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LIQUID LUNCH

A native southerner, the uniquely svelte ailanthus webworm moth (Atteva aurea) now ranges as far north as Canada thanks to its adapted use of tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), a highly invasive plant, as a larval host. Here, one of the burnt orange beauties prepares to sip nectar from the delicate white blooms of shrubby boneset (Ageratina havanensis). For more on fall nectar plants and the importance of pollinators, see pages 10 and 28, respectively.


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FALL 2016 • VOLUME 33, NUMBER 1

{

contents

FEATURES

12 The Green Goes Up

From a living wall to green roofs aplenty, the Wildflower Center is taking urban flora higher. By Amy McCullough

20 Just the Thicket

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28

Shrubs that sucker may be the best garden friends you didn’t know you had. By Karen Bussolini

On the Cover

Red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) and spineless prickly pear (Opuntia ellisiana) thrive on a pool house roof at John Gaines Park, Austin, Texas. PHOTO BY JOHN W. CLARK

DEPARTMENTS

26

2 3 4 5

26

32

From the Editor Letters From the Executive Director Field Notes The latest notes and news from the Wildflower Center 5 IN DEPTH • A new Center project puts place on your plate 7 FROM THE FIELD • Wildflower Center news 9 COMMUNAL GARDEN • An epic new trail connects people and land 10 FOR THE PICKING • Fall favorites from a longtime staffer 11 FIELD SAMPLER • Products from the Store In Bloom News about native plants in your world 26 ROOT OF THE MATTER • Getting to know your seeds before you sow 28 PLANT PEOPLE • Dr. Shalene Jha talks native bees and plants 30 FEATURED NATIVE PLANTS • A cultural history of craft brooms Wild Life Dale Bridges finds love — and hate — in nature

WILDFLOWER • FALL 2016

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Life in Unlikely Places { from the editor

PLANTS HAVE A WAY of showing up in the most surprising places. I’ve seen blue grama grow through a crack in a concrete median in downtown Austin. I’ve seen an old prickly pear tumbling out of the crook of an oak tree 30 feet high and shrubby boneset urgently pushing forth from a giant granite boulder with no soil in sight. In fact, if we were to let nature take over, it wouldn’t be long before our roof gutters would fill with compost and tree seedlings. Yards would quickly become forests, and roadsides and public parks would evolve into something completely new and wild. Most of us, however, prefer having a bit more control. Not only do we like to keep things tidy and orderly, we actually need to do so. Without some measure of control, plants would crumble our houses, push bridges apart and burst through water pipes. At the Wildflower Center, we find that we can design spaces that support wildness and order, that can be spontaneous and controlled. We seek ways to strike a balance with nature that supports our actions and the environment. For example, our environmental designers are asking Texas native plants to do things they may have never done before by taking cues from the natural world. They’ve observed little bluestem growing on sheer limestone walls in Hill Country canyons and now ask it to grow in fabricated cells on a living wall in the middle of the city. They’ve found mountain pink blanketing thin roadside soils along Highway 71 and now ask it to grow on a blasting hot rooftop. By shaping nature in these innovative ways, we are creating dynamic and beautiful places that increase biodiversity and soothe the soul. Imagine how wonderful it will be for a doctor at the new Dell Medical School to leave a stressful meeting and pass by a butterfly-filled garden growing on the roof of his or her office building. And how wonderful for those butterflies that they have found habitat in an unlikely place. In the garden, fall is a key time to implement whatever level of control you desire. It’s the ideal season to transplant, sow seeds, chop, trim and build. It’s the time to put plants in the ground that will support pollinators next year, or to plant an oak that will shade the house for its next owners years from now. Or maybe, it’s just time to sit back and let nature take over for a while. Happy planting. a — LEE CLIPPARD, EDITOR

EDITOR

Lee Clippard

MANAGING EDITOR

Amy McCullough

HORTICULTURE EDITOR

Andrea DeLong-Amaya SCIENCE EDITOR

Joseph Marcus PHOTO EDITOR

Joanna Wojtkowiak

PRODUCTION/COPYEDITING

Yo!Media Inc. www.yomediainc.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

Marc Airhart, Dale Bridges, Karen Bussolini, Jill Sell

CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS AND ILLUSTRATORS

Caitlin B. Alexander, Paul Bardagjy, Karen Bussolini, John W. Clark, Debra Hale, Shawn Hoefer, Zachary Nash, Erik Pronske, Steven Schwartzman, Ted Washington, Matt Wright-Steel

FOUNDERS

Lady Bird Johnson and Helen Hayes ADvISoRY CoUNCIL

Jeffrey Howell Jeanie Wyatt SECRETARY Alexandra Prentice Saenz CHAIR ELECT Chris Caudill CHAIR

vICE CHAIR

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Patrick Newman

DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS

Lee Clippard

DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT

Robin Murphy

INTERIM DIRECTOR, ECOSYSTEM DESIGN GROUP

Matt o’Toole

DIRECTOR OF FINANCE AND OPERATIONS

Mike Abkowitz

DIRECTOR OF GUEST SERVICES

Mark Johnson

Materials are chosen for the printing and distribution of Wildflower magazine with respect for the environ-

ment. Wildflower is printed in the United States by Times Printing, Random Lake, WI.

The Wildflower Center is a member of EarthShare of Texas.

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DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS

Tanya Zastrow


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{ reader mail Our favorite piece of recent “mail” came in person from a young boy. He presented a handwritten letter to employee Olivia Wilczek during one of our Nature Nights in June. Wilczek estimated his age to be around 7 years old. She said, “He didn't say anything but handed me the letter and donated a dollar.” (There is a dollar-shaped box drawn on the back of the page.) He was inspired to donate after spending time in the Luci and Ian Family Garden.

simply wonderful! We are really excited for next year!! LISA FLYNN, Camp Wildflower mother Every day my girls come home with different stories, games and songs and that’s what’s helping them to create friendships and memories and it’s working! SIOBHAN SEARLE, Camp Wildflower mother Thank you for helping to make this a memorable summer for my son. CAMP WILDFLOWER PARENT, via anonymous program evaluation And, in the tooting-our-own-horn department, we were happy to receive this rave five-star review online: The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has got to be the center of the universe! You can go there for peace and solitude. You can laugh and play with the kids. You can learn about being a good steward of this amazing planet. You can go there and fall in love, but most of all ... You must go there. It’s like all the best parts of going to church! DONA STALLWORTH, a Facebook reviewer

This year marked the debut of Camp Wildflower (read more, page 7), and we’ve already received lots of love from campers and parents. Here are just a few excerpts: Your camp is amazing and the counselors Ms. Monica and Ms. “Cat” were

FOLLOW US:

facebook.com/wildflowercenter @WildflowerCtr

instagram.com/wildflowercenter

Wildflower (ISSN 1936-9646) is published quarterly by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Avenue, Austin, Texas 78739. Telephone: 512.232.0100; www.wildflower.org; E-mail: magazine@wildflower.org. Copyright ©2016 by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. No part of this periodical may be reproduced without the written consent of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and requests to reprint material appearing in Wildflower must be made in writing. Members of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center receive a subscription to Wildflower as a benefit of membership. If you are interested in becoming a member, or have a question about an existing membership, please contact the membership office Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (Central) at 512.232.0137 or 512.232.0163. You may also e-mail members@wildflower.org. Single issues may be ordered for $5 (U.S. residents). Change of Address: Postmaster: Please send address changes to: Wildflower, 4801 La Crosse Avenue, Austin, TX 78739-1702. 512.232.0100. Members: Please notify us of your address in advance of your move (the post office does not ordinarily forward magazines) and include your old address. The opinions expressed herein may not necessarily reflect those held by the Wildflower Center. Wildflower is printed by Times Printing, Random Lake, WI. Please direct any inquiries or letters to magazine@wildflower.org

KEEP K EEP TTHE HE SH OW SHOW O ON N TTHE HE RROAD OAD O RG RG WI LLD D FLOWE FL O WE R ..O /L I C E N S E P L AT E /LI PLATE WILDFLOWER • FALL 2016

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{ from the executive director

Ch-Ch-Changes

S

INCE ITS FOUNDING over three decades ago, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has been committed to

the principals of conservation, moving into the future wisely so that what we enjoy now will be available to generations in waiting. As we move into the future, part of our plan to conserve wisely includes a change to Wildflower magazine. It’s a change we are particularly excited about — and one we look forward to sharing with you. Beginning in 2017, Wildflower will move from its current quarterly format to a dual-season publication cycle: pairing spring/summer and fall/winter. In order to accommodate this change, there will be no winter 2016 issue. During that time, we’ll be busy redesigning our magazine and preparing to provide you, our members, with a product that maintains Wildflower’s current level of excellence while at the same time becoming something even better. Please join us in looking forward to the first revamped, dual-season issue in spring/summer 2017. While we ask that you “pardon our dust” as we redesign, we also want to assure you that your patience will be well rewarded. In addition to a new look, the change in publication cycle will allow our editorial staff freedom to tell sto-

