Thursday, May 18, 2017
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Backyard practices can save wildlife By Ray Mueller During the past 40 years, the world’s wildlife population has been reduced by about 50 percent. About one of five or 1,300 of the world’s animal and plant species face potential extinction within a few years or decades. John Mariani said he believes that one place to start reversing that trend is on residential and commercial property lawns and landscaped sites. He points out that 40 million acres—a land space about equal to that of Wisconsin—in the U.S. are covered with nothing more than grass that is mowed several times a year and that another 70 million acres are landscaped sites. For the sake of supporting numerous wildlife species, Mariana would like to see 30 percent of those 40 million lawn acres converted, depending on the site, to native species of trees, shrubs, flowers, forbs, ferns, sedges, vines, and ground cover plants. What is typically viewed as “picturesque” today does not provide any ecological benefits, Mariani emphasizes. “Human life depends on a functioning ecosystem” for food, water, plant pollination and photosynthesis, the growth of timber, creation of soil, prevention of disease, and decomposition of wastes, he points out. Gardening for life “Garden as if life depends on it,” Mariani exhorted attendees at the 21st annual conference sponsored by the Fox Valley chapter of Wild Ones. He is a landscape architect who lives in the township of Lyons in Walworth County after leaving his family’s nursery and landscaping business in northeast Illinois. “There is no wildlife without plants,” Mariani said. But those plants need to be those which are native to the area where hundreds of wildlife species are trying to survive—not exotics or those introduced from other countries and which in effect become invasive species, he stressed. Despite his efforts to change the practice, Mariani acknowledged that his family’s business was among the many that sold the plant species which “displace and destroy” the native species. Among them, he identified burning bush, honeysuckle, English ivy, European cranberry bush, creeping jenny, Japanese barberry, Norway maple, and European or black alder. He also mentioned starlings, which were introduced from Europe in the 1800s and quickly spread across country with a knack for spreading seeds from several of the invasive species. Mariani said he realizes that what he advocates is opposed by an imbedded social and cultural mindset that is often enforced by local units of government.
Spring was in the air recently as this male Northern Cardinal was singing his mating song in hopes of attracting his mate for the year. Paul Mueller photo
There is a lack of understanding of ecological value when a mowed lawn, trimmed shrubs, and tended flower beds are viewed as the ideal, he remarked. In 2008, Mariani had a direct encounter with that mindset in the town of Lyons. As a result of the portion of the 60 acres that he purchased in 2003 and on which he established a flower and grass prairie, Mariani received a citation from the town’s weed commissioner, ordering him to cut that vegetation in five days— an action he countered by offering to become the weed commissioner. What has happened over several generations is the evolving of a mindset which considers the appearance of a lawn as “a reflection of ourselves,” Mariani observed. The common view is that this is a combination of “neighborliness, hard work, and pride,” he said. Another approach Anything else is viewed as “messy” or not being neat or orderly, Mariani noted. But, with the proper design, it is not difficult to meet the neat and orderly standard with an array of native plants, he emphasized. “Wildlife needs them desperately,” he added. What is needed to change the existing mindset is to “create drama by getting people excited about native plants,” Mariani said. Noting that such excitement will not happen if there are not any examples of proper design, he said he hopes his message will be heeded by property owners and managers, gardeners, landscapers, and everyone else deal-
ing with plant materials. A well-designed site will feature balance, a proper line of sight, good framework, rhythm, proper proportion (no more than 30 percent of any one species), a separation of plant groups, and conformity with the architecture of the adjacent buildings, Mariani pointed out. Proper placement of the species would prevent such messy incidents as leaves or plant debris landing on sidewalks, driveways, or vehicles, he added. Species specifics “Trees are the most important plant of all,” Mariani stated. He puts oaks at the top of the list because up to 557 wildlife species can be served by its structure, vegetation, leaves, or acorns. Other native trees on Mariani’s list are hawthorn, aspen, white spruce, red cedar, maples, locust, black cherry, basswood, sycamore, yellow birch, hackberry, ironwood, rock elm, black willow, and evergreens. There are also dozens of shrubs, sumac, and black currant as hedges, and numerous smaller plants. Mariani assures any doubters that all of the features and attractions that buyers sought with exotic and non-native plants are provided by native species. Numerous online and printed sources identify the plants which are native. One source that Mariana cited is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s eco-region breakout, for which approximately the northern half of Wisconsin is listed as 212 while the southern half is 222. Mariani recalls growing in rural north-
