The garden is alive with a variety of flowers blooming right now! Unfortunately amongst all of the prairie foliage there will always be a few weeds that work their way in. The brome grass has been a particular nuisance this past summer, and proves very difficult to eliminate. Brome grass is an invasive species that came over to North America from Europe in the 1800′s, and it was originally meant to be grown as forage for livestock. It reproduces mainly by sending out underground stems called rhizomes, and because of this it can be quite difficult to get rid of. You have to pull up a large quantity of the roots and rhizomes if you want to make a significant impact on it.
We are currently in the process of trying to “reclaim” the garden from the invasive brome grass. With the help of volunteers in July, we were able to get rid of some of the grass, and it continues to receive care on a day by day basis throughout the summer. Because of donations from Chet Neufeld of the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan, and Janet McVittie contributing additional plants, native plant species have been able to replace bare patches where the brome grass has been removed.
The last volunteer weeding day of the summer was this past Sunday, and with the help of our volunteers we were able to cut back the rose bushes that were becoming quite overgrown as well as take on more of the invasive grass. The Prairie Habitat Garden is appreciative of everyone who has donated their time to help out with the maintenance of the garden this summer. Your contributions help to keep the garden healthy and beautiful. Sources: Invasive Plants of Natural Habitats in Canada, http://www.grandriver.ca/forestry/invasives.pdf
Can you spot the spider in this photo? It’s nearly the same colour as the flower that it is perching on. The species of spider that is pictured here is called a crab spider (Also known by the family name Thomisidae). They’re a bit different than their typical web spinning counterparts because instead of building a web, crab spiders hide on or within flowers and wait to ambush the unsuspecting insects who visit for a bit of nectar or pollen. They are very patient hunters and can wait in position on the same flower for days.
Most of the crab spiders that I’ve come across in the garden seem to favour the dandelion and bergamot flowers where they can hide in among all of the petals, but this one seems to be confident that he’s hidden on the outside of the flower. Crab spiders rely quite a bit on camouflage and pick ambush spots where they can be easily hidden.
The garden has enjoyed a bustle of activity throughout May and June! In May it hosted events for the second annual Nature City Festival, with the first event being a presentation on burrowing owls and a special visit from one of the Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre’s very own owls! For the second event that the garden hosted, students had the opportunity to learn all about bees. Dr. Cory Scheffield taught students about Saskatchewan’s native bee species, and then students later got to work on building bee houses that could house various species of solitary bees. The final event held at the garden for Nature City Festival was a very special creation of an Earth turtle with elder Joseph Naytowhow. Joseph shared his knowledge with students on Turtle Island and the Earth turtle, and then together they constructed the Earth turtle for the garden. Students shaped the soil, brought their own rocks to contribute, and after the completion of it they spent time creating music, stories, and haikus inspired by the garden and the turtle. We are very thankful to all of the presenters who came out to make these events a wonderful success!
Throughout June we had visits from Brunskill School’s kindergarten and grade one classes. The students came out and learned about the variety of plants that make their home in the Prairie Habitat Garden, did a scavenger hunt, and even helped to pick a few of the invasive plants out. As Summer kids’ camps start up, the garden looks forward to more visits in July and August!
The first Sunday of July was also the garden’s first weeding event of the summer. Volunteers came out to learn about native plants, pulls some weeds, and enjoy some tea sweetened with dandelion syrup made from dandelions harvested in the garden. It was a gorgeous day, and the Prairie Habitat Garden would like to thank everyone who came out and helped to keep it a beautiful place to visit!
As my time in the Prairie Habitat Garden ends, I think it’s fitting that my last post be a group of some of my favorite photos taken in the garden this summer. So until my replacement is hired next May, you will have to visit the garden in person to see the changes and encounter the people who come here to learn. Farewell and enjoy.
Pictured here is a group of Blue Grama seed heads. They are almost perpendicular to the stem of the plant and have a beautiful colour to them. They almost seem iridescent.
Blue Grama Grass is grown in a wide area on the western side of the North American continent. It can be found from New Mexico to Saskatoon and all the places in between. It’s on the Endangered Species list in Illinois, but is a very hardy plant that withstands drought well. Its tolerance to drought makes it an important species for preventing erosion, because its roots hold down soil and prevent it from blowing. Even though it’s a tough plant with respect to drought, once plowed under, grama grass can take up to 50 years to reestablish itself. With the number of unbroken acres declining in North America, this plant it becoming increasingly difficult to find in the wild.
Here in the Prairie Habitat Garden, we are certainly blessed to have so many bees visiting our garden on a daily basis. In effort to make our garden even more bee friendly, we have installed a nest for bees to lay their eggs. As you can see from the photo above, the nest contains holes of various sizes. It’s our hope that bees will use the tubes to lay their eggs and provide the garden with an ongoing supply of bees. The bee nest is attached to a re-purposed cedar planter that can hold a few bee nests, should they prove effect for attracting bees. The type of bees that are drawn to this type of nest are non-aggressive bees that are also not territorial, so it is perfectly safe for them to inhabit the same space we do.