A walk on the wild side

American Kestrel (photo by Roger Garber)

I hope I never lose the burning desire to learn more about natural history. I knew that Mother Nature could be quite the designer but I learned some new things at the Wildlife Diversity Conference this week. Things that tell me she has quite a few more tricks hiding up her sleeve. From discovering how nonnative earthworms are detrimentally impacting our forests to learning what is down in a terrestrial crayfish tunnel….It was great. Sponsored by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife, this annual conference draws nearly 1000 people to hear researchers who are tops in their fields. Consider attending next year. You won’t regret it.

Perhaps you’ve heard it said, “Tell me something I don’t know.” I’ll try to add a new snippet in my posts that just may give the reader something to ponder. Something to demonstrate just how magnificent the natural world is. Here we go:

American Kestrel (photo by Roger Garber)

Did You Know? The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is the smallest of our falcons. About the size of a Mourning Dove, they can frequently be seen sitting on a power line or telephone wire or hovering over a field just waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting meadow vole or grasshopper. It goes without saying that raptors (hawks, falcons, eagles and owls) have great eyesight but here’s something even more unusual. Because kestrels can see ultraviolet light, and because vole urine reflects that color, it’s possible that kestrels can follow vole urine trails to potential prey. Go figure! Thank you to our friend Roger Garber who kindly provided some of his spectacular photos for this post.

Arc of Appalachia Wildflower Pilgrimage

Now in its sixth consecutive year, the popular Wildflower Pilgrimage is a weekend event hosted in southern Ohio celebrating one of Earth’s greatest natural spectacles – the grand showcase of wildflowers gracing the world’s temperate forests in the spring. Located at the southern edge of the glacial advance, and also occupying the edge of the Appalachian foothills, this region has one of the richest wildflower displays to be found in America’s Eastern Forest. The Wildflower Pilgrimage is timed to catch the blooming of many of the showiest species and will be held April 20-22. Check it out HERE.

Area garden centers gear up for spring season

The area garden centers are BURSTING with a riot of colors and fresh new ideas to get you in their doors and out in your garden. Grandma’s Gardens and Landscaping (Centerville/Waynesville) is celebrating with their Spring Preview Open House March 9-11. Knollwood Garden Center (Beavercreek) has already started their spring series of seminars. This Saturday, March 10 at 10 am is “Spring Tonic: Early Vegetable Gardening”. Call the store to register at 937-426-0861. Meadow View Growers (New Carlisle) also has a list of upcoming seminars. Check them out HERE. Siebenthaler’s (Centerville) is having a Potato Planting Party. Check it out HERE.

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Raptors: Hunting on the Wing

Great Horned Owl

This past Saturday I traveled to Cedar Bog Nature Preserve, just south of Urbana (OH) in Champaign County for a Raptor Workshop led by the amazing Tom Hissong, education coordinator for Aullwood Audubon Center. Participants were schooled on the numerous hawks, eagles, falcons and owls that can be found in at Cedar Bog as well as around Ohio.

Cedar Bog is an Ohio Historical Society property that is managed by the Cedar Bog Association. The bog is the largest and best example of a boreal and prairie fen complex in Ohio formed by retreating glaciers about 15, 000 years ago. It is home to many rare, unusual and endangered plants including the Small Yellow Lady Slipper and Showy Lady Slipper orchids. The 450-acre site features a one mile long board walk and an eco-friendly nature center, which was the location for the raptor workshop.

Small rodent bones in an owl pellet

Weird one that I am, I thought the highlight of the workshop was the opportunity to dissect an owl pellet. Less you are grossed out by this thought, would it soften the weirdness to know that the pellets were sterilized? Hmmm. I didn’t think so. Anyways, owls, as you may know, hunt and eat small animals like shrews, mice, voles and birds. They tear their food and swallow large chunks whole. They can’t digest all the hair and hard materials such as bones, so they regurgitate these in the form of a pellet. Sounds like an owl version of a cat’s hair ball!