eastern Illinois in the 1950s and readily seeing many wildlife species that he rarely notices today. Among them are nighthawks, gray fox, green snakes, wood thrushes, red woodpeckers, meadowlarks, whip-poor-wills, bobolinks, and the red trillium flower. What happened was that home area was overrun by suburban Chicago by the early 1970s, wiping out the habitat on which those and other species depended, Mariani explained. Other human-induced reasons for loss of wildlife population are pollution and the introduction of invasive species, he remarked. While these things were happening in his home locality, the U.S. was engaged in passing such major conservation measures such as the Clean Air Act in 1970, the Clean Water Act in 1972, and the Endangered Species Act and the banning of DDT in 1973 along with the observance of Earth Day starting in 1970, Mariani pointed out. The banning of DDT served to spur a great resurgence in the bald eagle population but many other species have continued to suffer despite the legislation, Mariani observed. Instead of expecting things to change from a top down national perspective, he said changes need to start in the front, side, and back yards of millions of privately owned properties. Mariani noted that the presence of wildlife species offers beauty for humans, indicates that the environment is healthy, and allows predators to maintain balance in the natural order.
Tri-County news • Spring Home & Garden • Thursday, May 18, 2017
Help boost home’s energy efficiency
High heating bills or drafts and cold spots throughout the home this past winter could mean the home is not as energy efficient as it could be. Home improvement experts suggest spring is the ideal time for homeowners to think about investing in projects that boost their home’s energy efficiency while helping save money each month. Here are three key home improvement projects homeowners can consider to improve the energy efficiency and comfort of their home. Window upgrades Sealing cracks and gaps around the glass and window frame can make a noticeable difference to curbing air loss, while installing double-glazed windows, originally
designed for extreme climates, are an increasingly popular and effective way to help minimize air loss. HVAC equipment upgrades Having a regular maintenance schedule as well as replacing furnace filters can have a positive impact on improving the performance of your heating and cooling equipment. Upgrading attic insulation Investing in upgrading attic insulation to a material that provides both insulating value as well as air sealing can help combat air leakage. Spray foam insulation provides both insulating value and air sealing in one step.
Song lyrics promote planting By Ray Mueller As the start of another growing season approaches, owners and caretakers of residential and commercial yards might be thinking about ways to upgrade the vegetation on those properties. Whether that is true or not, here is an inspiration to at least consider such a change. It is the song titled “For the Wild Ones,” written in 1997 by Steve Hazell of Oshkosh in honor of the annual Toward Harmony with Nature conference held in Oshkosh on the last Saturday of January. Hazell performed it again for the crowd before the start of the formal program this year. With his permission to share it, this is the song. “There’s a yard down the street where two worlds meet and the country joins in with the town. Where butterflies go for the flowers that grow in a blanket all over the ground. There’s a dream that grows in the
shades of green that calls the prairie home. And between you and me, it’s a blessing to see what the Wild Ones have sown. There’s a red columbine in the warm sunshine, a blaze of false indigo. Oh, the colors you see in the bright fireweed and the lovely meadow rose. And the harmony starts with hands that care, with hearts that love the Earth that we share and the quiet faith that goes into the land. We can all lend a hand in nature’s plan. We can change the world if we try with the choices we face, with the seeds we place. We’ll change one yard at a time.” Wild Ones has chapters across the nation which, for the benefit of many species of wildlife and for human enjoyment, advocate the growing of native plants at many sites, particularly on what are no more than mowed lawns today.
