Monday, January 30, 2012

It’s time to start thinking about spring planting…

Photo by J. Leach
Calypso orchids
(Calypso bulbosa)

Growing up in western Washington, colorful wildflower communities seemed to only be found in mountain meadows that you’d have to drive and hike hours to get to.  We’d backpack on Mt. Rainier every August to see the Perseid meteor shower, and to get our “wildflower fix.”  My uncle would take me out to the Olympic Peninsula on expeditions to find the “elusive” and exotic-looking Calypso Orchid, which, up until a year ago, I thought was EXTREMELY rare. 

I moved to the Wenatchee area in 2010, and have been astonished by the diversity, abundance, and showiness of many of the native species.  Lupines used to be a treat to see on the other side of the Cascades, here they grow along the highway. Berry-picking is a totally different and delicious experience over here, where there’s more to forage for than invasive Himalayan Blackberry.  And I still can’t believe that I’ve found Calypso Orchids right off the trail of almost every “east-side” hike I’ve done!

Photo by J. Leach
Wildflower meadow (Bean Creek, near Cle Elum)

 As Cascadia Conservation District’s current AmeriCorps Intern, I’m very excited about our upcoming 2nd annual “Native Planting 101”- a free workshop about the benefits of and how to successfully incorporate native plants into your next landscaping project.  Planning for this event has been a great partnering effort between local native plant and natural resource organizations and businesses.  I’ve enjoyed meeting so many local native plant experts, natural resource specialists, and fellow natural history and outdoor enthusiasts.

I recently was in contact with Rachel “Danger” Hosman, a sophomore at Cashmere High School, and an attendee at last year’s “Native Planting 101”, who was kind enough to share a bit about her workshop experience:

Participants at last year's "Native Planting 101"
I attended the “Native Planting 101” workshop last year with my father. He initially forced me to go along with him, promising me cookies and a swell time. I had my doubts about whether a workshop on native planting could be interesting, and I wasn’t expecting to learn anything useful. After the workshop however, I came away understanding the benefits of native plants to both our environment and our local community, and also the harmful effects of noxious weeds. It wasn’t until I attended Native Planting 101 that I began to appreciate the role native plants play in our precious and rapidly shrinking ecosystem. I found the presentations to be especially well put together so they were easily comprehensible and held the audience’s attention.
Steve Dewey, Utah State University,
An invasion of purple loosestrife, a noxious weed.

The most fascinating part of the workshop for me was learning to identify and prevent the spread of noxious weeds, and that is something I would like to learn more about. I particularly enjoyed the exercise at the end of the workshop where we got to plant a tree.


We hope you’ll join us to learn more about incorporating native plants into your landscape! Our February 4th "Native Planting 101" workshop is full, but there has been enough interest that we are planning another workshop for this spring!  Contact Cascadia, 509.664.9370, or visit our website, and get on our workshop waiting list.  Hurry, space is limited!

Your Friend in Conservation,

Monday, January 23, 2012

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Wedge Mountain, just visible through
incoming snowfall.

I admit, one of the biggest challenges for me as an AmeriCorps volunteer is making the most of my greatly reduced “free time”.  While trying to catch up on work around the house on the weekends, I sometimes have to make a conscious effort to get out and spend some quality time in nature.  When I do get out, I always marvel at how incredibly lucky I am to be living in a place where no driving is necessary to access some beautiful natural areas; the hike can literally start as soon as I set foot outside the door!

For this week’s blog, my task was to think about native plants, in terms of forage and habitat for wildlife, while on a weekend winter excursion.

Lupine the malamute, enjoying some
 fresh snow (at last)!
So, I headed out with my 10-month old Malamute, Lupine, for a long walk.  After a treacherous attempt at an on-leash walk at Riverfront Park in Leavenworth, we retreated back to our home woods at the base of Wedge Mountain, where Lupine was free to follow squirrel and rabbit tracks, and sniff out bits and pieces of salmon carcasses discarded by eagles (which then become the target object in a game of “keep away,” which he thinks is just such great fun…).

Golden-crowned kinglet
Regulus satrapa

Stepping out the door, I immediately heard overhead the high–pitched “zeee zeee zeees” of golden-crowned kinglets, and could see them fluttering about in the tall ponderosa pines, still finding an abundant source of food  (small insects) and good shelter amongst the evergreen branches.   

Fresh salmon carcasses left on the ice
 by bald eagles.
  As the snow started to fall, pup and I sauntered on down the road to the bridge on Icicle Creek near the Leavenworth fish hatchery, where the resident “flock” of bald eagles (apparently, it’s been an unusually good year for eagles), had been very busy earlier that morning.  I could see that four eagles had retired to the tall cottonwoods further downstream for the afternoon, and the remains of their breakfast was left on the ice.  Two American dippers, North America's only aquatic songbird, bobbed along the edge of the ice shelf nearby.

All of these animals- dippers, eagles, and salmon- remain here as a result of a healthy stream ecosystem. Native plants play a large role in this, as riparian plant communities provide many services to the stream, including stream bank stabilization to reduce erosion/sediment, filtration of pollutants for improved water quality, and cover to keep water temperatures cool.  
A last summer's bird nest.
   On the way back home, I noticed many bird nests from last year, easy to spot in the leafless branches of shrubs and small trees.  In the summer, native shrubs like snowberry, mock orange, blue elderberry, serviceberry, roses, and black hawthorn (to name a few) create dense thickets-especially apparent in riparian areas- and provide excellent cover for nesting birds.  In the winter, with the leaves off the bushes, one realizes just how busy these sheltered corridors must have been! Many of these bushes are also an important source of food for a variety of over-wintering wildlife, in the form of leaves, bark and branches (such as rocky mountain and vine maples), and fruits (snowberry, roses, red osier dogwood). 