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FALL 2016 • WILDFLOWER

ries in new, highly visual and interactive ways — with online videos, supplemental materials such as extended interviews and instructional how-tos, photo essays, blogs and more. It will allow us to use our website and social media outlets to tell timely stories when they happen while reserving the pages of Wildflower magazine for longerform, high-quality features with beautiful photographs, thoughtful storytelling and in-depth research. Not to mention the fact that this change will save on the paper and fossil fuels spent printing and shipping roughly 25,000 copies of the magazine a year. That’s no small drop in the bucket. Like our founders before us, we are committed to conservation, and it’s your continued support that not only helps us to conserve native plants and landscapes, but also to continue to produce this great content in a variety of formats. For that, we are eternally grateful. a — PATRICK NEWMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR


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Find Your Roots (and Eat Them!)

field notes FROM THE WILDFLOWER CENTER

The Wildflower Center’s Taste of Place project marries conservation and culinary creativity WRITTEN BY K. ANGEL HORNE

T

non-native gardening. Edible native plants are no different: They can be drought-tolerant and disease-resistant and need less tending. Most are perennials or self-seeding annuals, requiring a single planting for multiple harvests — a return on investment a gardener can really get behind. With leadership from the Center’s Andrea DeLong-Amaya and Danielle Pieranunzi — director of horticulture and SITES® director, respectively — volunteers and interns are populating a roughly 3,000-square-foot garden with rows and patches of native edibles. The plants (see box, next page) are being harvested and prepared in dishes and teas. The first Taste of Place culinary crePHOTO BY AMY McCULLOUGH

HINK ABOUT WHAT GIVES YOU a sense of “place” where you live. Is it the silhouettes of particular tree-dotted hills on the horizon? How about the morning chatter of neighborhood jays and wrens? Perhaps it’s a constant sea breeze (lucky you) or the sweet smell of Texas mountain laurel in a nearby park. Though all the senses can transport us, some of the most celebrated and shared experiences grounding us culturally and geographically are based on taste. With that in mind, the budding Taste of Place project at the Wildflower Center aims to put more native seeds in the ground and native plants (grown and foraged) on the plates of Central Texans. Focused on growing, harvesting and preparing native edible plants, Taste of Place is a collaboration between the Wildflower Center and The University of Texas at Austin Green Corps (part of the Division of Housing and Food Service). The project aims to start a dialogue among students in various fields, such as landscape architecture, urban planning, sustainability and nutrition, about what it means to eat locally. Native plants support healthy landscapes in that they require less water and fewer pesticides and fertilizers than are typically used in Intern Rosalie Kelley inspects a row of devil’s claw (Proboscidea louisianica) in the Taste of Place garden; to her right, purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) awaits a future as herbal tea. Common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) blooms behind her.

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field notes }

ations have been easy to prepare and well received. Pieranunzi’s pickled devil’s claw (Proboscidea louisanaca) elicited many “Mmmms” at a recent tasting, and the Wildflower Café served a colorful summer salad featuring purslane (Portulaca oleracea) — the nativity of which is uncertain — and a dressing made from the fruit, or tuna, of Texas prickly pears (Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri). One morning, interns offered small cups of caffeinated tea made from yaupon leaves (Ilex vomitoria) to Center employees (the flavor is similar to that of yerba mate, the popular South American drink made from another holly, Ilex paraguariensis). Having passed the initial taste test, it was then served to the public during one of the Center’s educational Nature

Nights in June. Stir-fries, jams, sauces and sandwiches are all on the docket for the fruits of future harvests and foraging excursions. While wild foraging will largely occur at the Center, some generous local landowners have offered up their grounds to the Taste of Place team’s foraging forays, as well. DeLong-Amaya says she expects to find mustang grape (Vitis mustangensis), Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana), prairie tea (Croton monanthogynus) and yaupon. Foraging and focusing on natives allow for the type of freshness and spontaneity savored by chefs who prefer to work with the flavors of the seasons (for an Austinbased example, see our story on Chef Jesse Griffiths at news.wildflower.org). Taste of

Place also underscores the idea that people can really connect with place through their taste buds. Presently funded by a grant from the Green Fee Program, the Wildflower Center hopes to generate interest and raise funds to continue to provide edible native tours, educational talks and activities, and community engagement events. “We really think there’s an opportunity, especially here in Austin, to get people to learn and care about native plants by appealing to their interest in local food,” says Pieranunzi. “We talk about the benefits of native plants to healthy landscapes and wildlife habitat; this is just one more way we can appreciate their unique contribution to human health and to our sense of place.” a

Chile pequin (Capsicum annuum)

Dewberry (Rubus trivialis)

Purple coneflower

Common sunflower

Mealy blue sage (Salvia farinacea) Use dried leaves to make herbal tea

Wild onion

Place on Your Plate Use like blackberries in cobbler, jam

(Helianthus annuus) Use seeds in breading and salads or eat straight as a snack

Pink evening primrose

(Oenothera speciosa) Use leaves fresh in salads and on sandwiches

Devil’s claw

(Proboscidea lousianaca, below) Pickle, use in stir-fries and curries (similar to okra)

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea, below)

PHOTO BY DANIELLE PIERANUNZI

PHOTO BY DANIELLE PIERANUNZI

Pickle; use in soups, salads and omelets

(Echinacea purpurea) Use in medicinal tinctures or herbal tea (Allium spp., below) Use like chives or onions

Winecup

(Callirhoe involucrata) Edible tubers, use like sweet potatoes

Be sure to positively identify any plant before consuming.

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FALL 2016 • WILDFLOWER

PHOTO BY sAvITskAYA IRYNA/ sHUTTERsTOck

Hot chilies, dry or serve fresh


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PHOTO BY DEBRA HALE, COURTESY OF HILLWOOD

FROM THE FIELD

{ field notes

Extreme Makeover: Prairie Edition

The Wildflower Center and Hillwood, a Dallas-based development company, celebrated the grand opening of Bluestem Park in north Fort Worth, Texas, this past May. The park began the transformation from degraded field to revitalized native plant and wildlife habitat two years ago with the oversight and direction of Wildflower Center environmental designers. Now this 14-acre prairie is lush with its namesake bluestem grasses and native wildflowers; it also features a stream that was carefully planned and reestablished to match its meandering predecessor — a vast aesthetic and ecological improvement on the area’s last water-feature, a manmade stock pond. Bluestem Park realizes the Center’s mission of creating healthy landscapes and serves as an excellent example of design and development aligning with stewardship and sustainability.

PHOTO BY ROBERT KNUDSEN, COURTESY OF LBJ LIBRARY

This summer, the Wildflower Center hosted its first-ever Camp Wildflower, a series of eight week-long camps designed to educate kids ages 6-10 about the natural world and give them the opportunity to interact with environmental professionals. Themes ranged from Secret Agent Plant, dedicated to exploring plants’ secret inner workings, to Nature Create, a week of nature-based arts and activities that culminated in a Camp Wildflower Art Show (see photo, right). Education Coordinator and Camp Director Anjoli Fry says the goal is for campers (some of whom were awarded need-based scholarships) to become "junior environmental stewards." If feedback thus far is any indication, that goal is being met: One camper’s mother said, “More camps need to have this balance between learning and playing. We compost now and we’re more conscious of the choices we make and it’s because of you and this camp!” In addition to such heartfelt comments, Fry says all the happy faces are an added bonus.

#BeLikeLadyBird

PHOTO BY AMY McCULLOUGH

Campers in Bloom

Every July, the Wildflower Center celebrates its namesake with a special tribute: Lady Bird Day. Lady Bird Day is roughly timed to coincide with the anniversary of July 26, 1968, when President Johnson gifted his wife with 50 pens used to sign 50 of the conservation and beautification laws she helped influence. While the Center emulates Mrs. Johnson’s attitude toward the environment every day though its mission, Lady Bird Day serves as an annual reminder to all to “be like Lady Bird” by remembering her boldness, compassion and generosity — and her unflinching belief in the power of healthy landscapes to transform lives. Explore Mrs. Johnson’s legacy at ladybirdjohnson.org and share the ways in which you keep the Lady Bird spirit alive by connecting online any day of the year with our tribute tag: #BeLikeLadyBird.

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COMMUNAL GARDEN

Connect the Plots

{ field notes

t

Central Texas’ first regional trail system gives new meaning to connectivity hE VIolEt CRoWN tRAIl is the type of thing that sounds like a grand idea after you’ve had a few beers with friends. “We should totally plan a 30-mile trail that extends from Zilker Park to hays County, you know, so you can walk for an entire day!” “totally,” your friends would respond. “that would be awesome.” It would be awesome. It’s an amazing idea. but the reality of such a project — the fact that it involves traversing Water Quality Protection lands and requires collaboration between the Neighborhood Connectivity Program; texas Parks and Wildlife Department; the City of Sunset Valley; the City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation, Public Works, and transportation Departments; hays and travis Counties; and the texas Conservation Corps (among others) — means it’s also the kind of idea that most people, even very ambitious ones, would quickly abandon once they realized the level of effort involved in seeing it through. that’s where the hill Country Conservancy comes in. What began as a vision in 1999 has now progressed into a partial reality thanks to the organization’s coordinating and easement-buying efforts. the first six miles of the Violet Crown trail (VCt), which stretch from Zilker Park to a trailhead at U.S. Route 290 just north of brodie lane, opened in August 2015. the next segment will take users south through Sunset Valley past the Veloway (a popular cycling track) to the lady bird Johnson Wildflower Center. the section from the Wildflower Center south is still being planned, but it is currently set to pass through the southeast corner of Center land and extend 17 more miles into rural hays County. Carolyn long, a Center volunteer and supporter of both the Wildflower Center and hill Country Conservancy, says, “It will be fun to have the opportunity to walk to a destination as special as the Wildflower Center. People can take what they learn in our native plant botanical garden and use it to understand the plants and ecology along the Violet Crown trail.” While connecting all the plots the 30-mile hike-and-bike trail will cover takes diplomacy and determination, there is more to the master plan than shaking hands and signing documents. Charting the route itself took some finessing through those Water Quality Protection lands.

