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Saturday, April 16, 2016

UNITARIAN EARTH DAY

"How much more delightful is the task of making improvements on the earth, than all the vainglory in destroying it."  George Washington                    

                UNITARIAN EARTH DAY

                   27th Ave and 16th Street.
          Always a lively presentation of Issues during the service, and a bodacious coffee hour afterwards. I just got the notion that this could be a Sunday sermon.
       Earth Day has passed and people say let's make every day Earth Day. 
       Today I want to try and give you a fresh perspective on how to be part of the ecosystem. How to turn your yard into a garden useful for birds, butterflies and pollinating insects at the very least, and how to find a balance between visual aesthetics, and wildlife enhancement. 
           A few years back, it was decided that in order to prevent flooding problems, much larger drainage pipes needed to be installed in our Atrium at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on 27th Avenue and 16th St.  The old overgrown messy garden was extracted. Everything was pulled out as part of the project to open up the second floor access to more people. So it was a literal tabula rasa, a blank slate. I carefully saved a Thatch Palm and some Bromeliads but was given carte blanche to create something new.
          An important part of the new Atrium Project was to find plants that could survive rugged situations and also be beneficial to wildlife. This article(Sunday Sermon) will help with educating the public on how to plant as if Nature mattered.
In the beginning..




At this point in the planting, a contribution of 75 beautiful rocks was the coup de grace that helped finish the project.




  Instead of Curb Appeal, try Mother Nature appeal. I see thousands of over pruned plants that never flower, such as Jasmine and Ligustrum and Sea Grape, in our gated communities.  Many other plants are pruned so regularly, they never get to fruit. Then there are the blanket chemical sprays to kill all the insects. One gated community in particular seems to have virtually no insect life at all, or song birds either.  
            Through all the geological changes of the past,  plants have adapted and it has always been the birds that mostly spread the seeds during climate change. Now with perhaps the most abrupt and severe climate change Homo Sapiens have ever seen, it has become important we share the stewardship in the interdependent web of life as a responsible Unitarian.
          From a tiny seed we create abundance and I want to conjure up the image of Johnny Appleseed, who is reputed to have spread 100 varieties of naturally occurring apple trees of North America.  The magic of creation is contained in a tiny seed.
           In general we need to stop the extractive insanity for profits, and increase the biomass and food sources , and save the remaining forests. Our Fair Trade store sells products from villages trying to restore or maintain the healthy ecosystems they live in, by creating products for a cash crop.Many villages around the world are nearly self sufficient, but need a cash crop to buy what they can't produce.
     

               The earth doesn't need us to save her; she can shake us off with a mass extinction. What we CAN DO, is replant our yards to connect with the remaining ecosystems, and be a healthy cell in a sick poisoned world. We need to stop toxic intrusions into all our water sources and what I try to promote is how to use less or no fertilizer, along with the elimination of  irrigation. Put your plants in islands so they feed on the fallen leaves of different plants. 
             Your most vulnerable plants can be watered with a hose during dry spells and you can save yourself the folderol of irrigation.

Birds of Prey making a great comeback, it's the songbirds I'm worried about
             Birds are the keys to healthy ecosystems as they replant native fruiting shrubs.  So I plant for birds and use prolifically fruiting plants to feed them. I don't need to kill an insect, that's what these birds and lizards, toads, frogs, spiders and other insects are for, yet somehow these are the creatures that people find creepy. Something to remember is that 99% of the insects that come in to your yard will not cause   harm to your plants. They are pollinating vegetable gardens and fruit trees, or just eating other insects.
       Insects are the fresh meat needed for nestlings in the spring.   What birds feed their young  consists of 95% live prey. The quicker they can find some breakfast for the babies, the more time they can spend in the nest.


           Birds are actually smarter than people in one way  despite the bird brain rap.  Birds will actually lay less eggs  when food sources seem scarce, so this is what I mean by smarter.

