Environmental Observations

What makes a good landscape design? Are those flowers edible? What grows best where?

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Successive Blooms and Co-Habitation

Perennial crocus in Anchorage, AK

No variety of plant thrives in solitary confinement, contrary to what folks who want perfect lawns might desire. Look at a native woodland edge, horizontal lines can practically be drawn across the vista as the species step down in size: canopy topping evergreen or deciduous trees, medium height trees with lower canopy, large shrubby evergreens or deciduous plants, herbaceous perennials, grasses, woodland wildflowers, short grasses and sedges, ground covers and vines, fungus, and the soil layer—too many strata of life to list here. 

Tended gardens benefit from co-habitation showing off for their human parents nearly all year. Here is a lovely example of a small flower bed in Anchorage. The crocuses planted in fall bloom first at the end of April through first of May. Some varieties of crocus are perennial and return year after year. Fritillaries, also known as speckled lilies, spike up midway through the crocus season and, like a blown-up balloon, out pop the dangly speckled lilies. There are hundreds of flowers called fritillaries, even a native variety in Alaska: Fritillaria camschatcensis, chocolate lily—that’ll show up here when it’s in bloom. There are even butterflies named fritillaries too. This variety is most likely Fritillaria meleagris. Surrounding and covering the crocus and lilies is a fine mat of creeping thyme. The thyme is evergreen acting as a blanket in winter, then as a mulch in summer. Most thyme thrive in the sun and in beds with good drainage. This little spot is slightly raised, about eight inches above grade, allowing sufficient water run-off.

Fritillaria meleagris surrounded by creeping thyme.

Underneath the bed is an old tree root from which mushrooms occasionally sprout. Not that it was planted there on purpose, the tree’s demise came long before the homeowner arrived. There are some cases where a tree root or log may be placed purposefully, it could be for a hugelkulture project, or fungus growing operation. Hugelkulture allows property owners to keep tree material they have removed from their property, on their property. Logs and limbs are piled largest on bottom to smallest on top with leaf material, twigs, and other organic matter filling in. As soil bacteria, mycelia, lichen, grasses, and insects move into the new hill of a home, co-habitation works like a charm and over time the pile becomes a natural berm. 

Plants in isolation suffer attacks from predators more often than vibrant ecosystems teeming with varied species. Monocultures are weakened by lack of biodiversity. Species in diverse landscapes support each another whether through decomposition into appropriate nutrients, symbiosis, shading, or simply holding each other upright. Working together, now that is a perfect environment.

Learning about Intersectional Environmentalism

Trail leaving the northern most point of the  Pacific Temperate Rainforest in Girdwood, AK. When I see acres of rainforest burning, or the s...