While some parts of the VCT will require blazing new trails, the currently open Zilker Park–to–290 trailhead section utilizes existing portions of the Barton Creek Greenbelt trail. here, users walk the path near downtown Austin.

Photo by JERIK PRoNSKE

WRIttEN by AMY McCULLOUGH

back in 2009, when the project was called “Walk for a Day,” the City of Austin asked the Wildflower Center to help plot a path that would put water quality first, then human access. Michelle bertelsen, a Wildflower Center ecologist, began by assessing trail impact. She worked with hydrogeologists, archeologists and other conservation professionals to buffer archeological sites, wildlife habitat, karst landscape features, creeks and lands that are managed by prescribed burning. bertelsen says this is why there are “weird snaky parts” — to route foot traffic around sensitive areas. According to Madeline Enos, a hill Country Conservancy volunteer, that foot traffic comes in all shapes: “I have seen an amazing variety of people on the trail,” she says, “from climbers scaling rock walls to hardcore trail runners, to elder folks walking with their grandkids.” one of her favorite things about the VCt is that “it feels ‘wild’ but is also very accessible.” that’s exactly the goal bertelsen had in mind: to make these places “accessible without messing them up,” she says. “that’s what we do.” a WIlDFloWER • FAll 2016

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Frances’ Fall Favorites EVEN DURING SPRINGTIME’S POPULAR “Wildflower Days,” when Central Texas is blanketed in bluebonnets, Frances Cushing says she finds fall to be our most beautiful season. Frances has served as part-time receptionist at the Wildflower Center for more than 20 years, so she has a pretty firm handle on happenings here at the Center — including what’s in bloom — and she’s definitely everyone’s first pick on a Wildflower Center trivia team. When asked to expound on her love for our autumnal displays, she said, “Purple asters, goldenrod and Maximilian sunflowers evoke memories of Indian summers when I was growing up in southern Ontario. Even the shrubby boneset (see inside front cover) is a reminder, as in the fall these plants are covered with butterflies, including monarchs.” (Read more about plants and pollinators on page 28.) Cushing added: “Working with people who are dedicated to the mission of the Wildflower Center is one of the joys of my life. Another is watching the gardens change with the seasons.” CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Though certainly easy on human eyes, purple aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) has also been recognized by pollination ecologists as attractive to native bees. • Maximilian sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani) can grow up to 10-feet tall, and its seeds and nectar are consumed by various wildlife including deer, birds, bees and butterflies. Frances also mentioned gulf muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) as a fave, citing its pillowy purple tufts.

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FOR THE PICKING


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the

Store

@ The WilDFloWer CenTer

Chala Gemini Crossbody Bag $54.95 (Members $ 49.45) Detachable front pocket turns into a mini crossbody bag or a fanny pack! Metal dragonfly keychain attached. Front and rear zipper pockets, top zip closure. Smooth fabric lining, cotton canvas and faux leather exterior. Measures 9.5 inches tall, 6 inches wide and 1.5 inches deep, with detachable adjustable straps.

LEFT To riGhT Goldfinch Couple Gift-boxed Mug $14.95 (Members $13.45) Bone china 13.5-ounce mug with matching decorative gift box. Dishwasher and microwave safe. • 2017 Audubon Wall Calendar $14.99 (Members $13.49) A hillside carpeted in a purple haze of prairie verbena, the bright and cheery petals of California poppies, a hummingbird fluttering near scarlet beebalm: These are nature’s gardens, captured at their most vibrant and beautiful. Twelve full-color photographs with generous space for writing. Measures 12 inches by 12 inches closed. • “Jay’s Party” Wood Lacquer Tray $32.95 (Members $29.65) if birds can build nests, they certainly can make hats! Whimsical design with non-slip rubber feet. Food safe, hand wash. Measures 12 inches by 7 inches. To order these products or others from the Center’s Store, call toll-free 877-WiLDFLr (877.945.3357) or shop online at www.wildflower.org.

WilDFloWer • FAll 2016

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The Green Goes

Up

PHOTO BY JOHN W. CLARK

WRITTEN BY AMY McCULLOUGH

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A worker with BrightView landscaping plants a spineless prickly pear (Opuntia ellisiana) on the roof of a seven-story parking garage at the new Dell Medical School on The University of Texas at Austin campus. This is just one of many living architecture projects Wildflower Center researchers and environmental designers have had a hand in creating — the end goal being to put plants back where they were before the buildings came.

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ROWTH. IT’S A WORD commonly heard in relation to Austin. “A hundred people move here every day,” people say. They’re right — if they’re including all five counties that make up Greater Austin. In fact, as recently as May 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau placed Georgetown, Pflugerville and San Marcos — all part of the Austin-Round Rock metro area — among the fastest growing cities in the country. Georgetown, 40 miles north of Austin, is first on the list. It’s not just Austin. Houston is predicted to take Chicago’s spot as home to the third largest population in the country by 2025, if not sooner. New Braunfels (near San Antonio), Pearland (a suburb of Houston) and Frisco (north of Dallas) are also on the fastest-growing cities list. They’re in the top seven. And it’s not just Texas. For the first time in history, more of the earth’s population lives in cities than anywhere else. As the late Mark Simmons, former director of research and consulting for the Wildflower Center, succinctly put it, “We are now an urban species.” No matter what urban area you live in, growth-related complaints abound: Traffic is unbearable; no one can afford to live here anymore; all the good jobs are taken. These are human concerns, and they affect human lives. But population growth affects the lives of plants too (which, in turn, affects human health). Room for green space on the ground is running out. According to Douglas W. Tallamy, author of “Bringing Nature

Home,” development in the U.S. covers over 2 million acres per year — the size of Yellowstone National Park. But it’s not plant-rich parks filling these acres. It’s concrete. And people. And cars. As human bodies pour in, claiming and developing and driving on the land, where does the green growth go? It’s a good question. And the Wildflower Center has been working on an answer: Up. The green goes up. ROOFS WITH BENNIES

BESIDES BEING BEAUTIFUL AND ADDING a living element to architectural structures — which is novel at the very least — green roofs provide a host of benefits. They cool the buildings they top, preserving the lifetime of the roof itself and saving energy (and money) on air conditioning. They slow down rainwater, which can help mitigate flash flooding. They reduce the urban heat island effect, a phenomenon where cities are much

Wildflower Center

LIVING ARCHITECTURE PROJECTS

FROM POOL HOUSES TO PRIVATE RESIDENCES, the Wildflower Center has been involved in a variety of “living architecture” projects, all of which feature green roofs except one, a living wall at The University of Texas at Austin’s main campus. As architect Christopher Sanders points out, the Wildflower Center is “not just a pretty place to go look at flowers.” Of course, it is that too, but the Center’s consulting, research and education reach well beyond its 284 acres. Read on to learn more. 14

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warmer than their surrounding rural areas. Green roofs also sequester carbon, filter particulate matter out of polluted city air, provide oxygen and serve as wildlife habitat. In addition to these environmental benefits, architect Lauren Woodward Stanley, who served on Austin’s Green Roof Advisory Group and has a green roof on top of her own Stanley Studio, adds a few more pluses: “Education! Exposure!” she says, throwing “producer of tunas for prickly pear margaritas” in for good measure. A single green roof isn’t likely to provide all these benefits, but as John Hart Asher, an environmental designer at the Wildflower Center, says, “If you do it right, they can do a few of those things really well.” The aforementioned Simmons, who contributed a chapter to the 2015 book “Green Roof Ecosystems,” describes them as “imperative.” Asher agrees, noting, “There’s nothing that we can manufacture that delivers the ecosystem services provided by the million-year-old technology of photosynthesis.” Asher and Simmons collaborated on research at the Wildflower Center aiming to improve the success of green roofs in hot climates (which had notoriously failed). In fact, Simmons had a lot to do with convincing Central Texas architects, contractors and environmental designers that green roofs can succeed here. Casey Boyter, an Austin-based landscape designer and cofounder of green roof networking and education group, GRoWERS (Green Roofs: Working Expertise + Regional Solutions) calls Simmons “a big mentor as well as a peer.” She’s a strong believer in the power of collaboration, something Simmons helped facilitate among Austin’s green roof community.