Bones found in an owl pellet. The tiny bones just under the jaw are less than 1/4 inch.

Using a bone sorting chart (yes, there is such a thing) we discovered teeny, tiny vertebrae, ribs, shoulder bones, leg bones, sculls and teeth. It was quite interesting. It bears repeating: do yourself a favor and discover the wonders of nature by taking the opportunity to check out some of the wonderful places like Cedar Bog. You won’t be disappointed.

Yummy shortbread owl cookies. Who says birders don't have a sense of humor?

Sales alerts

Knollwood Garden Center – Beavercreek – Knollwood is really getting in some great and unusual house plant in stock. Just in time for Valentine’s Day (though who REALLY needs an excuse to buy a plant?) all tropical foliage plants are 20% off through the 18th. (Flowering plants not included.) Website HERE.

Grandma’s Gardens – Waynesville/Centerville-ish –  Grandma’s Gardens website has a $5 off a $30 purchase of regular priced items (some exclusions) through Wednesday, February 15. Coupon HERE.

There’s something happening here….

Suffering Austrian Pines on Clyo Road

Taken from the famous Buffalo Springfield 1966 song “For What It’s Worth” the lyrics in my blog title are so appropriate. Something BIG is happening to mature Austrian pine (Pinus nigra) trees all over the Centerville-Washington Township area. Have you noticed these large long-needled conifers dying in your community?

According to the ODNR’s Division of Forestry the Austrian pine is the pine most susceptible to Diplodia Tip Blight, a fungus that commonly attacks mature trees that have been stressed. And these trees have seen stress! This menace will slowly kill the tree over several years and wreak havoc in mass plantings as it spreads to surrounding trees. If it was present last year, I must have been oblivious. THIS year….. it is everywhere. Just drive down Clyo Road around Alex-Bell. Or check out I-675 between the Centerville and Wilmington Pike exits. I what I see from my car is any indication, we’re on track to soon lose thousands of pine trees.

Diplodia tip blight

Even though the Austrian pines are fast growing they are not long-lived trees and are often mixed in with spruces and deciduous trees in new plantings. When the Austrians die off, the spruce and deciduous trees are still there.

Regional Urban Forester Wendi Van Buren notes, “A telltale way to determine of a tree is infected with Diplodia tip blight is to look for the signs of the pathogen, which consist of tiny black, fungal fruiting bodies (pycnidia) that are formed on the surface of the infected needles and cones.” Read more about it  HERE on this OSU extension fact sheet.

Educational Opportunities

Knollwood Garden Center

I attended the perennial seminar at Knollwood today and came home with 4 new perennials!! Don’t miss out on Knollwood’s next seminar, Saturday, September 3 at 10am and again at 11am at St. Luke’s Catholic Church for: “Learn to Plant Like the Pros”. Learn as John Scott narrates as the landscape crew installs a job from start to finish. Space is limited and reservations are required. Call 937-426-0861.

Siebenthaler’s Garden Center

“Clip and Cook With Herbs”  Learn how to harvest and dry a myriad of herbs or make a culinary wreath at the Thursday, September 8 seminar (Centerville garden center location) at 10 am or 6 pm. Event will repeat at the Beavercreek garden center at 1 pm on Saturday, September 10.

Dahlias on Parade

The Greater Columbus Dahlia Society will hold their 46th annual dahlia show September 3 & 4 at the Marysville Family YMCA and Ohio National Guard Armory Facility in Marysville (1050 Charles Lane, Marysville OH 43040). This is a free event.

Vacation recovery

One of the poolside visitors.

It’s always fun to escape from the everyday routine and last week was no exception. Our vacation to Hilton Head Island, SC offered a whole ‘nother natural world to discover. Dragonflies were abundant as well as birds that we don’t see ’round these parts. A highlight for me was a Swallow-tailed Kite, a black and white raptor, not the kite with a string you fly on the beach! However now that I am home, there are lots of educational opportunities and sales events to report on so let’s get to it.

Who says snakes aren't cute? This one is about 8" long. Note the moss for a size reference.

