Join the International Monarch Monitoring Blitz

By now I’m sure you know we are in danger of losing the monarch butterfly migration in our lifetime. This critical situation was addressed in 2014 when President Obama met with President Pena Nieto of Mexico and Prime Minister Harper of Canada about it. At that meeting they agreed to “to establish a working group to ensure conservation of the monarch butterfly”. Since then much has been done to encourage research into the habits of monarch butterflies. One such result is the establishment of the annual International Monarch Monitoring Blitz.

This is an event that takes place all across the range of the monarch butterfly that spans large parts of  The United States, Mexico and Canada. The purpose is to try to get a count of the number of monarch butterflies during a small window of time. This year the count started July 28th and runs through August 5th.

Scientists are looking for help during the Blitz, they’re asking for “citizen scientists” to step forward and pitch in for the butterfly count.  It’s simple and fun to participate as a citizen scientist, anyone can do it. All you need to do is count the number of monarchs you see in all stages of the insect’s development; egg, larva, chrysalis and adult and make some observations about milkweed plants. Once you’re done, report your findings online at the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project website.

There’s another one! Add him to the tally.

This is only the second year of this international event, so now’s your chance to get started as an amateur researcher. Years from now as the Blitz expands and becomes more well known, you’ll be able to proudly tell your friends you were among the earliest participants.

We’re working on our part of the Blitz right now  and hope you find the time to join in too. It’s a great way to spend some time outdoors while knowing you’re doing something tangible to help save our beloved monarch butteries.

Bob and Judy

Mother’s day plant sale at Matthaei Botanical Gardens this weekend

The Matthaei Botanical Gardens – Nichols Arboretum annual Mother’s Day Plant Sale is coming up this weekend, May 13 and 14.

About three weeks ago I visited the Gardens and got a sneak peek at the plants growing in the greenhouse. I can tell you that these are no ordinary, anonymous plants grown by an impersonal factory growing operation. They are lovingly grown and tended by Adrienne O’Brien and her helpers right in the greenhouse at the Botanical Gardens. When I was there, the plants were still young but were growing strong and looked absolutely wonderful.

Horticulturist Adrienne _________ leads team of plant grower at Matthaei Botanical Gardens - Nichols Arboretum
Horticulturist Adrienne O’ Brien leads her team of plant growers at Matthaei Botanical Gardens – Nichols Arboretum.

 

A month ago Adrienne was worried that the plants were ahead of schedule.
A month ago Adrienne was worried that the plants were ahead of schedule.

Now the plants are ready to go home to Mother’s house.

The plants will be sold in the same greenhouse that they were grown in.
The plants will be sold in the same greenhouse that they were grown in.
Wide variety of beautiful hanging baskets
Wide variety of beautiful hanging baskets
Container plants make a great gift for Mom on Mother's Day.
Container plants make a great gift for Mom on Mother’s Day.
Whimsical planters like these are lots of fun.
Whimsical planters like these are lots of fun.

 

The sale runs from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm both days (9:00 am if you are a member). Matthaei Botanical Gardens is located at 1800 N. Dixboro Road, south of Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor.

Bob

Rare opportunity to see blooming satsuki bonsai azalea

I think just about everyone enjoys looking at bonsai, the Japanese art of growing miniature trees in containers, Even those who are not particularly interested in plants will stop and take a second look at bonsai.

The University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens near Ann Arbor, is offering a rare treat this month, Magnificent Miniatures a showing of satsuki bonsai azaleas in full bloom.

satsuki bonsai

The plants are on loan from Dr. Melvyn Goldstein a renowned bonsai collector from Ohio.

satsuki bonsai

The bonsai are flowering right now. And like other flowering plants, the flowers only last for a short period of time.

satsuki azalea bonsai

The show is free and runs from June 6 through June 14, 10 am – 8 pm daily. It’s an easy drive to the Gardens from anywhere in southeastern Michigan. The address is 1800 N. Dixboro Road, Ann Arbor.

It might not be a bad idea to call ahead to make sure the bonsai are still blooming 734-647-7600.

Bob

Behind the scenes at Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Mark May 10 on your calender, although it is probably already marked. That’s because it’s Mother’s Day and by default, Mother’s day is always shown on all calenders.

However, there is another reason to mark that day. It is weekend of the annual Spring Plant Sale that happens at University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor.

Recently, I had a chance to go behind the scenes and got to see how preparations were coming along for the Spring Plant sale.

The day I was there, staff and volunteers were tending thousands of growing plants. They were also designing and planting many, many hanging baskets and containers for the fund raiser.

Collections and natural Areas Specialist Adrienne O'Brien leads a team of University of Michigan student workers and adult volunteers that plan, plant, grow  and design containers and potted plants for the plant sale.
Collections and natural Areas Specialist Adrienne O’Brien leads a team of University of Michigan student workers and adult volunteers that plan, plant, grow and design containers and potted plants for the plant sale.

