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.
Today the garden was invaded by bug hunters from an Eco-Camp on the U of S campus. They have spent the last week learning about insects in a variety of habitats and today was their last day at camp; so they were very knowledgeable about what they were looking for and where to look for it. Some of the insects caught included white cabbage moths, beetles, ants and a few mystery bugs that we couldn’t identify.
This beautiful bloom showed up in the Prairie Habitat Garden about a week ago and ever since then, I’ve been trying to figure out what it is. My 8 year old super assistant (my son), helped me search books and online for this mysterious beauty. We used search terms like “red”, “dark pink”, “flower”, “Saskatchewan” and didn’t turn up anything that resembled it. We ended up emailing this photo to Janet McVittie who is a faculty member connected to the Prairie Habitat Garden and she suggested it might be Milkweed. Sure enough, it is Swamp Milkweed.
A bit of research about this flower quickly taught us that it has a strong connection to Monarch Butterflies. Apparently, this plant and flower is a favourite food of the black and white striped caterpillar that becomes a Monarch and it also lays it’s eggs in the bloom. Although we didn’t see any caterpillers or butterflies this year, hopefully our Swamp Milkweed reseeds itself and becomes a favourite location for Monarch Butterflies in the future.
The Prairie Habitat Garden would like to sincerely thank two local sponsors for their donations. The Preston Crossing location of both Canadian Tire and Walmart were extremely generous to us this summer and we (and the children who spend time in the garden) sincerly appreciate their kindness. Thank you so much!