Tuck a few new native plants here and there among existing non-natives, like I’ve done. You can use prepared garden designs or design your own hummingbird garden, Monarch waystation, or pollinator garden. Have fun with it!

Choose a native plant as a substitute for a non-native. They’re good for pollinators, the environment, and your wallet!

Helpful links:

About the Author: Gayle Hubert serves as an Environmental Scientist with EPA Region 7’s Air and Waste Management Division. She is currently assigned to the Waste Enforcement and Materials Management Program. Gayle received her bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Missouri.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.