Educational Opportunities

Vegetable Seminar, Saturday, August 6

Knollwood Garden Center is featuring Rich Pearson of Five Rivers MetroParks this Saturday, August 6th at 9:30 am. He will offer tips on how to keep your mid-summer gardens producing at their best and what to do with the great produce to save it for future use. Such as: freezing, drying, freezer salsa, refrigerator pickles (no canning!) and more.

Any one up for Bug Bingo? Saturday, August 6

Bring the kids out to Koogler Wetland/Prairie Reserve from 10-11:30 am, Saturday, August 6, in Beavercreek Township to learn about insects while playing Bug Bingo! Under the direction of Beaver Creek Wetlands Association (BCWA) Trustee Chris Simmons, tromp through the prairie shaking bugs from the wildflowers onto catching sheets and get a closer look-see in magnifier boxes. Volunteers will assist with identification. Those who successfully complete their Bug Bingo card will proceed to the “Edible Entomology” station, where they can create an insect from tasty treats. They can eat their creation if they can identify the basic parts of an insect.

Nets, collection boxes, identification guides, and treats provided. Dress appropriately – long pants and closed-toe shoes are recommended.  Koogler Wetland/Prairie Reserve is located on the southeast corner of Beaver Valley and New Germany-Trebein Roads.  Please contact BCWA at 937-320-9042 or by E-mail at admin@beavercreekwetlands.org for more information.

Men’s program offered this Saturday, August 6

Not slighting the men (after last post’s note on a Women’s Day event) Siebenthaler’s Nursery is offering a Men’s Morning, Saturday, August 6 from 8-9:30 am at the Centerville Garden Center ONLY. Men can enjoy breakfast cooked on the grill and hear helpful lawn tips from Len Dunaway of Green Velvet Sod Farm. Robert and Jeff Siebenthaler will discuss the latest Emerald Ash Borer news. This program is also free, but you need to make a reservation. Register by contacting Laurie Fanning at: lauriefanning@siebenthaler.com; 937-434-1326 or 937-427-4110.

Dr. Doug Tallamy to speak Sunday, August 7

The Greater Cincinnati Master Gardener Association is offering “A Case for Native Gardening: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants” and is presenting Dr. Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Back Nature for two speaking engagements on August 7. Tickets and more information can be found HERE.

Attracting Pollinators – Tuesday, August 9

The guest speaker for the 7 pm, Tuesday, August 9 meeting of the Miami Valley Hosta Society which meets at Cox Arboretum is Barbara Bloetscher, Ohio State University. For over 20 years she has had a close association with OSU and now serves as diagnostician for environmental and nutritional problems on agronomic crops and turfgrass. She also is the State Entomologist/Apiarist at the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Her specialty is turfgrass but she also is a recognized expert in identifying weed and herbicide injury on crops and ornamentals. The event is free.

Cincinnati Zoo’s Plant Trials Day – Thursday, September 1

Just what is a Plant Trials Day? It is a day for people who love plants! It is a view of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens Trials, including annuals, perennials, grasses, bamboo, shrubs, vines and trees. Industry professionals in these categories will be sharing their best new varieties. Featured speakers include: Jim Nau, Manager of The Gardens at Ball at Ball Horticultural Company; Bill Hendricks, President of Klyn Nurseries with one of the largest selections of plants anywhere in the country and Paul Cappiello, Executive Director of Yew Dell Botanical Gardens and Coauthor of the Book “Dogwoods”. The event is $45 and lasts all day and includes a catered lunch and reception and a Silent Auction for rare and outstanding plants. Find more information HERE.

Appalachian Forest School

If you are serious about learning more of the natural world around you, check out this branch of the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System HERE. Upcoming in-depth on-site schools include Butterflies of the Forest Heartland (August 22-26) and Trees of the Eastern Forest (September 18-23).