The sale is a great excuse to take a trip to the Gardens. See you out there.

Bob

Driving south to Florida this month? Stop at Imaginary Worlds in Atlanta

If you are planning to drive south this month to escape the winter, you might want to think about adding a stop at the Atlanta, GA Botanical Gardens to experience the Imaginary Worlds exhibition.

 

Topiary Cobra
Topiary Cobra

Thousands of annuals are growing on metal forms covered with netting and growing medium to bring to life fanciful sculptures.

The topiary sculptures are made from individual plants.
The topiary sculptures are made from individual plants.

The gardeners/artists of the Atlanta Botanical Gardens teamed up with International Mosaciculture of Montreal to create fabulous  works of living art.

Earth Goddess
The Earth Goddess is 25 feet tall.

 

Imaginary Worlds is the first major exhibition of its kind in the U.S.

Gorillas in the garden.
Gorillas in the garden.

There is only a small window of opportunity left though, the giant topiary exhibition Imaginary Worlds closes at the end of October.

Bob

 

Matthaei Botanical Gardens blooming agave

A few days ago, I had a chance to see the blooming agave plant at University of Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens Desert House — the one you’ve been hearing everyone talking about.

The agave leaves have a rare variegated green and white color.
The agave leaves have a rare variegated green and white color.

When I first saw this plant over 30 years ago, it was already 50 years old. Through the years it didn’t appear to change much but of course it has been growing and maturing all that time. Now after 80 years, it is finally blossoming.

It has produced a flower stalk so tall that they’ve had to take out some roof glass from the greenhouse in order to give it more room to grow.

The flower stalk has grown through the roof of the conservatory.
The flower stalk has grown through the roof of the conservatory.

I encourage you to get out to the Botanical Gardens and see it. This type of agave blooms only once in its lifetime and then it dies. So, when it’s over, it’s over.

The flowers are producing an abundance of real agave nectar, not the manufactured stuff you find in the store.
The flowers are producing an abundance of real agave nectar, not the manufactured stuff you find in the store.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens is located on Dixboro Road south of Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, directions and hours are available on their website.

Bob

Conservation District Tree Sale Seedlings

The trees I ordered from the Monroe Conservation District arrived Friday. I drove over to pick them up first thing in the morning and got there shortly after they opened the doors.

My package  contained 50 trees — 25 white pine  and 25 white cedar– so it was small enough to carry in one hand. The tree seedlings look beautiful.

I placed my seedlings in a bucket of water for a while to re-hydrate them a bit before planting.

White pine grows very fast in our sandy, somewhat acid soil. I have never planted white cedar here but I’m sure that they will do well too.

Fifty seedlings doesn’t take too long to plant. I noticed other folks picking up orders that were much larger than mine. Some had several gunny sacks worth of seedlings. I mentioned to one fellow walking out with a large order that it looked like he had a big project on his hands — he just grunted and walked out to his truck with the last of his order.

Judy and I planted our  seedlings Saturday morning. The cool weather this week will help them get off to a great start.

Bob

 

 

 

30th Annual Plant Sale

Still not decided what to do for Mother’s Day Weekend? Why not take Mom out to the big plant sale at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor.

This is a wonderful chance to see what’s new in the world of horticulture  and purchase some plants that may be very hard to find elsewhere.

Members of the Gardens get to look everything over on Friday evening and make their purchases first before the rest of the public is let in. Here’s a little secrete: if you are not a member, you can show up on Friday anyway and sign up for your  membership right there at the door and they will let you in with full Member’s privileges…just as if you were a 30-year member!

Member’s night runs 3PM-7PM Friday May 7th. Along with all of the plants there will be a Party (members only of course) featuring Grizzly Peak Brewing Company, Sandhill Crane Vineyards, and refreshments by Angel Food Catering (Michigan Radio Network is also a sponsor).  Plus there will be discounts on plant sale purchases and gift memberships that evening as well.

Since the Sale takes place under a huge tent, it will go on rain or shine.

People are encouraged to bring along wagons or garden carts to carry their plant purchases.

The Sale continues Saturday from 9AM to 4PM and Sunday 10AM to 4PM.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens is located at 1800 N. Dixboro Road, call them if you get lost along the way ;): 734-647-7600.

See you out there.

Bob

Agriculture and Natural Resources Week

The 95th annual Agriculture and Natural Resources Week began Friday and runs though Saturday March 13 in East Lansing.

A wide variety of topics are being presented in a classroom setting including, herb gardening, small poultry flock management, horticulture therapy, general gardening and much more.

I remember attending back in the early 80’s when it was called “Farmer’s Week” so many  more areas of interest have  been added since those days.  If you have the time, I encourage you to attend.

There’s also a rabbit show, a wildflower conference, organic farming symposium, displays and more.  Most events are free of charge.

Bob