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A look at rain gardens

Gazette photographer Brian Ray takes photos of Lucy Hershberger in the rain garden at Forever Green Garden Center near North Liberty (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Gazette photographer Brian Ray takes photos of Lucy Hershberger in the rain garden at Forever Green Garden Center near North Liberty (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Our flood anniversary tribute continues with a look at rain gardens. Several people I interviewed for the article in the Sunday, June 14, 2009, Gazette said while rain gardens would not have prevented last year’s devastating floods in Iowa, they could have helped. Lucy Hershberger, co-owner of Forever Green Landscaping & Garden Center in Coralville showed me the well-kept rain garden in front of their site on Forevergreen Road, near North Liberty. Yellow and blue flag iris, native grasses, coneflower, liatris and dwarf arctic blue willow were planted when the rain garden was installed in September. It’s obvious that Hershberger’s  enthusiasm goes beyond trying to sell customers on a new fad. She has conducted free seminars on rain gardens for people to learn more and to better take care of their little corner of the environment. Hershberger remembers the interest in rain gardens and rain barrels in the early 1990s, at that time because of costs associated with watering. “Now it’s because of the awareness of stormwater management,” she said. “It’s not cost-driven.”

Blue flag iris

Blue flag iris

The following list of plants is from Iowa’s Rain Garden Design and Installation Manual Native Plant Favorites for Soils with Good Percolation Rates:

Common Name Height Comments

Blue grama 1-2 ft makes a good border

Bottle gentian 1 ft novel purple flowers

Butterfly milkweed 1-4 ft emerges late spring; no milky sap

Columbine 1-2 ft orange flower stalk may add 1 ft

Culver’s root 3-6 ft can get tall; for moderatley moist soils

Fox sedge 1-3 ft may not tolerate drought

Golden alexander 1-3 ft yellow dill-like flower, mod moist soils

Little bluestem 2 ft nice rusty color all winter

Mountain mint 1-3 ft for moist soils

Nodding onion 1-2 ft for moderately moist soils

Pale purple coneflower 4 ft most overused native; only in S. Iowa

Prairie blazing star 2-5 ft for moist soils

Prairie smoke 1 ft makes a good border

Sideoats grama 2-3 ft red anthers; not as tidy as little bluestem

Silky aster 1-2 ft loved by rabbits

Websites with native plant lists for rain gardens:

http://prrcd.org/inl/recommended_plants.htm

http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/runoff/rg/plants/PlantListing.html

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Bugged by bugs?

  

Japanese beetles

Japanese beetles

 Spring in Iowa is too fleeting. Rare are those 70-degree days with cool nights before the air explodes with humidity and bugs begin their annual invasion. I can look at healthy green potato plants today and know that in a week or so the Colorado potato beetle will begin its defoliation quest. Same is true of the lush rose bushes that succomb ever earlier to the dreaded Japanese beetle, a copper-colored foreign invader.

   Because of the devastation they wreak on my plants, the Japanese beetle and potato beetle rank number one and two on my list of “bad bugs.” I was enjoying my backyard garden last night trying to think of others when a mosquito bit my leg. Mosquitoes= #3.

Colorado potato beetle

Colorado potato beetle

   Here are the others: 4) gnats or whatever those little black bugs are that bite behind the ears. 5) chiggers – not an insect, but larvae of a specific family of mites – the Trombiculidae. If you’ve ever suffered through chigger bites, you’ll know why these are on my list. 6) wasps – I try to leave them alone, but they seem ubiquitous this year and more aggressive – building wherever they take a liking, which includes my back porch and my sons’ club house.  7) ticks – again, not an insect, but my general worry over them keeps me from enjoying the outdoors at times. 8) Ants – luckily we don’t have  fire ants like they do in the south, but they’re just a pain when they decide to come in the house. 9) termites – again a general anxiety thing. 10) Emerald ash borer – not here in Iowa yet, but a preemptive disdain for a foreign invader that will someday devastate our ash trees. 

Emerald ash borer

Emerald ash borer

   What makes your list? I’m sure I’ll think of more, now that our perfect spring days are in the past.

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