Sales Alerts

Grandma’s Gardens and Nursery: Sunset Specials from 6-8 pm, now through August 5. Aug. 2: Buy one shrub, get 2nd 50% off; Aug. 3: All gallon and larger perennials, buy two, get one free; Aug. 4: Half off one regular tree planting fee; Aug. 5: 30% off regular priced in-stock fountain. Now through August 14: all daylilies and Asiatic lilies are 30% off.

Knollwood Garden Center: 20% Off all trees and shrubs, 25% off all perennials (gallons, $12.99 & up), 50% off all quart-sized perennials ($6.59 & up). Groundcovers not included. Fountains and furniture 30% off.

Siebenthaler’s: Siebenthaler’s 61st Annual Tree & Nursery Sale is scheduled for September 24th & 25th and October 1st & 2nd.


Scrambled eggs anyone?

At first glance it looked like someone had spilled scrambled eggs under my neighbor’s tree. It was brilliant yellow in color and upon closer inspection had a furry look about it. Dusk was nearly upon me and because I’m not a big fan of taking pictures with flash, I waited until morning to get these photos. By that time the beautiful yellow color had already dulled to a pale beige. And it had grown. Exponentially!

It turns out to be one of the prettier varieties of slime mold, something akin to fungus. That is, if you can call slime mold pretty. Fuligo septica is also commonly called scrambled egg slim and also dog vomit. Eeeeewwwwweeeee. I like calling it scrambled egg slime better.

If you are one of the millions upon millions of home gardeners who spread bark mulch in your beds, you’ve probably run into this common fungus-like sight. Without getting too scientific, a bunch of spores grow and form a fast-growing amoeba-like spongy mass while in search of non-living organic nutrients found in mulch.

It doesn’t take long, even a day or so, before it turns brown and crusty. If you don’t like what you see, turn it over and cover with fresh mulch. It turns out that the presence of slime mold is actually a good thing; showing that organic matter is doing what it should be doing.

Calling all ladies

Siebenthaler’s Nursery’s annual Ladies’ Night will be held Thursday, August 4 from 6-8 pm. This event will be held at their Beavercreek location (2074 Beaver Valley Rd., Beavercreek, OH 45434). Join The Cake Chronicles author Jayne B. Robinson as she finds sweet hope in this crazy world. Cake and sparkling wine will be served. Call 937-434-3126,  937-426-4110 or stop in either location to reserve your spot.

Get ready for the county fair flower show

Mark your calendars now for the Montgomery County Fair’s Flower Show! The flower show is sponsored by the Montgomery County Agricultural Society and produced by the Federation of Garden Clubs of Dayton and Vicinity. There are two days of floral-friendly competition: Wednesday, August 31 and Saturday, September 3. Volunteers are needed in many capacities: helping to process entries, getting entries sorted and placed in preparation for judging, hostessing during the hours the fair is open, set-up and more. Don’t forget to enter your own specimens! There is no fee to exhibit. Download the flower show schedule HERE to learn more about entering and contact details. An informational briefing will be held on Monday, August 15 at 10am at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark.

Sales alerts

If you are still in the market for slipping in a few more plants, be sure to visit your local garden center or nursery for some great deals. Examples: Knollwood Garden Center’s trees and shrubs are 20% off, birdbaths are 25% off, quart-sized perennials are 50% off and 10″ plastic hanging baskets are $10 off. Grandma’s Garden Center has 4″ annuals buy-one-get-one-free and wooden raised garden bed kits are 40% off . You’ll find similar savings all over the area this month.

Think all flowers smell good? Think again!

Amorphophallus titanum

What is nearly six-feet tall, smells like rotting flesh and, yet, is drawing in the crowds like a horticultural version of Justin Bieber? Ok, maybe that’s a bit over the top… but still! An Amorphophallus titanum is came into bloom last Saturday at The Ohio State University’s greenhouse in Columbus, Ohio and is really charming the crowds. This rare plant from the Indonesian rain forest is a sight,and smell to remember. The bloom’s fragrance is its key to attracting the right pollinators. I grow a smaller version called Amorphophallus konjac. Not into using the Latin name? My friends and family affectionately call the plants Mr. Stinky or Harry Butler after the Dayton-TV personality who gave me my first plant.  You can see a time-lapse video of the voodoo lily in Columbus opening HERE.

