Friday, August 30, 2013

Fond du Lac garden tour

Wild Ones members also toured the Fuller's Fond du Lac yard, a long acre, 100'x375'.   When the owners bought the acre it was flat with 3 trees and a mess of buckthorn, some of which they still find sprouting in the yard.   They have added elderberry, high-bush cranberry, several species of dogwood, many flowers and edibles over the years.  

Front of house from curb 
As you move toward the back yard there are woodland gardens on both north and south (shaded part) sides. There are two ponds.  One contains koi.  Next to the larger koi pond was a small bog type garden which containing several varieties of ferns along with a few bottle gentian and marsh marigold, but it has gotten shady so some of species have passed on. They are in the process of starting another one in a sunnier location.  Both ponds have plantings in and surrounding them that are a combination of natives and non-natives. 

The other pond is a natural style pond created by the owners, lovingly known as the frog pond.
Moving on through the yard toward the back half acre are some grassy areas, more perennial beds and a series of raised bed gardens which support vegetable gardens and berry plants, along with bee hives. Also in the back part of the yard we have a section of prairie. 

Edible plants are scattered throughout the yard complementing the flowers and shrubs in the beds where they're planted.

Purple kale and tomatoes are among the edibles included
 in this garden bed.

The trees and shrubs are all a combination of natives and non-natives they planted to support wildlife, especially birds.



Carefully placed tharoughout the gardens are whimsical yard art focal points, many crafted by local Wisconsin artists.











The yard contains several sculptures - combining art and nature.




Succulents growing out of holes in large boulders
Sadly, the time to leave and allow the homeowners to relax and enjoy the furits of their labors came all too quickly

Wild Ones Tour of Sustainable Property in Fond du Lac

The owners of the first home we visited on our Wild Ones August garden tours are very dedicated to earth friendly practices.  They have installed 18 solar panels on the roof of their house, making it a Zero energy use property.   They constructed a small pond with a solar-powered pump to provide water for native wildlife in the front yard.  Along the stone path to the backyard they have planted a rain graden collecting water that drains from their yard and the next-door neighbors.  They had the area tilled several times removing existing lawn, covered the area with landscape fabric.   With the help of a friend they laid out a planting design using clusters of native plants that tolerate periodic periods of wet soil.   Small seedlings were planted in  holes cut in the fabric.   The native plants have filled in the garden,   soaking up rain water draining from the roof of a house and hardscaped areas. The rain garden fills with a few inchesof water after a storm and the water slowly filters into the ground rather than running off
to a storm drain. Compared to a conventional patch of lawn, a rain garden allows about
30% more water to soak into the ground.

A good source of information on how to design and build a rain garden can be found at the Universtiy of Wisconsin Learning Store webstie:

Path along rain garden to backyard.

Rain barrels have been installed at the end of downspouts to collect water for use in the garden during dryer periods.

Rain barrels

The homeowners have employed many energy saving features.   The power generated by the solar panels they had installed is sold to the utility company during peak hours at higher rates, while they attempt to utilize most of their high energy appliances during off-peak hours when they are charged lower rates, resulting in credits on their bills in most months.
Solar panels installed on roof several years ago
One simple way to save power they utilize is the old fashioned clothesline which is still a common sight at many farms in Wisconsin.

For further information on renewable energy in Wisconsin, RENEW Wisconsin offers an informative website and blog.  

By growing their own produce organically, without pesticides and herbicides, they reduce their environmental impact, sparing the earth the burden of unnecessary air and water pollution and reducing the use of fossil fuels and the resulting pollution resulting from the transport of fresh produce from all over the world in planes and refrigerated trucks to the local supermarket.

Squash are grown vetically to save space.

Digging in the straw mounded in a bed in the lawn revealed
 fingerling potatoes ready to be harvested soon.
Playful yard art is scatterd about the gardens-these frogs hinting at the wife's passion for yoga.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Butterflies at the Wild Center

As I headed for my vehicle this morning one of the elusive monarchs swooped down beside me.  Upon reaching the Wild Ones Center in Neenah, the Director mentioned that 6 monarchs released during the recent national conference continue to be spotted in the area.  

I spotted 2 and then 4 alighting on tall spikes of liatris in close proximity to each other.

A female Tiger Swallowtail was observed on a nearby liatris plant.  The black form female of this species has a very thin row of white spots on the upper forewing margin that is easily spotted in the field and is unlike any other black colored swallowtail in Wisconsin.  

A website maintained by Mike Reese serves as a handy reference to the butterflies of Wisconsin