By Coggin Heeringa
The seed catalogues are arriving, and at Crossroads at Big Creek, the urge to grow plants is intense. Already this year, we have been hosting a project of the USDA Potato Genebank which involves growing potatoes in the Crossroads greenhouse. You can even see the glow of the greenhouse from the Highway!
Last week, the Crossroads and Master Gardener volunteers who plant and maintain the Heritage Garden at Crossroads held their first meeting to diagram the layout and select this year’s heirloom vegetables and flowers. The Master Gardener Training class is held in the Collins Learning Center every Wednesday evening. Predictably, both public lectures this week will feature growing plants.
On the Tuesday, February 11 at 7:00pm, the Door County Master Gardeners Association will kick off this year’s Lecture Series with “What’s New for 2020?” presented by Kori Zawaoski, co-owner of Sunnypoint Gardens in Egg Harbor. The public is invited to attend this program, which is a plant “fashion show” featuring the newest varieties of annuals, perennials and shrubs. This traditional series opener provides much needed color stimulation to winter-weary gardeners.
Wild Ones of the Door Peninsula, an organization dedicated to native landscapes, opens their 2020 Lecture Series with “Why Plant Natives“ on Thursday, February 13 at 7:00pm in the Lecture Hall of the Collins Learning Center.
All my life, I have been interested in birds and bugs and well…. wildlife. I always appreciated plants because wildlife eat plants (and besides, plants hold still, so they were easier to identify!).
Like many young naturalists, I interacted with insects by capturing them. I can’t even image how many caterpillars I killed during my youth. I wasn’t vindictive or malicious. I never pulled wings off flies or anything like that. On the contrary, I loved the caterpillars to death.
Caterpillars were easy to catch. So I did. And then, I’d take a glass jar, use a hammer and nail to punch holes in the metal lid, grab a couple handfuls of Kentucky Bluegrass from the front lawn, and over the next couple days, watch the caterpillars slowly perish.
Back then, I didn’t know about exotic species. Very few people did. Who knew that Kentucky Bluegrass was not from Kentucky? And for that matter, was not blue. Poa pratensis originated in Europe and Asia. Early settlers brought the seeds to America.
Understand that caterpillars are selective eaters to the extreme. Butterflies and moths usually have one, or perhaps two or three, host plants on which they lay their eggs. These host plants are the only plants on which their offspring can survive. The host plants of native moths and butterflies are native plants.
Put a caterpillar in a jar of Kentucky bluegrass and it will starve. Feed a caterpillar with anything but its host plant, it will die.
So if landscapes do not have a variety of native host plants, they will not have a variety of butterflies and moths. Consequently, these landscapes will not attract birds. That is because almost all songbirds—even birds we think of as “seed eaters” or “fruit loving” feed caterpillars to their offspring. Baby birds need fats and proteins. They need caterpillars. No native plants… no caterpillars… no baby birds. So if we want to have songbirds, we must have native trees, shrubs and flowers in our landscapes. And we do want to have songbirds. Songbirds help keep insect pests in check, they are food for other creatures, and birds bring color, song, and joy into our lives.
One more thing – because they have adapted to our climate and our erratic weather, native plants are far more likely to survive and even thrive here on the Door Peninsula.
Crossroads at Big Creek is a donor-supported educational preserve. The Collins Learning Center, located at 2041 Michigan in Sturgeon Bay, is open 10am – 4pm weekdays, 1–4pm weekends, and during scheduled activities. Trails are free and open to the public 24/7 for skiing, snow shoeing, hiking, and biking. We lend ski and snowshoe equipment on weekends. The Collins Learning Center will close and activities canceled if Sturgeon Bay Schools close.
Saturday, February 8
9:30-3:30 Ski For Free (Conditions Permitting)
Crossroads and Door County Silent Sports the lend, free of charge, an array of ski and snowshoe equipment in sizes to fit age 3 through large adult When trail conditions permit, go to the Crossroads Maintenance Building where our volunteers will fit you with equipment, share a few pointers and a trail map and send you out the trails. When you have finished, return the equipment and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate. Please check Crossroads website for current conditions.
Sunday, February 9 1:00 -3:30 Ski For Free (Conditions Permitting)
Crossroads and Door County Silent Sports the lend, free of charge, an array of ski and snowshoe equipment in sizes to fit age 3 through large adult. When trail conditions permit, go to the Crossroads Maintenance Building where our volunteers will fit you with equipment, share a few pointers and a trail map and send you out the trails. When you have finished, return the equipment and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate. Please check Crossroads website for current conditions.
Tuesday, February 11 7:00 Master Gardeners Lecture: “What’s New for 2020 Gardens” This first lecture of 2020 garden education series will feature Kori Sawojski, owner of Sunnypoint Gardens, who will share the latest and hottest garden trends. The slide program is a plant “fashion show” featuring the newest varieties in annual, perennials and shrubs. The program is free and open to the public.
Thursday, February 13 7:00 Wild Ones Lecture: “Why Plant Natives” Wild Ones of the Door Peninsula Vice President Coggin Heeringa will present this free lecture. Members of Wild Ones are dedicated to expanding the use of native plants. But why? This presentation will explain the ecological benefits of a native landscape. Collins Learning Center. Free and open to the public.