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Tri-County news • Spring Home & Garden • Thursday, May 18, 2017
Make stylish bath upgrades Coffee bars, TVs in mirrors, smart toilets, and pet-friendly amenities—a growing number of homeowners are requesting such upscale features in their bathroom design, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). Is it any wonder that association members report the average cost of remodeling a bath is between $10,000 and $30,000? However, you don’t have to spend that much to update your bathroom stylishly and easily. Here are four popular bathroom design preferences, plus tips to cost effectively achieve these looks in your home:
Transitional is trending According to a poll of remodeling professionals, the vast majority agreed that “transitional” was the most requested style in bathroom settings. Transitional design allows you to blend elements of both traditional and contemporary styles. The result is a comfortable blend of sophistication and simplicity that is easy to create with only a modest investment. An example is the urban depiction of the Townsend widespread lavatory faucet from American Standard in dramatic legacy bronze, paired with a modern vessel sink in sleek white. Neutrals have staying power Long favored for their ability to create an easy-to-customize color foundation, neutral hues remain in vogue in the bathroom. Whites and grays are the most popular color schemes, NKBA reports, although these colors are not confined to walls or floors. White continues to be the most popular color choice for toilets, tubs, and
sinks. In bathrooms with these pristinetoned fixtures, you can cost effectively play on the neutral trend by adding pale gray to the walls. For a subtle effect that will also add height to the room, paint the ceiling a gray several shades lighter than the walls. Superior showers The shower is becoming a highlight of the bathroom, with many renovators reporting that homeowners want customization such as lighting, builtin seating, benches, and hand showers installed. Remodeling your shower can be as simple as replacing an old-style, static showerhead with an upgraded, more luxurious model. One option is the American Standard drenching sixinch square showerhead, paired with the Times Square shower system that features an ultra-convenient hand shower. A teak shower seat and recessed lighting above the shower are also cost-effective upgrades that can elevate your shower experience to be truly spa-like. Aging-in-place amenities Home design experts have long predicted that as baby boomers grow older, demand will increase for home features that will allow seniors to stay in their houses throughout their golden years. Aging-in-place upgrades are among the most useful and cost-effective bathroom improvements. Following this pattern can be as simple as installing grab bars in showers and tubs, and next to toilets. Replacing knob faucets with single-handle or lever-style faucets allows people with dexterity challenges to easily and safely function in the bathroom.
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Tri-County news • Spring Home & Garden • Thursday, May 18, 2017
5 fun ways to decorate for spring Spring is the perfect time to shake things up with your home decor. As Mother Nature transforms her landscape with fresh buds and blooms, you are probably longing to refresh your home, too. These five easy craft projects are perfect family activities and the results will add touches of springtime throughout the house. Rain boot wreath Do you have a pair of rain boots your kids have grown out of? Use these as an adorable way to display silk flowers in the entryway. Simply select your favorite long-stem flowers from your local craft store (hint: tulips are perfect for spring). Have kids help arrange flowers inside boots and then hang with a large decorative ribbon on your door. Thumbprint flower pots Jazz up boring terracotta pots with acrylic paint and the tiny fingerprints from your mini helpers. Have kids wear a smock (acrylic paint can stain), then carefully dip fingertips into paint and press onto the pot. For example, red fingerprints can be turned into cute ladybugs with a few black details when dry. You can also use fingerprints to create flowers, butterflies, and more. Flip-flop welcome sign Favorite warm-weather foot gear can be used to create a cute sign welcoming guests to your home. Buy four pairs of colorful flip flops from any dollar store. Line up and then adhere each side together with hot glue (eight flip-flops total glued together). On the heel of each sandal paint a letter from “Welcome!” When done, let kids adorn with colorful gems, stickers, and other fun spring details. Peeps spring centerpiece Peeps are the quintessential springtime candy, but they also are great when used in crafts like this colorful
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centerpiece. Just follow these easy DIY directions and you will create a centerpiece that will be a real conversation starter for kids and adults alike. For more project ideas visit www.marshmallowpeeps.com. Supplies: 4-inch cube vase 6-inch cube vase jelly beans 30 Gerbera daisies or silk flowers of choice 20 Peeps bunnies Directions: 1. Center one vase inside the other and insert jelly beans (in any colors you like) between the walls of the two cubes. 2. Place Peeps on top of jelly beans, making sure to save a few for the corners of the vase. Do not be afraid to squeeze them into the space. You should have enough to fill in any gaps. 3. Gerberas are usually sold with plastic tubes on the stems for support. Keeping the plastic in place, cut the flowers to desired length and arrange them in the smaller vase. 4. Cutting shorter stems for the outside flowers and longer stems for the inner ones will give you a nice rounded top. And do not skimp on flowers: If you do not want to use that many gerberas, find a pair of smaller vases.