Stanley, another co-founder of GRoWERS, approached Simmons in the fall of 2013 after a lecture he gave on using an experimental foam layer on green roofs, which ultimately led to their collaborating on the green roof atop the pool house at John Gaines Park in Austin’s mixed-use Mueller development. Another local architect, Christopher Sanders — who worked with the Wildflower Center on its Admissions Kiosk, a kayak rental kiosk in The Woodlands, Texas, and a green roof on top of the Experiential Learning Center at Camp Young Judaea in Woodcreek, Texas — says, “I fell for [Mark’s] spell. I bought in hook, line and sinker. It made me think, ‘Why can’t we do this?’ He dispelled a lot of myths,” adds Sanders, citing Wildflower Center research as powerful backup: “It’s easier to sell when you’ve got good science behind your conversation.” So why was there such skepticism in the first place? Boyter puts it plainly: “People get intimidated by the climate.” More specifically: Extreme temperatures, prolonged drought and intense rainfall all present challenges — but it’s precisely because of these challenges that hot climates need green roofs. LOST IN TRANSLATION

THE GREEN ROOFS OF INTEREST to Wildflower Center researchers are called “extensive” green roofs. These have a thinner layer of growing media (less than 20 centimeters or 7.8 inches) and are subject to an amplified version of ground-level weather, including high winds, high thermal loads and varying humidity. The other type of green roof, known as “intensive,” is more like a

Recognition: Sanders Architecture won the 2014 Design Award in “Commercial New Construction” from the Austin chapter of the American Institute of Architects for this kiosk; search “Wildflower Center Admissions Kiosk” on YouTube to watch a video about the award. Wise words: “Everything that’s going on [at the Wildflower Center], you can’t possibly know as a casual visitor,” says architect Christopher Sanders. “With the kiosk, we were able to turn it inside out and put it on display the first moment you arrive.”

POOL HOUSE, JOHN GAINES PARK, MUELLER DEVELOPMENT AUSTIN, TEXAS

PHOTO BY JOHN W. CLARK

WILDFLOWER CENTER ADMISSIONS KIOSK AUSTIN, TEXAS

Background: Architect Lauren Woodward Stanley says this green roof went on hiatus with the 2008 economic downturn, but luckily the forward-thinking developers “got” the value of a green roof and returned to it (planting took place in late 2015). Wise words: “It's not the cheapest way to roof a project to be sure,” says Stanley, “so green roofs need to be sold as multivalent features that … offer both private and public benefits.” WILDFLOWER • FALL 2016

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roof garden with a greater variety of plants — even trees — planted in much deeper media (up to three feet). These require more irrigation and maintenance and, perhaps most importantly, roofs that can handle up to 150 pounds of weight per square foot. Extensive roofs are much more practical to install and easier to maintain in terms of water and fertilization. There’s simply “a greater potential for application” with extensive green roofs, according to Asher. But extensive green roofs were initially designed at much higher — and cooler — latitudes, in cities such as Frankfurt, Chicago, Portland and Seattle. In Central Texas, Stanley says, “A green roof has to work a lot harder.” Asher agrees, noting, “Even though soil is a great insulator, any temperatures above 95 degrees in contact with the rhizosphere or the root zone, you start to experience mortality in plants.” There’s also the problem of heat building up in drainage mat air gaps; drainage mats, which are basically roof-sized sheets of egg carton (same shape and size, no eggs), sit under plants and their growing media. Each egg-sized depression holds air that can heat up drastically on a Central Texas rooftop. That air gap, says Asher, was “a big problem” with green roofs in hot climates. With only a few inches of media, the air under the plants was simply getting too hot. To combat this, the Wildflower Center implemented the use of thinner, threeeighths-inch drainage mats. The Wildflower Center also improved on earlier green roofs by developing its own planting medium, SkySystem™. Asher says most planting media prior to SkySystem was either composed of components that had a negative environmental associa-

tion, such as sand (which requires mining), or they had green products in them, like coconut coir fiber, that weren’t locally sourced. “Where are the coconut plantations in Texas?” he asks. “They’re not here; they’re in the South Pacific, so there’s a carbon footprint association with that.” Recalling Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Original Recipe motto, Asher says he “can’t go into everything about SkySystem’s herbs and spices,” but he does say the media consists of 100 percent recycled content — all of which is locally available. It’s a low impact development (LID) mix, including material that’s organic, like compost, and mineral, such as brick. “We have the inherent capability within our media that prevents these big temperature fluctuations,” he says. “If we can do that with recycled local materials, even better.” Currently, SkySystem is only used on projects contracted through the Wildflower Center, but Asher says a major green roof manufacturer is considering licensing the product, which would make it available for purchase by other developers and designers. Another aspect of green roofs that didn’t translate well from cooler climes has to do with plant selection. Twelve years ago, when Simmons was first tasked with finding out why green roofs were not doing well here, he realized they were mainly planted with sedums (Sedum spp.), or stonecrops. But sedums have a hard time fixing carbon dioxide above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. During steamy Central Texas summers, even low temperatures hover near 80, meaning sedums’ stomata don’t function properly. As such, their photosynthetic cycle is interrupted and they eventually die. The Wildflower Center has solved “the sedum problem,” as Asher put it, by using native

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Background: This green roof is like an inflated version of those on the Wildflower Center Admissions Kiosk and Lakes Edge Boat House kiosk. Solar cells integrated into the awning provide shade and energy – and one more thing for campers to wonder about. Wise words: This green roof occupies an area where “kids can reach out and touch it,” says architect Christopher Sanders, who says time he spent outdoors as a kid helped him “come to love and appreciate the natural world.”

PHOTO BY TED WASHINGTON

PHOTO BY JOHN W. CLARK

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING CENTER, CAMP YOUNG JUDAEA WOODCREEK, TEXAS


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plants. “Native plants are a huge part of our green roofs’ success,” he says. “They’ve got the genetic model to weather the climate of the region. They’re of this place.” PLANTS OF PLACE

NOW, NATIvE PLANTS SEEm LIKE a no-brainer — and that’s not just the Wildflower Center talking. “Because we are such a harsh climate,” says Boyter, “we have some pretty great plants to pull from. If they can hang out in an eighth of an inch of soil in west Austin, I’m pretty sure they can do okay in six inches of soil irrigated on a roof.” Of course, there are some native sedums in Texas, but not all native plants are cut out for rooftops. The Wildflower Center has seen greatest success with two approaches to native plants on green roofs: an herbaceous prairie mix and a succulentand-annual-wildflower mix. There are pluses to each approach. The herbaceous mix is easier to install, cheaper and usually encounters fewer weeds after establishment. It can feature a wide variety of grasses and wildflowers, from buffalograss (Bouteloua dactyloides) and blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) to little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and purple threeawn (Aristida purpurea); wildflowers such as prairie verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) and horsemint (Monarda citriodora) are mixed in for color and diversity. On top of a small kiosk (like the Wildflower Center’s) or spread across an entire home (such as Edgeland House, an award-winning private residence on Austin’s Colorado River), the herbaceous mix looks fuzzy and full, and its color and thickness change with the seasons. It also helps Central Texas’ quickly diminishing blackland prairie, one of the most

Background: This kiosk was modeled after the Center’s Admissions Kiosk. Architect Christopher Sanders says the developers “saw the LBJWC kiosk online and loved it.” Super-green: These kiosks aren’t just green on top. They’re irrigated with HVAC condensate, constructed with a variety of recycled materials, including repurposed denim insulation, and feature “solar awnings,” or protective shades integrated with solar panel cells that deliver enough power to offset daytime operations.

EDGELAND HOUSE AUSTIN, TEXAS

PHOTO BY PAUL BARDAGJY

LAKES EDGE BOAT HOUSE KIOSK THE WOODLANDS, TEXAS

endangered habitats in North America, gain ground — or roof, as it were — one plot at a time. The succulent mix, while more susceptible to weeds, can survive with less water. It also offers more variety in shape than a prairie scheme. The smooth paddles of spineless prickly pear (Opuntia ellisiana) join spiky red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) and spotted false aloe (Manfreda maculosa), while the basal leaves of annual wildflowers — usually Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) and plains coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria) — provide green mulch in winter. This assemblage also creates an upper and lower canopy. On a recent walk to the Wildflower Center green roof research plots, a manfreda was seen growing in the eastern shade of a prickly pear. Center Environmental Designer Michelle Bright says there’s “not a pattern; plants will pick where they feel comfortable.” She also calls prickly pears the “superstars” of green roofs because even their fallen pads root in and grow. Many of these superstars adorn a green roof Bright helped design for a medical office building and parking garage at The University of Texas at Austin’s forthcoming Dell Medical School. Her work is also behind the Living Wall Project at Goldsmith Hall, home to the university’s School of Architecture. This much-lauded feature, which is the product of a five-year collaboration between the Wildflower Center and architecture professor Danelle Briscoe, adds green space to a vertical, rather than horizontal, plane (read more on page 28). But as a west-facing wall in Texas, it’s going to get its fair share of heat and sun, which is why green roof technology — including carefully selected native plants (such as little bluestem, prairie verbena and red

Recognition: Edgeland House has won multiple awards – including a 2014 Plus award in the area of sustainability, as well as Popular Choice and Jury Winner award, all from Architizer A+ — and is currently being considered for an award from Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. Wise words: Daniel Loe with architecture firm Bercy Chen Studio LP says the house is “forced to mitigate the purely man-made with natural environments. Walking the site, one gets the sense that the present ecosystem would exist exactly as-is if the house didn’t exist.”