          I never get spider mites or mealybugs on my plants because something eats them. I have twenty customers and we simply don't have any insect problems. People also see that the native plants I have planted  spawn seedlings that fill in the blank spots With a variety of plants that attract a variety of insects, you can end chemical sprays for insects. 
           One customer has a Pindo Palm that has been on the ropes for two years. The customer sprays an organic fungus/insect killer and these are one of the few exceptions to the rule. 
          Sometimes it can take three years of planting various native plants before natural controls are achieved and there is diversity with the insect population. 
          People need to stop freaking out about insects. You will never kill them all, and according to research,99%of the insects that come in your yard are benign or beneficial.  If a spider likes your front door you'd best keep it there. Something to realize is that there are over 1,000 spiders in your yard ---  right now. Most of them are very small but they are everywhere. The spider by the front door is eating anything nearby. Spiders are grazers, a couple ants here and there, a little more off the dragonfly it caught yesterday

           I think the best spiders to have around are the Lynx spiders. They have a very nice green color and no patience for scale, mealybugs or aphids.  Particularly when these pest insects are in the crawling stage, the Lynx spider is on the prowl. Scale type insects are looking for a sugar daddy shrub to stake their claim, with their probing and chewing mouthpieces, but  they do have a brief crawling stage. Spiders are doing the work to keep them off your plants.  
           How can we deal with mosquitoes? What I have noticed is that about two weeks after a rapid increase of mosquitoes, there will be swarms of dragonflies picking them off.  Faster smarter and bigger than mosquitoes, Dragonflies have some of the greatest colors going, and are referred to as 'mosquito hawks'. Reckless and unsafe chemical spraying dramatically reduced their numbers.  This county in particular has implemented  safer and more effective treatment of mosquitoes, and they treat retention ponds and standing water with something that ONLY kills mosquito larvae. This county has always taken the mosquito problem seriously and there is even an important state research center on  Oslo Road.
             This area is not the wild west it once was, with Diazinon being slung and Dursban sprayed on windy days, and citrus groves spraying thousands of gallons a day, whether it needs it or not. Poisons shouldn't be scheduled to spray no matter what.Popular among professionals today is a system of care called IPM; Integrated Pest Management about monitoring potential problems and using the safest solution to solve a bug problem.I will happily explain the various aspects of IPM to you and want you to know I will be at the Social Justice table on Unitarian Earth Day this Sunday.
Dragon fruit flower. Can be seen from the Garden Room

              That was the old style that didn't care an hour after the Diazinon was applied, the birds hopped around and ate the little nuggets and died.  Sloppy spraying of fungicides like Dursban allows dangerous chemicals to go much further than these applicators realized at first. People trying to kill rats in their yard, but that rat bait has killed many birds and cats and owls and other birds of prey along with snakes foxes and now coyotes.You need predators to catch unruly pests.We have to live with wildlife to achieve a balance.
               A helpful hint to those belonging to Home Owner Associations, There is a list of Florida Friendly Plants that trump those annoying HOA by laws according to what I heard about this state law. Maybe they can require a certain design but you have the right to use these Florida Friendly Plants. http://www.floridayards.org/fyplants/index.php
               A variety of plants allows for a variety of pollinating insects. There are 3,000 bee species in this country and 300 hundred of them in Florida.  So it seems puzzling that bees need to be transported around the country to pollinate huge mono cultural crops. It's not, what is killing the bees, but how have we nearly eliminated all the original pollinators? Most ecosystems are compromised and have nothing to offer the bees, so the native bees die. Most of what was here for many tens of thousands of years has suddenly disappeared.

           A silent slaughter  since the end of WW2. Natures diversity survives in pockets of nature.  The Atrium  steadily sees an increase in the variety of wild life that visit. The walls of the building hide the garden from pollinator migration routes.But they learn over time and they imprint locations in their tiny little brains.
      Saw the first Hummingbird in there recently, and these Hummingbirds are clever and fast, unlike the Cardinal that flies into the window. We are looking into something that will prevent that. But, you know, this is how evolution works, thinning the herd, you know?
     
BAHAMIAN WILD COFFEE

  PLANTS OF    
 THE ATRIUM

1 WILD COFFEE  (Psychotria nervosa) Spread by birds and animals and becoming common in yards, often as adaptable replacements for ixoras and hawthorn. Flowers loved by butterflies and fruit by birds. Velvet leaf wild coffee and Bahamas Wild Coffee (P. bahamensis) are two interesting varieties. In particular, the Bahamas Wild Coffee attracts birds right to your window. Not used in the Atrium because of it's prolific nature and yellowing in full sun. Highly recommended if you can find it. It's been in the grey and black pot by the entrance the last few months. If you see one of these growing in your yard it would be  a good idea to keep it.