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Tri-County news • Spring Home & Garden • Thursday, May 18, 2017
Native plants ideal choice for wetlands By Ray Mueller Whether it is the shoreline of a lake, the banks of a river, or wetland sites on other landscapes, there are a great variety of native plants from many species which are suitable for protecting water quality while also supporting songbirds and pollinators. That was the message from Patrick Goggin at the 2017 “Toward Harmony with Nature” conference sponsored by the Fox Valley Area chapter of Wild Ones. He is stationed at Rhinelander as the outreach program manager with the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership and is also affiliated with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Among the many references that Goggin cited for basic guidance on wetland plant selections are “Wisconsin’s Natural Communities” by Randy Hoffman, “Planting in a a Post-Wild World” by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West, and “The Vegetation of Wisconsin” by John Curtis. Identifying the type of wetland, determining the year-round differences in availability of moisture, and working with differing micro-climates are the first steps in matching native plants with the setting, Goggin stated. From that point, there are dozens of native flowers, grasses, sedges, rushes, ferns, vines, shrubs, and small trees that would be appropriate for a particular site, he said.
Protection is the goal along water Along bodies of water, the concern is two-fold—protecting the shoreline from wave action of the water and protecting the water from contaminants in storm water runoff, Goggin pointed out. With native plants, there is not a concern about the spread of invasive species such as phragmites and purple loosestrife that have plagued many wetlands in recent decades, he explained. In order to “mimic nature,” the goal is to provide ground cover throughout as much of the year as possible with selected vegetation, Goggin remarked. He noted that nature will fill open spaces with plants which often are not appropriate and which are probably not native species. Much of Goggin’s professional efforts involve working the owners and managers of properties surrounding lakes. He noted that in Wisconsin alone there are about 900 lake organizations with a total of 26,000 members. Through the Healthy Lakes Initative (http://healthylakes.com), grants are available for projects on sites covering
hundreds of square feet, Goggin pointed out. He noted that six planting templates, including those with an emphasis on lakeshore edge and pollinator planting, are available for all categories of soil— wet to dry.
Species lineup What is ideal is to have a combination of plants because of the many roles they can play, Goggin observed. Those include a staggering of blooms during the growing season for the benefit of wildlife species, holding the soil in place, and competing with invasive species already on the site, he pointed out. Where there is full to part exposure to the sun, Goggin’s list of the top 15 plants for wet soils includes the Joe pye weed, turtlehead, irises, marsh milkweed, New England aster, cardinal flower with great blue lobelia and the monkey flower, cupplant, golden Alexanders, prairie and dense blazing stars, blue vervain, wild bergamot, yellow coneflower, ox-eye daisy, Indian plantains, and glade mallow. He touted the golden Alexander for its ability to fill niche spaces and the cup-plant for its value to goldfinches and chickadees. Among the sedges, rushes, and grasses for wet soils when there is full or partial exposure to sun, Goggin mentioned path rush for its ability to cover lots of space, fringed sedge, dark green bulrush, prairie cord grass (a competitor to phragmites), bristly sedge, palm sedge, Indian grass, brown fox sedge, tussock sedge, blue-joint grass, fowl manna grass, little bluestem, bottlebrush grass, and Canada wild rye. He noted that the deep roots of the sedges hold soil in place. In the woody plants category, Goggin likes the sweet gale and speckled alder for their ability to deter shoreline erosion and the swamp rose for its attraction to bees. Others on that list are meadowsweet, steeple bush, buttonbush, willows, red twig dogwood, nannyberry, American highbush cranberry, elderberry, mountain holly, winterberry, black chokeberry, witch-hazel, ninebark, and American hazelnut. Trees which work well in wet soil Trees which are suitable on wet soils with full to partial sun exposure are the river birch, mountain ash, and swamp white oak along with some possibilities for tamarack, black spruce, eastern hemlock, white pine, and balsam fir, Goggin indicated. His choices of vines are virgin’s bower and the riverbank grapes. When there are small areas—such as
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10 by 10 feet—to cover, ferns are a great choice but they are often overlooked, Goggin observed. Among the fern choices he listed are the interrupted, sensitive, wood, ostrich, cinnamon, and royal. In addition to what nature has provided, property owners and managers can also create sites for growing species suitable to wetlands. In most cases, that opportunity is provided by the stormwater which comes from buildings or that flows on the natural contour, Goggin pointed out. Rain gardens, which are a possibility on many residential and commercial