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yucca) and cells that can hold enough soil to deter desiccation — was applied to its design. In some situations, like the green roof on top of our own Wildflower Café, both plant mixes are used: One side is herbaceous and the other succulent. The herbaceous side of this particular green roof was planted with Habiturf®, a mixture of native turfgrass species developed by Wildflower Center researchers to perform well and conserve resources in hot, dry regions. In any case — prairie or succulent, vertical or horizontal — Asher says the Wildflower Center “has a very specific mission to solve problems with native plants or ecosystems.” WHEN IT RAINS IT POURS

AS MOST HOT CLIMATE GARDENERS know, even drought-hardy natives need some water to survive. So there is the issue of making sure plants on green roofs get enough water to thrive and provide the very benefits they’re designed for. According to Asher, an average Central Texas rain pulse is about one-quarter of an inch. He says Wildflower Center research for the City of Austin demonstrated that our green roofs were good at holding onto those quarter-inch events. “Any more and it’s just going to become saturated like anything else.” But green roofs are often designed with heavy downpours in mind, too. Both the Camp Young Judaea and John Gaines Park green roofs have a rain-gathering aspect designed right alongside the planted section. These “rain-roof ” surfaces gather water that is collected in cisterns and then pumped back up for irrigation. An inverted butterfly roof, which can be seen on the Wildflower Center’s Auditorium and as part of Camp Young Judaea’s water-

collection setup, can greatly facilitate rainwater harvesting. Water can — and often does — come from HVAC condensate as well. Usually more irrigation is needed as a green roof gets established; then watering switches to a timed drip or, in more sophisticated arrangements, done only when soil sensors indicate that plants need it for survival. The Dell Medical School green roof aims to use such sensors to potentially not water at all. The Wildflower Center research plots that this particular roof is based on haven’t been irrigated since April 2014, and they’re doing just fine. The same plant mix — coupled with a slightly deeper 12 inches of soil (thanks to the structural integrity of the parking garage below it) — could make it possible for this roof to be a system that maintains itself. Markus Hogue, an irrigation specialist with The University of Texas at Austin’s Facilities Services who Bright calls “a water conservation guru,” will help implement the soil sensors. The fact that he was able to reduce water use at the university by 66 percent using the same soilmonitoring technology (in conjunction with more efficient nozzles and live weather data) is encouraging. Even an herbaceous roof using drip irrigation is very conservative in terms of water use. “We run the drip for three minutes three times a week,” says Asher. “Each emitter only drips .42 gallons per hour.” Stanley says of her studio’s green roof, “You can accept the effects of a hot dry season and let everything brown and go dormant, or rise to the challenge of keeping irrigation going through tough seasons to maintain some green.” If you go with the former, Bright says, “You’re gonna get brown crispies,” which can be dormant herbaceous plants or dead annuals (which should be left long enough to seed).

PHOTO BY LEE CLIPPARD

Green details: The 10-by-25foot honeycomb structure holds interchangeable cells planted with native species as well as non-plant cells designed to attract bees, lizards and birds. Wise words: Center Environmental Designer Michelle Bright says she hopes the wall will help people realize that “we can bring ecological systems into cities in a thoughtful way.”

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PHOTO BY JOANNA WOJTKOWIAK

LIVING WALL AT GOLDSMITH HALL AUSTIN, TEXAS (ALSO SEE PAGE 28)


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BUILDING CHARACTER

AT THEIR MOST EXCITING, green

roofs also create opportunities for amazing architecture. Daniel Loe of Bercy Chen Studio LP, an architecture and construction firm that worked with the Wildflower Center on the breathtaking Edgeland House, says native plants provide advantages “beyond the practical realities of lower maintenance and less water consumption.” He says, “There’s a pride of place generated as a result of using native materials. It’s a way of saying, ‘This house could exist in no other location than where it is.’” Among other incentives, green roofs just look cool. “Who wants to be around an ugly hot roof ?” asks Asher. Stanley agrees that her own green roof provides “a place to watch the stars and the street, a habitat for butterflies and other critters, a bluebonnet and daisy showcase … and through it all, a place to show others who are curious and enticed by green roofs” — which circles back to her earlier comment about education. Sanders believes in the potential of green roofs to raise awareness too. “It’s important that the green roof be visible,” he says. “The green roof changes with the seasons. It’s beautiful. I wouldn’t want to waste that opportunity.” But it’s not just eye candy. He says it’s a way to make others think about our consumption of water and power. Loe agrees, “As designers, builders and citizens, we have a moral obligation to limit our destructive forces on nature,” he says. “Green-roofs are one means by which the man-made and the natural environments can coexist.” So, can you try this at home? It depends. Sanders says his firm has only worked on green roofs as part of new construction, and pretty much all experts agree that retrofitting can be prohibitively

Green details: Home is where the science is; that’s the saying, right? This green roof on top of the Wildflower Café features Habiturf® grass mix and SkySystem™ planting medium, both developed by Center researchers. Background: Part of a seating and observation area known as Robb’s Roost, this roof features a metal walkway allowing Center visitors an up-close-andpersonal view of a green roof.

ALIVE AND THRIVING

GREEN ROOFS IN HOT CLIMATES have come a long way in recent years. Asher says he’s seen a dramatic spike in demand for green roof projects since he began at the Wildflower Center in 2009. Back then, “Green roofs were this cool thing, but they weren’t working,” he explains. Thanks to research and experience, the Wildflower Center has been able to say — and, more importantly, prove — “This works.” Lady Bird Johnson once asked, “Will your cities be places to thrive in, or to escape from?” Standing on top of a Dell Medical School office building, with downtown Austin and the Texas State Capitol lingering in the distance, I watch men in bright turquoise helmets and fluorescent yellow vests plant prickly pears, red yucca and false aloe into permanent homes on the roof of a major Austin development, and I realize plants and humans can both thrive here. All we have to do is look up. a

Amy McCullough is managing editor for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

DELL MEDICAL SCHOOL MEDICAL OFFICE BUILDING AUSTIN, TEXAS

PHOTO BY JOHN W. CLARK

WILDFLOWER CAFÉ AUSTIN, TEXAS

expensive. Asher notes that, if you’re going to design a new house, it’s not that much more to put in a green roof. While it is going to cost more per square foot, it will have a longer life and save energy costs cooling the interior, so it’s a trade-off. Boyter also mentioned the possibility that your house was designed to have another story that was never built. In such cases, the intention for another floor can provide enough load-bearing capacity for an extensive green roof. She says it’s worth investigating your structure if you’re seriously interested. “If you have the ability to do it,” Asher asks, “why not?”

Green details: This roof features a fiber netting which helps anchor soil media, prevents weeds and allows annual wildflowers to germinate more easily than a thicker erosion control blanket would. Fun fact: Research has shown that visible green spaces can facilitate faster recovery in hospital patients and improve well-being of hospital staff and visitors. This 11,000-squarefoot garden on top of a seven-story parking garage will be visible to employees and visitors of the attached medical office building, as well as patients in hospital rooms across a green parkway; it was strategically integrated into the site to provide health benefits for patients. WILDFLOWER • FALL 2016

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You don’t necessarily need maples for fall color; prairie flameleaf sumac (Rhus lanceolate) is true to its name, burning up the landscape with vibrant orange and fierce scarlet. Shrubs that spread by suckering, like this one, provide a host of benefits, such as filling in large areas with little gardening elbow grease on your part.

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Justthe Thicket Suckering shrubs get a bad rap, but they have redeeming qualities too

PHOTO BY STEVEN SCHWARTZMAN

WRITTEN BY KAREN BUSSOLINI

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S

OMETIMES ROWDY CHARACTERS too boisterous for polite company turn out to be real champs in a different setting. Like many gardeners, I’ve learned the hard way why some aggressively colonizing plants have a bad reputation. Suckering thicket-forming shrubs and small trees — such as wild roses, coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus) and sumacs (Rhus spp.) — can be way too much of a good thing in a well-tended garden. But their “can’t keep ’em down” pioneering spirit is a real boon if you want super-low maintenance plants that hold ground and provide great shelter for wildlife.