2 WHITE INDIGOBERRY  (Randia aculeata)-somewhat thorny, the more mature plant is good for nesting birds. Slow growing, up to 10 feet with small fragrant flowers in spring and white fruit with purple inside. We bought a large one so it would be fruiting right away. This plant is just outside the door and is getting almost big enough for nesting.
3 SIMPSON STOPPER (Eugenia simpsonii ) Strong branches and good nesting value. When red fruit ripens in the summer it doesn't last long. Small fragrant flowers. Some seedlings are appearing, a slow grower, volunteers are welcome.
4 MARLBERRY (Ardisia escallonoides) another favorite, aromatic flowers throughout the year produces large blackish purple fruit loved by songbirds. See the picture below with large bunches of Marlberry Fruit. A good choice for shady alkaline areas.  In the Atrium, Marlberry is not doing well and has yet to have developed pups.
         BLACK STRIPES REPRESENT THE SPIRAL GALAXY WE ARE ALL CREATED FROM. Born of stardust we               sail our blue boat home.
Color accents to go with your native plants
5 FIDDLEWOOD (Citharexylum fruticosum) Attracts numerous pollinating insects. Taller than some on the others on the list, I like to use it as single accent or to hide unsightly utilities. Sunny and moist and can be used for jellies and jams. Small green flowers attract pollinating insects.There are two out in the Memorial Garden.
Dune Sunflower
MARLBERRY. This is what birds eat. Philedendron Oleander Arbicola and other popular plants do not provide food for birds












6 SALT WATER FALSE WILLOW   Baccharis augustifolia

7 COCOPLUM (Chrysobalanus icaco) moist soil but adaptable to dry. Sweet tasting and edible fruit that look like olives.

8 SALVIAs and the whole wildflower meadow that is situated between the window and the stone walkway in the Atrium..
 LOVE GRASS

9  ROUGE PLANT (Rivina humilis) Up to 5 feet, shade tolerant. Showy red fruit loved by birds make a nice color accent. Will pioneer disturbed sites and spread without being invasive..
10 MYRSINE  More tolerant of cold than others on this list and the best for privacy hedges. Filled with small black fruit eaten by most birds. Adaptable to beach or inland locations and easily shaped for needed height or width.
11 Erdonia   slowly getting bigger and bigger the fruit is maturing for the migrating birds.


12   Jamaica Caper. Struggled with a black mold but is finally doing better            
13   Sweet Acacia   The thorny tree with the puffball yellow flowers
14   Elliot Grass  (blue love grass) Beautiful grass, a true blue there are two sprouts that have spread from seed    
15   Erdonea  should be fruiting about now and songbirds love it
16   Silk Grass   this and other natives are in the wildflower area.                      
 17  Hogplum
18   Scorpion Tail              
19   Twinberry? 
20  Partridge Pea  A legume that provides nitrogen
21  Firebush       struggling. One of the few plants saved from the previous garden 
22   Red Hibiscus                   
23 Native orchid   
24   Climbing Aster   November bloomer
25   Spiderwort On the far left side of the window is the Spiderwort. The one with blue flowers          
ALL PLANTS
1-25 ABOVE ARE NATIVE
26   Croton                               
27   Stonecrop
28   Rosemary 
29   Saved Atrium Palm might be a native thatch palm 30  Frangipani  
31   Arizona Cypress  Blue Drought tolerant evergreen reminisecent of northern evergreens. Only grown in zones 7 to 9.   
   32 Echinops 
38  Curly Fern 
  39 Butterfly Plant
40  DUNE SUNFLOWER   Our rugged dune plant. Reseeds. Has suddenly disappeared so it's off the native list.
41  Jasmine 

    Easily 80 plants in the thousand square foot Atrium. Plants disappear and reappear somewhere else. Some grow too fast like the curly fern that I have to pull out often and there is one plant I wish I did not include. The Kalanchoe has an impressive flower in February and March but are very invasive. 