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Tri-County news • Spring Home & Garden • Thursday, May 18, 2017
Restorations limited by prior work By Ray Mueller Although disturbed landscapes cannot be returned to their original natural condition, that is not a reason to avoid establishing native flora and fauna on urban residential and industrial sites and along recreational trails. That was the message from landscape architects Rob Holly and James Coletta of LandWorks Inc. at Sussex during the 21st annual “Toward Harmony with Nature” conference sponsored by the Fox Valley area chapter of Wild Ones. The company specializes in the design of urban gardens with a multitude of native plant species. The presenters explained that natural ecosystems are intricate and complicated after having evolved from interactions over millions of years. Derived through a combination of weather, soils, climate, water availability, and site elevation, those ecosystems can be augmented by humans today with soil amendments, restoration of native plants, and weed suppression, they pointed out. Planting challenges In many cases, plantings of native species face a variety of challenges, the presenters warned. They cited possible compaction and nutrient imbalances of soil that has been disturbed, limited spaces for growth in the surrounding environment, and pressure from weed species in the site’s bank of seeds that would germinate for many years when the soil
is disturbed again. If the urban garden site can mimic native environmental conditions, then native plants would be able to establish extensive root systems, not require much maintenance, reduce water needs, not require fertilizer, pesticide, or herbicide, and provide food and shelter for wildlife, the presenters observed. In its approach, LandWorks Inc. seeks to create “adaptive landscapes” which provide the benefits of native landscapes in new settings by using “tough native plants” that can overcome pressure from weed species and that are resilient to adverse changes in their environment. Identifying goals Property owners and managers who are interested in doing that are advised to consider the short- and long-term goals for the site and fit them with the size of the landscape, the structure of the new plantings, and the plant species. The singular or inter-related goals could be habitat for birds and pollinators, human aesthetics, soil rejuvenation, and groundwater recharge. Among the factors to consider are the sun/shade distribution at the site, soil composition, wind, slope, hydrology, infrastructure, and any microclimate conditions. Other considerations are the views, safety concerns, regulations, traffic, public perception, pests, the site history, and the amount
of maintenance that will be required. The next steps include creation of a site plan, a design for the placing of the plants, and putting the right plants in the right place. Specific attention needs to be given to avoiding encroachment on adjacent private or public sites, selecting species that are easily distinguishable from undesirable species, making the result visually attractive, and taking advantage of plant combinations suitable for the site, Holly and Coletta advise. Basic principles Three principles which apply to small urban gardens are scale (avoiding the native grasses that can overwhelm a small site), spreading (the seeding, suckering, or rhizomatic activity that spill over to neighboring properties), and tidiness (avoiding a messy, overgrown, or weed-infested appearance). Other concepts which apply for visual appeal include repetition and massing, layering, texture and color, and planning for potential growth of the site. At all points in the process, the LandWorks architects emphasize that neighbors need to be informed about what has been done. Beyond that, they advise honoring a defined property line border, reminding the neighbors about how salt damages soil structure and many species, and asking them not to blow mowed grass onto one’s property because of the possibility that it could contain weed
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seed. In addition, Holly and Coletta suggest trying to connect with neighbors to develop conservation corridors that would greatly expand the impact. They note that some native flora and fauna need a certain minimum area in order to thrive. A successful project should increase appreciation of the subtle beauties of native plants, exhibit a harmony between the newly designed landscape and native ecosystems, nurture a heightened recognition of the diverse prairie, woodland, and wetland landscapes of the Midwest, and provide the owner with a largely selfmaintained landscape, Holly and Coletta indicate. While “no landscape is self maintaining,” Holly and Coletta promise that maintenance should be reduced once native plants are established but they also call for monitoring to control exotic and pest plants and for controlling the water level to make it appropriate for the plant species.
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Tri-County news • Spring Home & Garden • Thursday, May 18, 2017
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