My affection for these types of plants stems from close encounters with a grove of staghorn sumacs (Rhus typhina) near my childhood home. I loved slipping under the billowing green canopy to daydream inside, unseen. I’m still struck by sumac’s particular beauty, but as a hardworking homeowner I also appreciate the self-sustaining nature of most suckering shrub thickets. They’re self-mulching and self-fertilizing as leaf litter decomposes. And they provide great cover for more than just reclusive, nature-loving kids: They’re too dense for weeds — but not too dense for nesting birds, small mammals and overwintering insects. Botanically speaking, suckers shoot up along the length of horizontal underground stems called rhizomes (blackberries and raspberries, for instance, sucker). Runners or stolons, on the other hand, are above-ground stems that develop roots and shoots where they touch the ground. In each case, the parent plant, grown from a seed perhaps dropped by a bird, spreads out to form a colony over time. Each member of the colony is a genetically identical clone. Shrubs that expand by any of these vegetative methods (some spread by more than one) have incited many a gardener to complain: “These darned things sucker all over the place.” Lumping these clonal shrubs together as “suckering” may be technically imprecise, but it leads us toward understanding how to harness and appreciate their expansive nature and unique beauty. If your yard has places too steep, rocky or wet to easily plant, tend or mow, or you’re looking for an informal privacy screen, more wildlife habitat and less lawn, these self-reliant occupiers have much to offer. As Wildflower Center Director of Horticulture Andrea DeLong-Amaya says of prairie flameleaf sumac (Rhus lanceolata), “It’s one of our best plants for fall color and pretty drought tolerant too, but its thicket-forming habit makes it really annoying in a small garden. In the right place, it’s great for bank stabilization or where you have a lot of space to fill. You can get more plants from one if you have the patience, just let them fill in.” Walking through a meadow with mature suckering shrub thickets is like navigating a landscape of cloudlike islands. Each

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thicket is a clonal colony with a characteristic pattern of numerous individual, genetically identical stems. This internal architecture is concealed by foliage until winter reveals all. The tallest oldest stems are surrounded by somewhat shorter stems, which in turn are skirted by younger, shorter shoots, the colony’s height progressively diminishing as it expands outward. The loose form of this growth pattern is especially suited to informal situations and large spaces. Given strict boundaries (constructed or mowed), the tendency to fill in all available space can be employed in formal settings as well. Ecological landscape designer Larry Weaner, author, with Thomas Christopher, of recently published “Garden Revolution: How Our Landscapes Can Be a Source of Environmental Change” (Timber Press), describes the difference between clump-forming and suckering shrubs in ecological terms. With clump-forming shrubs, “Their compact, nonspreading pattern of growth makes [them] more suitable for intermingling with other shrubs or with perennials and grasses.” They’re leggy, so while they may have berries for wildlife, an individual shrub doesn’t provide much cover. “From an ecological standpoint,” he says, “[Clump-forming shrubs] are most functional when planted in mass, so they provide both berries and cover.” Suckering shrub thickets operate differently, he explains. Except for staghorn sumac, with elongated stems that admit light to plants below, mature stands of suckering shrubs exclude almost all undergrowth. “Precisely because of their thicket-forming characteristic, clonal shrubs are some of the most weed-suppressive, soil-stabilizing and wildlife-friendly plants you can put in your garden.” He goes on, however, to note that cultivars are an exception. Weaner and Don Segal of Plantsmen Nursery near Ithaca, New York, have long compared observations of wild and cultivated native plants. They’ve noticed that inkberry (Ilex glabra) and winterberry hollies (Ilex verticillata) form extensive colonies in the wild, and summer sweet (Clethra alnifolia) thickets can run for miles around lakes, but cultivars of these plants seem different. Propagated by cuttings, as almost all are in the trade, they seem to develop a clumping habit or reluctance to spread, perhaps making them better garden companions and less useful as colonizers. “Unimproved” seed-grown species like gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa), sweet-fern (Comptonia peregrina) or fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) are hard to improve upon if you want to cover


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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Stoloniferous red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) brings color to shorelines in the form of ruddy stems and creamy white blossoms. • Like a bundle of white pipe-cleaners, Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) looks festive in bloom, and foliage turns red or purple in the winter, adding jewel tones to otherwise drab landscapes. • Lime green buds burst into fuzzy white pompons on Dwarf witchalder (Fothergilla gardenii), shown here at the Tower Hill Botanical Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts. • Sweet-fern (Comptonia peregrina), like many clonal shrubs, does well in hard-to-tend areas like steep banks, where they do double duty by preventing erosion. PHOTOS BY KAREN BUSSOLINI

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PHOTO BY KAREN BUSSOLINI

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Who says suckering shrubs are too unwieldy for a welldesigned garden? Certainly not Ana Hajduk, owner of Singing Brook Gardens in Wassaic, New York; here, she employs ‘Gro-Low,’ a Rhus aromatica cultivar, mass planted as a groundcover. Its fragrant green leaves turn a beautiful deep red in autumn.

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ground without breaking the bank. Weaner notes that small plants usually get established faster than big ones and anything growing between them will be temporary. He often plants a few inexpensive plugs of inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) under bottlebrush buckeyes (Aesculus parviflora). The grass selfsows prolifically and occupies ground until the bottlebrush buckeye eventually forms an impenetrable thicket. “That way you can fill in without spending a lot of money and wasting it, because [the sea oats] won’t last.” Setting a line is the secret to controlling these rambunctious plants, whether pavement, confining structures, mowing or occasional grubbing out. DeLong-Amaya tends drought-tolerant coralberry in a courtyard bed at the Wildflower Center. “It’s really pretty in a garden setting, but recommended only if you’re happy to let it take over a large area or if it’s isolated, so you can

manage it.” With plants confined on three sides by patio stones, she cuts a line with a shovel and pulls out suckers that venture into a bed of Turks cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) and inland sea oats: “both pretty pushy species” that don’t mind the disruption. Balance is an important factor in gardening, and — much like that bold friend who is sometimes the life of the party — suckering shrubs are perfect in certain situations. We all want plants that please us, but there’s no reason why they can’t support wildlife, solve problems and look great too. a Karen Bussolini is a garden photographer, writer and speaker and an eco-friendly garden coach with fragrant sumac and bayberries on her sunny back slope, bottlebrush buckeyes nestled under tulip trees and staghorn sumac smack dab in front of her mountainside home.

FORM AND FUNCTION Problems and places where suckering shrubs are just the thicket Rain gardens and mucky wet places Plant moisture-lovers like Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) or summer sweet in soil dry enough to dig without compacting, so they work their way into adjacent wet ground with minimal disturbance; great for detention basins that catch runoff and let it infiltrate slowly.

Streambanks and shoreline buffers Multiple stems and intertwining roots stabilize banks and protect waterways from erosion and sedimentation as well as pollution from lawn and road runoff. Per Wildflower Center Environmental Designer John Hart Asher, “Shrub species help anchor soils” and act as a riparian shoreline’s “skeleton,” so to speak — an effect that’s strengthened in combination with the “tendons” of native grasses and flowers. When suckering shrubs grow tall enough to block your waterside view, cut them down; they’ll grow back. Trick of the trade: Just before leaves emerge in spring, stick pencil-diameter twigs of red osier dogwoods (Cornus sericea) or roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii) into moist ground — they’ll root in no time. To encourage spread of these shrubs, bend branches to the ground and pile on soil or mulch; new roots and shoots will form.

Shallow soil, crevices, rocky places Ledges with crevices and thin soil, rocky slopes or obtrusive boulder retaining walls in need of softening call for plants with rhizomes that worm their way into cracks, like Rhus aromatica, ‘Gro-Low,’ a short fragrant sumac cultivar. My neighbors turned piles of blasting debris — a hard-to-cover area with really poor soil in full baking sun — into a handsome erosion-controlling planting by jamming a few of these plants into whatever soil pockets they could find. Rhizomes snaked through below ground, and a simple trick — scratching bark on the underside with a fingernail and plunking a rock on top — encouraged aboveground stems to root. Edges, boundaries and transitional spaces Human-scale shrub thickets can be tall enough to screen out unsightly objects or make a privacy screen without appearing unfriendly (like a fence) or casting shade over half the yard. A prickly thicket of native roses, wild plums or bramble fruits provides the makings for tea, desserts or preserves (if you beat the birds to the bounty) while discouraging wandering dogs or intruders. Mixed shrub hedgerows and edges between habitats are important wildlife corridors. Clonal shrubs often occupy the edge between field and forest; they

make a gentle transition between lawn and trees in yards. Destruction zones Thicket-forming shrubs are perfectly compatible groundcovers under trees deep-rooted and tall enough to coexist; plus they rebound if a limb comes crashing down. Errant cars, delivery trucks and, in cold areas, snowplows don’t mix well with woody plants, but the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden surrounds parking areas with plants like Northern bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera). It sets boundaries, and when it gets flattened, Executive Director William Cullina says, “We just cut it back and it rebounds.” Open fields and shrublands Weaner has mastered the creative art of designing meadows and suckering shrub thickets with management techniques that “stack the deck,” as he puts it, to favor certain plants. Meadows are generally cut once a year to set back succession of woody plants (except the ones he wants). To turn a single plant into a thicket, he sets a mow line two feet away, allowing it to spread into the “no mow” zone. As the plant expands, he keeps setting new no mow zones around it until it reaches the size he wants. After that, mowing right up to it prevents it from traveling further.

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in bloom } ROOT OF THE MATTER

Meet Your Seeds

Consumer awareness extends to the gardening aisle, where exotics lurk in unexpected packets WRITTEN BY AMY McCULLOUGH • ILLUSTRATED BY CAITLIN B. ALEXANDER

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E’VE ALL SEEN THEM: seed mixes that claim to be packed with “local favorites,” but what’s really in those packets? The “Texas Wildflower Mix” you thought was completely harmless might be anything but. Just as we like to know that the eggs we select are from chickens who roam free and springing for a pair of TOMS shoes makes us feel socially responsible, Wildflower Center Plant Conservationist Minnette Marr says we have a “real responsibility to be smart consumers” when it comes to seed selection as well. For years, Marr has been hearing from gardeners who, having sown from seed mixes they believed to be full of

Central Texas natives, found anomalies: flower-strangers that no one in their networks of plant nerds could identify. So she and a master naturalist class decided to dissect a bag of wildflower seed mix with “Texas Garden” in the name and see what they found. Of the three categories the group identified — exotic, translocated and native to Central Texas — the exotics and natives tied for the greatest representation. As Marr points out, “Every species is native somewhere.” It’s not a matter of villainizing certain plants; it’s about being informed. So how do you avoid stranger danger (or, worse, familiar plants that are misconstrued as native) when selecting seeds?