      Despite walls on all sides, we hoped that birds, butterflies and pollinating insects would find their way into our atrium. Subtle fragrant flowers of native shrubs will attract insects that will attract birds. Birds are the Johnny Appleseed's of nature, and plants such as Wild Coffee are rapidly spreading throughout the county because of them. People see healthy Wild Coffees growing amidst anemic ixoras, for instance, and so they keep the better looking Wild Coffee.  
          And when I say wildlife, I mostly mean insects.  The European Union is discussing a plan that requires a buffer of natural meadows near crop fields, and bees will thrive this way.  Butterflies and pollinating moths will proliferate with this needed legislation. Mass spraying for insects kills off the most important living parts of an ecosystem, the insects that feed everybody else.
         Nature is rebounding here in Indian River County after a long period of development that hit Mother Nature like a baseball bat behind the knees.  
           I DO HAVE TO SAY ONE THING THOUGH. WHEN IT IS SAID BY ALARMISTS THAT MILLIONS OF SPECIES WILL DIE WITH CLIMATE CHANGE AND POLLUTION AND EVERYTHING ELSE, BUT IT IS MOSTLY ABOUT INSECTS. MANY ANIMALS SUCH AS THE BIG CATS HAVE DWINDLED DOWN TO A DANGEROUSLY SMALL POPULATION AND SONGBIRDS HAVE BEEN ESPECIALLY HARD HIT.iT'S ALL ABOUT THE SWARMING HUMAN POPULATIONS. 
          Birds are actually smarter than people despite the bird brain rap. The Cardinal in the Atrium must be suffering from concussions like football players do. I never get spider mites or mealybugs on my plants because something eats them. Birds will actually lay less eggs, Somehow. when food sources seem scarce, so this is what I need by smarter.

         I have twenty customers and we simply don't have any insect problems. With a variety of plants that attract a variety of insects, you can end chemical sprays for insects. One customer has a Pindo Palm that has been on the ropes for two years. The customer sprays an organic fungus/insect killer and these are one of the few exceptions to the rule.
          Sometimes it can take three years of planting various native plants before natural controls are achieved and there will be enough natural controls if there is diversity with the insect population. 
          People have to stop freaking out about insects. You will never kill them all, and according to research,99%of the insects that come in your yard are benign or beneficial. You have to realize though, that if a spider likes your front door you'd best keep it there. Something to realize is that there are over 1,000 spiders in your yard ---  right now. Most of them are very small but they are everywhere.

           I think the best spiders to have around are the Lynx spiders. They have a very nice green color and no patience for scale, mealybugs or aphids.  Particularly when these insects are in the crawling stage, looking for a sugar daddy shrub to stake their claim, with their probing and chewing mouthpieces. Spiders are doing the work to keep them off your plants..
           
Dragon fruit flower
              

           A silent slaughter  since the end of WW2. Natures diversity survives in pockets of nature.  The Atrium  steadily sees an increase in the variety of wild life that visit.  Saw the first Hummingbird in there recently, and these Hummingbirds are clever and fast, unlike the Cardinal that flies into the window. We are looking into something that will prevent that. But, you know, this is how evolution works, thinning the herd, you know?

