Today there will be no trip to Presque Isle. Later this morning I am joining a group going to Pittsburgh for a dinner tonight where former Governor Tom Ridge will receive the Lifetime Achievement Environmental Award from the Pennsylvania Environmental Council for his never- ending work to protect Presque Isle, his establishment of the Growing Greener program, and many other initiatives to protect Pennsylvania’s natural world. While there, I will be visiting a number of large foundation offices to try to obtain funding for a number of projects on the park. This should be quite a busy day.
However, right now, I am sitting on my patio as I write this and feeling rather lucky. The patio is a virtual greenhouse of flowering plants and herbs. Hanging baskets, window boxes, planters, and pots filled with flowers, herbs and of course, the all-important Catnip for the two Ware household bosses, our cats. Just off to my southwest is my vegetable garden which I can now call my cultivated weed patch. My wife and I plus our whole extended family just returned
from 10 days on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was a great extended week. It was also a great weed week in our yard. Various and sundry forms of weeds made a tremendous and continuous effort to reclaim the yard as theirs. Needless to say, we have been filling bags with weeds for the last two days. Nevertheless, I am resolved that they will not win.
My peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, Swiss chard, cucumbers, zucchini and onions seemed to have doubled in size while we were gone, so all is not bad. Out in my side yard the Butterfly garden is going great, and our patch of milkweed has tripled this year. Hope all of this will bring on the butterflies and hummingbirds as it did last year. Oops, that reminds me, it’s time to get the hummingbird feeders out. The small patch of Butterfly Weed I planted last year in front of my garage is nearly filling the whole area this year. If you haven’t seen Butterfly Weed, take a look at the picture posted here. Yes, they are weeds, and yes, they are one weed you will never pull. They just need a lot of sun and some water. The zinnias and sunflowers around the vegetable garden are now three feet high and will begin blooming in about a week. Things in the Ware yard are looking up.
As many of you know, I have tried to plant our yard with plants that can be found on Presque Isle. It’s my own small effort to bring home the native plants. Now, of course, not all my plants are native, however, the large share is. A few people have asked why I should care about native plants. Well, there are many answers to that question. First is that those native plants can create beautiful landscapes that provide native wildlife with the best habitat and food they need to survive. Native plants also help protect watersheds, prevent runoff, and maintain the unique natural heritage of an area. If our native plants continue to be replaced with species from all over the world, Erie and Pennsylvania will lose the natural beauty that defines the state.
One of my primary reasons for choosing to use native plants is that they thrive here with less maintenance when planted in the right conditions. They need less water and seldom need fertilizer to grow quite well right here in Northwestern Pennsylvania. They also serve as natural pollinators and attract local wildlife and birds.
What are native plants? A native plant is one that occurred within the region before settlement by Europeans. In Pennsylvania there are 2,140 of these species. If you are interested in a large list of them, nurseries handling them or sample backyard garden templates, just visit iConservePA.org. This is a great site for info on all of these subjects. In a future article, I will list some of this area’s best native plants.
See you on the park!!
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