Marr recommends visiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov) — which includes both natives and non-natives — and simply typing in the names listed on your bag. But be sure to zoom in for the most complete picture. An initial search for California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), which Marr calls “the perfect example of a translocated plant,” makes it look native to all of Texas. When you zoom to the county level, however, you can see it’s native to only three of the Lone Star State’s 254 counties. Once you’ve gotten all private-detective on that seed’s origins, don’t forget that the Wildflower Center’s website happens to be home to one of the largest native plant databases in North America (8,588 species!), where you can learn everything from bloom period and growing conditions to nicknames and lore (wildflower.org/plants). a

TRANSLOCATED PLANTS, WHICH THE USDA defines as plants not native to the portion of the continent where they are currently found, are often perceived as true natives, but they actually come from nearby places. The four found in Marr’s study (such as California poppy, Eschscholzia californica, depicted here) hail from Mexico, California, Nevada or other parts of Texas. Marr explains that plants from hotter ecoregions often have the ability to “tolerate, even thrive, in the microclimates created in urban settings.” Species that do well in the Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion of El Paso County, for instance, have been able to succeed in the hotter and drier Austin area due to the urban heat island effect (also see feature, page 12).

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More Bloom for Your Buck the terM MIght be exCItIng when it comes to food or lovers in romance novels, but when applied to plants, “exotic” — which means a plant is from another continent — is a red flag. the nine exotic plants found in the study’s “texas garden” (including invasive cornflower, Centaurea cyanus, depicted here) ranged from as far afield as north africa and europe. While Marr says a very small percentage of exotics are actually invasive, there are a few that can harm our environment, so it’s best to avoid them as a general rule. In some cases, she explains, seemingly innocent exotics can outcompete natives of the same genus because the plants and pathogens that kept them in check where they originated “just aren’t here yet.”

a Couple seed-soWIng tricks can help improve yields and create strong, uniform gardens. Wildflower Center nursery Manager sean Watson dropped some knowledge on us about how best to scarify and stratify seeds for increased germination.

SCARIFYING

Watson says it’s a good idea to scarify anything with a hard seed coat. With a plant like texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora), it can mean the difference between getting one or two plants out of 50 seeds and “100 percent, almost.” the appropriate method depends on seed size. For bigger seeds, Watson likes to use a stone grinder, holding the seed with needle-nose pliers and making sure not to let it heat up. For smaller seeds, he suggests a dip in sulfuric acid; for thin coats, five minutes or less should work, while thicker coats may take up to 30 minutes. “Make sure you rinse the acid off really well,” he advises, “otherwise it can eat through and kill the embryo.” Other methods include: lacerating the seed with a sharp knife, nicking it with nail clippers or roughing up its coating with sandpaper. scared of acid and sharp objects? Watson says you can also boil water, let it cool just a bit, then add seeds that have spent a day or so in the freezer. “they’ll want to expand, so you get cracks.”

STRATIFYING

In Marr’s study, thIs group contained some beloved usual suspects — such as Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella), texas bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) and Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera, depicted here) — which are recommended for all the same reasons the Wildflower Center champions native plants: they’re hardy and adapted to the region; their presence is threatened by invasive species as well as a variety of human activities (agriculture and development, for two); and they provide a sense of place. after all, what says “texas” better than a field of fiery Indian blanket or a bluebonnet-lined drive through the hill Country?

this process, which involves putting seed in a plastic bag with growing media (Watson suggests vermiculite for smaller seeds, perlite for larger) and chilling it, serves as a sort of simulated winter. the amount of time a seed is in the cold depends on the plant: perennials such as milkweeds, columbines and penstemons can be stratified from two to four weeks; trees and shrubs: 30 to 90 days. be sure to check your bag daily and keep the media moist. “If you see germination, go ahead and sow ’em,” says Watson.

A list of native seed suppliers can be found at wildflower.org/suppliers. WIldFloWer • Fall 2016

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What’s the Buzz

An assistant professor reflects on a life’s work inspired by pollinators and plants WRITTEN BY MARC AIRHART • PHOTO BY MATT WRIGHT-STEEL

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HALENE JHA HAS BEEN interested in pollinators her entire life. Now, as an assistant professor of integrative biology at The University of Texas at Austin, she studies the interactions of native bees and plant communities for a living. A Michigan native, Jha was recently notified of two exciting awards: One, a grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will support the study of pollination services in urban gardens; the other, a State Wildlife Grant (via the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service), will fund prairie restoration in an effort to revitalize and monitor plantpollinator interactions across Oklahoma and Texas (the latter could include restoration on Wildflower Center land). As pollinators prepare for winter, we asked Jha to expound on her area of expertise. How did you first get interested in pollinators? When I was a young child visiting my family in India, I spent many afternoons with my grandmother walking through her small mango orchard, where she would describe her work and explain the importance of all the ecological factors involved in the creation of a single delicious mango, including the important role of pollinators … and I was fascinated. What other experiences influenced your career path? Many years later while in college, I spent a semester abroad in Ecuador, where I visited my first shade-grown organic coffee farm. I was absolutely blown away by the diversity of birds, bees, butterflies and other animals living in this habitat. The farmers preserved a rich diversity of rainforest plants, which supported all these pollinators. The pollinators in turn improved crop yields. I decided then that I wanted to study pollination in agroecosystems, urban gardens and other human-managed landscapes where we most need animal-mediated pollination services. What benefits do pollinators provide? Pollinators are responsible for the increased quantity, quality and stability of over 60 percent of the world’s crops, and they pollinate more than 85 percent of global plant species, worth over $200 billion annually across the globe. Most crops grown for their fruits, nuts, seeds, fiber and hay require pollination by insects. Pollinators also benefit us through the non-crop plants they pollinate, including increased carbon sequestration, erosion control, water filtration and microclimate regulation.

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What do you enjoy most about your research? I truly love observing plant and pollinator interactions in the field. And I deeply enjoy discovering new and unexpected relationships between these organisms, such as finding out that an expected pollinator is actually a nectar robber — an animal that visits a plant and drinks its nectar but does not deposit pollen on the stigma. What’s one of the more surprising things you've learned? Farmers didn’t think pollinators provided much benefit to certain crops which can self-pollinate, such as cotton. But we recently showed that in South Texas, pollinators can boost cotton production by more than 18 percent, potentially worth millions of dollars each year for farmers across the state. Further, we showed that robust and diverse pollinator communities can be supported in cotton landscapes by providing small amounts of pollinator habitat. This can be as simple as keeping a floral hedgerow or maintaining a natural wooded buffer or an unmowed irrigation ditch. These changes are small scale but can have large impacts on the pollinator community and cotton crop yields. What is the hardest part of studying pollinators? Many insects and plants only emerge or flower for a few days at a time. This makes it tricky to study species-specific processes over multiple years, as small changes in temperature or rainfall patterns can alter these very short emergence periods. In graduate school, during an El Niño, I traveled all the way to my remote study region in Chiapas, Mexico, only to find out my focal plant species had already flowered, nearly two months early. I have come to learn that science is completely at the whim of ecological forces beyond our control. You’re collaborating with the Wildflower Center and the university’s School of Architecture on a “living wall” on campus (read more beginning on page 12). Can you elaborate? It’s a honeycomb-shaped structure on the side of Goldsmith Hall with cells containing soil and plants that provide minihabitats. My student Kim Ballare helped select pollinator plants and bee nesting habitat. Before the wall was erected, we monitored the area for pollinators and observed their foraging activity. And we are currently monitoring the wall to see its impact on the local pollinator community.


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What role do native plants play in helping pollinators? Native plants provide both food and nesting opportunities. Butterflies use plants as hosts for their larvae and also consume nectar. Bees consume pollen and nectar to fuel themselves and collect pollen and nectar to feed their offspring. How can people help pollinators in their own backyards? Our work in urban gardens across Texas reveals that gardens with greater native plant abundance and diversity — as well as diverse nesting habitat — support greater bee diversity. Are there other factors gardeners should take into account? We sometimes forget that pollinators are out there trying to eat a good meal and feed their offspring. They can't just eat for a few periods and then go hungry. In our research, we found that native bees tend to forage farther from home at the end of summer, when fewer plants are blooming. That means they are spending more energy and are more vulnerable at that time. To help them, farmers, land managers and home owners should consider not only providing a diversity of flowering plants, but also plants that flower specifically during such stressful times. What is the biggest misconception people have about gardening for pollinators? One of the biggest misconceptions is that all bees nest in hives above ground. In fact, most bees are solitary, meaning they do not nest in social groups, and instead nest underground. Thus, it is essential to keep patches of exposed, bare ground and old wood available for their nesting. A truly bee-friendly habitat is not simply mulched and planted with flowers. Native bees, and to a lesser extent domesticated bees, are declining sharply around the world. What makes you hopeful? Studies from my lab and many others continue to show that even local management practices within a small farm or backyard, such as enhancing flowering and nesting resources, can increase pollinator visitation and persistence. Our research also reveals that pollinators respond quickly to restoration efforts and are capable of recolonizing and dispersing much further than we had ever expected. All of this reveals that simple land management practices can be implemented to improve pollinator habitat, and it is not too late for these practices to make a large impact on the pollinator community. a For more on pollinators and pollinator plants, see the inside front cover and page 10.