     
          On the other hand,I see gardens popping up everywhere, and large preserved areas such as the Sebastian Buffer Preserve becoming an important habitat for migrating birds along the Atlantic Flyway. What you plant in your yard is also very important in relation to large acreage ecosystems. The Sebastian Buffer Preserve is a haven for migrating birds, but not a complete food source for most species.  A large place to rest and feel safe and possibly nest, but they also need our yards and commercial properties to be toxin free, with a wide variety of fruiting plants. Think of your yard as a produce section for migrating birds and the more native fruits you have available, the less likely they will be to eat the crops you are growing for yourself.
             Habitat destruction and chemical spraying has resulted in a 50% loss of the songbird population in the last 65 years.  Products like Diazinon killed birds directly when they eat it off the ground.It poisoned them indirectly by the chemically killed insects that the birds ate. The more fragile songbirds died at a higher proportional rate than some of your stouter birds such as Seagulls and Crows.  It has been a silent slaughter from the severe habitat loss.
            So helping your neighbors become aware if Green Gardening is another way to help. A dragonfly can go to 9 yards eating insects but if that 10th yard has been sprayed with pesticides,  it's all over. To the showers Mosquito Hawk.
           Lizards get water from leaves, so when you spray for insects, you are also killing a prolific pest insect hunter, as it is innocently getting a drink.
           The plants in the Atrium are heat tolerant and drought tolerant.  Isolated from all nearby habitats it was a challenge to make something that would draw in all the flying and crawling critters to find the place.  This is why there is a large variety of plants in the Atrium, though out the year something is always blooming. The various flower and leaf colors hopefully attracts birds and insects that are flying overhead.      
           Yes, you want to have to have a yard full of bugs and that's like, Oh oh,  Paradigm Shift. Many of my customers know that the spiders near the front door don't want insects in your house as much as you do. That's their daily bread. Most don't want them inside but I promise you, with spiders in the house, pests  get in but none get out.  People have irrational fears about snakes and spiders, but they love the cute little butterfly. To me the Butterfly is bird food.
             
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           I ain't no bleeding heart liberal, and I'll kill a black widow or a scorpion if I see one. I take a bamboo pole to every hornets nest I see. When I see a Coral Snake its off with their heads.City Slicker Liberals go all squeamish when it comes to killing anything and it gets to be annoying.  The balance will not go all askew because I kill some poisonous spiders or scorpions."They were here first" is what I usually hear from those not very well informed about earth stewardship issues.
              How did forests maintain themselves before there were arborists? How did plants fertilize themselves? How does a Redwood Tree grow to 300 feet without the services of Evergreen Pest Control?  
              When the price of fertilizer dramatically increased about 5 years ago I stopped using it. Citrus, Hibiscus and some palms like Phoenix Robellini are the only plants that actually need fertilizer and one reason so much fertilizer runoff gets in the lagoon, is how much washes in after rain. Here's where vainglory comes into play. Do you have a green lawn
             Don't over prune is something else I recommend. Hedges that aren't allowed to flower are only for curb appeal.



             Turn off sprinklers in your yard in shady areas and rely more on rainfall. Keep mindful of how much rain has fallen and when. I recommend native plants because I can see what a benefit they are for reducing water usage. But there are worthy exotics such as Ligustrum that are not taken care of correctly. I do not like these lollipop shaped ones that never get to grow their wonderfully scented flowers. In May and June they attract an incredible variety of interesting insects. I would rather see a red dragonfly or a blue wasp or a green fly in my yard than some chemically induced Hibiscus flower.
          Poisons in your yard. Rat poison. Rodents eat it and head for the nearest body of water. What if an owl or hawk or osprey or snake eats it?  This is all part of the Silent Slaughter of Nature that has gone on since the end of WW2.     
          Herbicides have been appealing to mens cowboy mentality with the herbicide and pesticide ads. Kill the bugs and save the lawn. Don't be like, oh the armadillos and moles ruin my lawn. Look at it like what they are actually doing, aerating the soil.
           Why do they chase moles with pitchforks on golf courses? They are aerating the soil. Yet fairways are regularly sprayed to keep out grubs that attract moles. So you end up with biotic dead zones.  After the elevator project the entire atrium was stripped clean but I think the variety of plants will attract wild life. I brought some of my favorites in with fruit on them. Simpson Stopper dropped it's fruit and little seedlings have popped up. The White Indigoberry has been stripped clean.
Saw Palmetto flowers

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Fairy Garden. A serious fairy garden.
          The magic of creation is contained in a tiny seed. Through all the geological changes plants adapt and it's birds that mostly spread the seeds. From a tiny seed we create abundance and I want to conjure up the image of Johnny Appleseed who is reputed to have spread 200 varieties of naturally occurring apple trees across many states. 
           In general we need to stop the extractive insanity for profits and increase the biomass and food sources and save the remaining forests. Our Fair Trade store sells products from villages trying to restore or maintain the healthy ecosystems these people live in.Feel free to ask me questions, but remember a sample is always best for identifying plants . 
        



     
  

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