Pipeline Pollinator Paradise, August 8, 2017.
The Pipeline Trail native plant garden, now in its third season, is in full “yellow daisy” display. It’s turned into a beautiful, lush, and remarkably garden-like feature on the west end of the trail. Here’s what we’ve learned about planting and maintaining a large garden, with volunteer labour, on public land, on terrible hard-packed clay.
- Mulch mulch and more mulch. Plain old woodchips, at least three inches, will turn the clay into something plants can grow in. We are seeing worms, soil-dwelling insects and micro-fauna, and the beginnings of hyphae networks. Life is emerging, starting with the soil
- weeding is very important. We stayed on top of the weeds for the first two summers. Now we can be less vigilant–soil disturbance is low so buried seeds don’t germinate.
Heliopsis helianthoides / Smooth Oxeye Daisy with ripening berries from Sambucus canadensis / Elderberry shrub
- Deadhead. Yes we want the birds to enjoy the seeds but we also have to consider that allowing volunteer seedlings creates a huge amount of work for us. The Coreopsis tripteris, wild geranium, and asters have been the most pesky. These plants need special attention
- Be prepared to treat the space like a “real” garden. Plants will flop over (especially this year with all the rain and rampant growth) so staking and tying is necessary. Move and spread things so the garden looks good from several angles. Make sure species receive the sun they need. Add and rearrange plants so that something is in bloom in every area, all the time.
Monarda, Heliopsis, Pycnanthemum, Rosa virginiana
- People are pigs. Yes, they throw pop bottles, cigarette butts, and all manner of garbage into the garden. We found a tray of cat litter. Also, some donations: hostas and morning glories. Be prepared for the work and always bring trash bags to a weeding session.
- The wild strawberries (Fragaria virginica) do not play nice. They are easily the most aggressive plant in the garden and they should be given their own space. They completely overran the Carex they were planted with, requiring a rescue mission for the sedge.
- Take photos and teach volunteers how to distinguish seedlings from weeds.
Pipeline Pollinator Garden, from west, Aug. 8, 2017
- Keep an eye out for species that are struggling. We lost the Pearly Everlastings in the first winter and have not managed to re-establish them. The Liatris cylindracea never got established at all. We lost some native grasses, too.
- Note which species are doing better than expected. The Penstemon hirsutus is thriving so we introduced Penstemon digitalis.
- Fill in the bare areas or nature will do it for you.