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Deep Sweep Craft brooms — many of which can be made from native plants — cover way more than floors WRITTEn by JILL SELL • PHOTOS by SHAWN HOEFER

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WOOSH, SWISH, SWOOSH… Sound familiar? There isn’t a more universal domestic tool in the world than a broom. Used in cottages, castles, campsites and condos, the humble broom has done its job for centuries. In fact, the broom is so important to our daily lives that it intertwines with our cultures, beliefs and entertainment. The fall season may conjure images of little broom-bearing witches roaming neighborhoods in search of candy, but brooms make plenty of appearances outside of Halloween too. We bring brooms to sports stadiums hoping our favorite team makes a “clean sweep” over our opponents. And how could Harry Potter and his classmates play Quidditch without flying on their broomsticks? The African-American custom of jumping over a broomstick at the end of a marriage ceremony has gained renewed interest, even in pop culture: In 2011’s “Jumping the Broom,” an engaged couple played by Paula Patton and Laz Alonso argues about whether they want to jump the broom or create a new tradition for their own wedding. And a 2013 episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” features characters Ben Warren and Miranda Bailey jumping the broom at the end of their wedding ceremony. The custom can be traced to Southern slaves who, in the

1840s and ’50s were not permitted to marry. Either jumping together or separately, the custom symbolized the union between the couple. Until modern times, the broom was made from 100 percent plant material, much of which came from native plants. Non-native broomcorn (Sorghum spp.), however, is currently considered by many to be the best fiber for making the “head” or “sweep” of the broom. It originated in Central Africa, and Ben Franklin often gets credit for introducing and distributing it in this country in the 1750s, according to Arkansas broomsquire Shawn Hoefer. But broomcorn isn’t the only plant that has been used to make broom heads in the United States. Native plants include beargrass (Xerophyllum spp.) and panic grass (Panicum spp.). And some Pueblo Native Americans used sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), the state grass of Texas, to sweep their homes. “During the Depression, homesteaders also harvested broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus) for house brooms and to tidy their yards, which were free of grass then. They would lay bundles up in the attic and as the brooms wore out, they picked up another,” says Hoefer. “It served a dual pur-

Kitchen brooms (and their slightly smaller counterparts, parlor brooms) are the classic most of us use for gathering up pet hair and dust balls; these handmade versions feature natural Ozark-hardwood handles instead of a boring old aluminum tube.

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TASK MASTERS pose. They started putting the bundles inside in October and were actually insulating their houses. By the time spring came along, the amount of insulation went down. It was genius.” Native plants still play an important part in American broom making. Like those on early American brooms, the handles on today’s beautiful craft brooms are frequently made from native wood. Hoefer, who teaches broom making at

2000. He’s also run a small shop in Fort Davis, Texas, since 2005. Now in his late 70s, Cox still makes 5,000 to 7,000 brooms a year — by himself. “Sometimes I work from sunup to sundown,” said Cox, who owns Davis Mountain Broom Co. (His specialty brooms are also sold by No. 4 St. James, a web-based Texas lifestyle store.) “I use cholla cactus, yucca, mesquite, white oak and pecan. I use whatever makes a good

“During the Depression, homesteaders also harvested broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus) for house brooms and to tidy their yards, which were free of grass then. They would lay bundles up in the attic and as the brooms wore out, they picked up another.” Ozark Folk Center Sate Park and guarantees his broom handles for 15 years, favors sassafras (Sassafras albidum) because it’s a lightweight but sturdy wood that grows relatively straight. “But I love the fact that the Ozarks have a variety of trees, so I use hickory, oak, maple, sycamore and hawthorn — all hardwoods. No pine, that just rots,” says Hoefer, who is also an award-winning broom artist. “One benefit of using all-natural wood handles, he notes, is that “there is no way you are ever going to get two identical brooms. Each is unique.” Ron Cox is a broom maker who’s been making 1800s-style brooms since

broom and what I can lay my hands on,” he says. “A friend in the eastern United States brings me a bunch of eastern cedar (Juniperus virginiana) for handles every year. He gets to go home with a lot of cholla.” Cox’s favorite style of broom is his kitchen broom, but he also makes what he calls “fancy brooms” that sell between $200 and $300. (For a primer on broom types, see box, right.) “I don’t ever want to completely stop making brooms,” says Cox, who now keeps irregular hours at his workshop. “I like it best when little children come in. Most of them don’t know that a person can make a broom by hand.” a

Today's rooster tail brooms are based on the beautiful brooms used in the 1920s by ushers in auditoriums and music halls. The long handle was designed to fit in an usher's back pocket. Audience seats were whisked clean to prevent soiling beautiful gowns and to give them that "never sat in" look. Some home bakers like to hang a cake tester broom (left) on a wall in their kitchen. Simply pluck off a straw and insert into a cake or cupcakes. If the straw comes out clean, the cake is baked to perfection. Pot scrubbers (right) are enjoying a comeback and can be purchased in some gourmet kitchenware shops. Usually about 4 inches long, the pot scrubber cleans its namesake as well as cast iron skillets and crock pots. Throw the tiny broom into a backpack, and you'll have a tool to wash dishes and utensils while hiking or camping. Hang up to dry after use. Traditionally, riverboat whisks were not made from broomcorn but rope (usually fiber from nonnative Agave sisalana), a common commodity for people living along a waterway. A simple-to-make broom (usually just doubled over, knotted rope), it serves as a handy dusting whisk.

WILDFLOWER • FALL 2016

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Natural Disaster

Nature brings one couple together — sort of

WRITTEN BY DALE BRIDGES

I DON’T CARE MUCH FOR NATURE. Bugs frighten My wife has many wonderful talents — she’s an amazing me. Fresh air makes me nauseous. Trees? They’re OK, I guess, as artist, for instance, and she will own you at Elder Scrolls Online — long as I don’t have to touch them. but she isn’t exactly what you’d call a graceful woman. She can When I was a child, we used to go camping in the Rocky injure herself anywhere. It’s uncanny. I once saw her walk across Mountains and I’d think to myself, Really? This is how we’re going a room that was completely empty except to spend our summer vacation? Walking around in circles and for a single chair. And I’ll be sleeping in the mud? damned if she didn’t just about My wife, Michelle, on the other hand, loves break her neck tripping over nature. She loves bugs and air and trees and flowthat chair. ers. Sometimes we’ll be walking along outside Michelle took one and she’ll stop to examine an interesting patch step into that algaeof dirt. Dirt! Concerned passersby will see her infested water, and her bent over staring at the ground and ask if anyfeet flew out from thing’s wrong. That’s when I have to explain, under her. She put “No, it’s fine. My wife is just looking at dirt.” out her hands to We’ve been married two years now. As break her fall, and all you can imagine, when we started planning her weight landed on the wedding we weren’t exactly on the same her right wrist. I page. I wanted to have the ceremony at a bar, knew immediately it and she wanted to get married with the forwas broken. Not est people. We went back and forth on it for a because I have a medical while, but in the end, our bank accounts deciddegree but because that’s ed for us. There was no way we could afford to exactly the type of thing rent out a bar and then pay for the damages our inethat would happen to my wife: ILL UST RATI briated friends would certainly inflict upon it. And breaking her arm on her wedding ON BY ZACHARY ZASH nature is free. day. The woman is simply the unluckMichelle spent two months driving to every park in Central iest person on the planet. Texas trying to find the one that best expressed matrimonial Turns out the bone wasn’t just broken; it was shattered. A surunion. In the end, she decided on southeast Austin’s McKinney geon had to cut her arm open and put the pieces back together Falls State Park. It’s a beautiful piece of wilderness, if you like like a jigsaw puzzle. They installed a metal plate in her wrist to that sort of thing. There’s a butt-load of fresh air over there. You hold it all together. She’s part machine now, my wife. When the like flowers? McKinney is lousy with them. There’s also a river robot uprising occurs, I expect her to defend me. that cuts through a giant hunk of smooth limestone and then The outdoors certainly didn’t win me over on our wedding drops into a deep watering hole. Above the waterfall, there are a day. I still avoid nature and Michelle still loves it, but now we’re bunch of little pits carved out of the limestone like someone went both pretty pissed off at limestone — and algae. So there’s that. at it with an ice cream scoop. With marriage, it’s the little things. a After the ceremony, everyone decided they wanted to take a dip (or at least wade) in one of those scoops. What we didn’t Dale Bridges is an Austin-based fiction writer, essayist and journalist; he know was that the water had been sitting in those limestone pits is also the author of a short story collection, “Justice, Inc.” (2014, Monkey Puzzle Press). so long a slick layer of green algae had formed on the bottom.

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{ thank you WE ARE GRATEFUL TO THOSE WHO CONTRIBUTED TO THE WILDFLOWER CENTER FROM APRIL 1 – JUNE 30, 2016.

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Wildflower Magazine - Fall 2016  

Green roofs, using thickets in your landscape and shopping for seeds the savvy way.

Wildflower Magazine - Fall 2016  

Green roofs, using thickets in your landscape and shopping for seeds the savvy way.

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