Here's my shopping cart and the damage I did. Errr, I mean the treasures I found.

Knollwood’s 2nd Ladies’ Night Out

Knollwood Garden Center Beavercreek, OH) held their second Ladies’ Night Out tonight. The first was back in December and judging by all the cars in the parking lot it must have been a success because I had to park out in the ‘back 40’! Bruning’s Wine Cellar and Christopher’s Restaurant & Catering were on site to please the crowd and Knollwood staff was at the beck and call. It was a pleasurable way to get a jump on spring.

Sales Alerts

The record setting rains in southern Ohio are causing many businesses to retool their spring sales. Grandma’s Gardens, south of Centerville, is extending their $11.99 sale on flats of impatiens and begonias through Sunday, May 1. Yippee! Check with your local garden center as their publicized sales may also have been extended.

Tragic Nest Cam News

If you have checked out some of the nest cam links I have listed on the right, you may have visited the bald eagle nest cam located at the  Norfolk (VA) Botanical Garden. Sadly, Viner Barb passed along word that a jet landing at Norfolk International Airport struck and killed the female eagle early this morning. To the relief of many on-line viewers, the male returned to the nest with a fish early this evening. Only time will tell what happens next.

Happy 226th Birthday, John James Audubon (1785-1851)

Please visit HERE to read about the amazing life of John Jame Audubon. I can’t do him justice in a short post. He overcame adversity (illegitimate son of a French sea captain) and exemplifies the spirit of young America. Mr. Audubon, you made the world a better place!

I have the Carolinas on my mind

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

I just got back from a trip to the Carolinas. Both of them actually. First stop was to the Asheville, NC area where the 15s volleyball team that the hubby coaches played in a tournament. (They placed 3rd out of 28 teams! You can read more HERE.) Then we wandered down to Rock Hill, SC and visited with my kid sister for a smidge. That gave us the excuse to  check out the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, a wonderful place I learned about a few years back. If you are ever in the Charlotte, NC area – you’ll want to plan a stop. And if you are a member of the American Horticulture Society, you’ll enjoy free admission!

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron sp.)

I have yet another story of how dangerous gardening can be. At least for me …. THIS time it involves a trip to an Urgent Care in South Carolina! Last Wednesday night I had been clearing an area of ivy (Hedra helix), knowing full well that poison ivy had been sighted there last year. I was covered with long sleeves and gloves and only saw one vine that remotely looked like PI. However, itching on the bottom of my forearm started in a 2 inch patch on Thursday morning. Friday evening it advanced to about 4″ long with raised blisters. Saturday, the blisters started leaking and my bottom of my forearm was swollen. Sunday, the redness started moving to the top of the arm from wrist to elbow. Monday: Urgent Care and steroids. Sigh… I think I’ll have a scar for a while but at least I am on the healing side of the equation now.

Ladies’ Night Out

Knollwood Garden Center is holding a Ladies’ Night Out, Tuesday, April 26 from 6-8 pm. Bruning’s Wine Cellar and Christopher’s Catering will be on site. I stopped in at Knollwood today and found it bursting in a riot of color so Tuesday night should be fun!

Hosta Auction

The Miami Valley Hosta Society is holding its annual plant auction on Tuesday, May 10, at  at Polen Farm (5099 Bigger Rd., Kettering, OH). The preview starts at 6 pm and the auction begins at 6:30 pm. About 150 items for your gardens will be auctioned off. They include many hostas, other plants and garden art donated by members and garden centers.  The night is free and open to the public so bring a friend. Call (937) 833-3278 with questions.

Sales alerts

Grandma’s Gardens: Thursday-Saturday, April 21-23: Impatiens and begonias are $11.99/flat.

Meadowview Growers: Thursday-Saturday, April 21-23: Petunia flats: buy one, get one half price.