Category Archives: Native plants

Lathrop’s Landscaping and Gardens: What’s Our Goal?

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally printed in the Lathrop Lamp Post for March 10-16, 2018.

Why are we at Lathrop considering planting native plants rather than alien plants in our landscapes and gardens?  Our goal is NOT to restore some imaginary pristine past.  The futility of such a goal is emphasized in journalist Emma Marris’ The Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World (2011).

Instead, Marris suggests, we need to save nature by juggling seven possible goals: (1) protect the rights of other species; (2) protect Continue reading Lathrop’s Landscaping and Gardens: What’s Our Goal?

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Wanted: Useful Plants for Lathrop Landscaping

Wanted: Useful Plants for Lathrop Landscaping

By Barbara Walvoord

At Lathrop, new plants are always being installed and old plants replaced. Imagine that you are interviewing new plant candidates for your garden or other landscaped areas around you.

Today’s candidates include two alien plants that evolved in Asia but are currently found on both campuses (burning bush [Euonymus alata] and daylily (Hemerocallis ‘stella d’oro’] and two native plants that evolved in New England and are currently planted by a few residents in their cottage gardens (native highbush blueberry [Vaccinium corymbusum] and native butterfly weed [Asclepius tuberosa], a member of the milkweed family).

Interviewer:  Do you look beautiful, and can you be kept looking neat?   All plants:  YES!

Interviewer: Do you need lots of water, herbicides, and fertilizer?  All plants:  Nope, not a lot.

Interviewer: Birds, bees, and butterflies are in decline.  How can you help them? Continue reading Wanted: Useful Plants for Lathrop Landscaping

Open for Breakfast

by Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, Jan. 6-12, 2018

After much planning, sawing, hammering, and decorating, the Inn dining room is now open for breakfast for our human residents, who can descend on a cold winter morning to enjoy their eggs, toast, and fruit.  But there are other breakfast buffets at Lathrop–for our birds.

For several years, Sharon and I have been setting up a breakfast buffet around our home on Huckleberry Lane.  The first thing we did was to remove the invasive Oriental bittersweet vines that were strangling a row of crabapple trees across from our front yard.  The trees are now thriving and loaded with fruit.  Then we planted a native winterberry bush, now full of bright red berries that typically last into the winter (hence its name), and provide important food for birds. Continue reading Open for Breakfast

Giving Thanks at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post Nov. 24 – Dec. 1, 2017

At Thanksgiving feasts, family members sometimes take turns saying what they’re thankful for.  So I asked our Lathrop family of creatures:

A chickadee:  Thanks for putting in native plants near the Inn and in some cottage gardens.   I need about 6,000 insects, mostly caterpillars, to raise my brood next spring. I expect you’ve read the scientific findings that I know from experience: the native plants in your gardens will provide many more caterpillars than the old alien plants did.

A hawk:  Thanks for not mowing our Lathrop meadows until late autumn.  When you used to mow in mid-summer, you destroyed the cover for mice, voles, and other creatures that I needed to build up Continue reading Giving Thanks at Lathrop

Reports from the Front Lines

by Barbara Walvoord

First printed in Lathrop Lamp Post Nov. 11-17, 2017

This photo was taken on the east campus along Bassett Brook Road at the corner of Huckleberry Lane–a visible “front line” on our property.

Three years ago, on this corner, there was a dense hedge of burning bush (Euonymus alatus), so dangerously invasive it is now illegal to propagate or sell in Massachusetts.  At Lathrop, birds are carrying it into our woods, where it is crowding out native plants without providing as richly for our wildlife as native plants do, and costing Continue reading Reports from the Front Lines

Late Blooming Flower Seeks Strong, Hungry Bumblebee

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post Oct. 14-20, 2017

On Oct. 6, believe it or not, I found these native closed  bottle gentians (Gentiana andrewsii) blooming along the eastern edge of the wide woods meadow on the east campus.  They look like buds, but they are in full flower; they won’t open more than this.

Gentians are pollinated almost exclusively by bumblebees, because those are the only pollinators strong enough to pry open the petals and get inside for the nectar.  Our meadows now are full of bumblebees, busy getting ready for winter.  “Aha!  A beautiful blue flower.  Hmm.  It’s petals are closed.  Well, there aren’t very many Continue reading Late Blooming Flower Seeks Strong, Hungry Bumblebee

Berries at Lathrop: Good and Bad

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in Lathrop Lamp Post Oct. 7 – 13, 2017

Imagine you’re a bluebird, say, or a chickadee. You’ve lived happily at Lathrop all summer long, eating lots of insects and feeding them to your nestlings.

Unfortunately, with cold weather, insects are getting scarcer.  But nature has provided lots of nutritious berries on shrubs and trees, hanging conveniently above the snow cover, out of the reach of bobcats and housecats.

As a bird, at Lathrop you’ll find good berries and bad berries.  The good berries hang on native plants.  You’ve co-evolved with these Continue reading Berries at Lathrop: Good and Bad