Rosehips provide protein and energy for wildlife,
 as well as vivid color, in winter.

Provide year-round habitat for our amazing local wildlife! Incorporate native plants into your landscape, and the benefits to you and to the environment can be far-reaching!

The Sleeping Lady, Leavenworth, WA

To get started, take a look at our 2012 native plant sale brochure and order formOrders are due by February 15th, 2012.

Thanks for reading!

Your Friend in Conservation,


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Earth Day is only 3 months away!

Most of you are probably not even thinking about how you are going to spend your Earth Day, but I sure am!

In the spring, Cascadia has several events and campaigns geared toward local youth.  One of our attempts to get kids thinking about the value of our natural world- and the importance conserving it- is the Earth Day Essay Contest. Last year, we asked 6th through 8th graders in Chelan County to write about the question:

"What does nature mean to you and what do you do to protect it?"   

We had some wonderful essays; read the winning essay in Cascadia's Spring 2011 Cascadia Quarterly newsletter (page 3)!

Photo by Julia Leach
I think this is a great, all-encompassing, age-appropriate topic, and am having a hard time coming up with something similar (dare I say better?) for this year's contest.  So I've sent an email around to my Cascadia co-workers for their help. Here are their suggestions:

 "Why is it important to take care of nature, and how do you help?"

"How does nature care for you? What will happen if we don't care for nature?"
"What is a 'renewable resource', and why do I care?"

"Why is it important to be a friend to nature, and in what ways do you show your friendship?" 
Photo by Julia Leach

 "As a part of the local ecosystem, I play which role (farmer, logger, recreationist, etc.)? What measures do I take to be a good neighbor to nature?"

Photo by Gerald Tapp

"Finish this sentence: 'If I could spend one day in nature, I would...'  Why would [what you do] be important to you?"

Now I'm asking you! (Is anybody out there?...)
  • Educators- what would students be excited to write about?   
  • Parents- when you talk to your children about nature, what in particular seems to provoke thoughtfulness? 
  • Everyone else- are you simply interested to know what our community's children think about a certain, conservation-related subject? 
Photo by Owen Lloyd

Contribute to the conversation by clicking on the comments link at the bottom of this post.

Vote on one of the above topics, or add another to the list!  It can be broad (perhaps not "the meaning of life" broad), or locally-focused.  It just needs to be related to conservation and/or nature-based experience.  And please alert others who might be interested in being part of this discussion.  I'm very interested to hear your thoughts! 

Thank you for your input, and for reading!

Your Friend in Conservation,

1/26/12: I've received feedback from readers that commenting on our blog was a rather long, laborious process.  I've changed the blog settings, so now comments can be posted anonymously, which I hope will help.  Thank you to those who alerted me to this problem!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Coming Soon! Cascadia Events

My days in the office are starting to get quite busy now, with two big events on the horizon.  Our “Native Planting 101” workshop is officially less than a month away, and will be followed soon after by the 2012 Native Plant Sale.  Both these projects have taken a lot of planning and coordination, but it’s been a great experience! 

“Native Planting 101” Workshop

Julie Sanderson discusses all things weeds
at last year's "Native Planting 101"workshop.

I’ve really enjoyed meeting and working with the local plant and natural resource experts who will be speaking at “Native Planting 101,” a free workshop about successfully incorporating native plants into your landscape. 

I’ve just started to learn the different noxious weeds plaguing Chelan County’s fields, stream banks, forests, and parking lots,  and am interested to hear what Julie Sanderson (of the Chelan County Noxious Weed Control Board) has to say about the different (chemical and non-chemical) weed management methods.
I had some practice last fall planting trees and shrubs and re-vegetating with willow and red-osier dogwood cuttings at several restoration sites along the Entiat River, and am looking forward to learning more about restoration techniques from Ted Alway, owner of Derby Canyon Natives.
Thoughtfully-placed natives along a country
 road.  An example of a "yardscaping" project.

I didn’t know the term yardscaping until I started planning for the workshop, but have wanted for several years to creatively/artistically garden using native plants.  Connie Mehmel, a biologist with the Wenatchee-Okanogan Forest Service, will be discussing this topic, new to our workshop this year.  I think it would be so much fun to try, especially on this side of the Cascades where the plants (from woodland to high desert species), are so diverse, showy, and colorful!
And Amy Hendershot, a Resource Conservationist at our local Natural Resource Conservation Service's  office, will further explore an important facet of landscape design- pollinator gardening- choosing plants with native bees and other beneficial insects in mind. From our conversations, she is a wealth of information-and is very enthusiastic- about this topic, and I think it’s another excellent addition to the workshop line-up!      


 “Native Planting 101”
Saturday, February 4th
 12:30pm- 4:30pm
Chelan County PUD Auditorium

Please RSVP, space is limited!

2012 Native Plant Sale

Vine Maple
(Acer circinatum)

I’m a bit of a natural history nerd, so as a fairly recent transplant to this side of the Cascades, I’m excited that I’ve discovered a few new (tome) species- like russet buffaloberry and golden currant- during the plant sale planning process.  Probably my favorite part so far has been researching and getting to know our native plants a bit better.  For example:
·         Blue Elderberry stems are hollow and are great materials to create mason bee boxes, and apparently squirt guns (see the “Blue Elderberry” blog for more on this species). 

 Native tribes used vine maple stems in making baskets for everyday tasks like carrying fish or harvesting wood, and red-osier dogwood branches for more decorative weaving and basketry projects (See last week’s “Red-osier Dogwood” blog for more on this species). 

Serviceberry, reproduces most commonly from the root crown and rhizomes (an underground stem that grows out horizontally from the parent plant and then sprouts roots and shoots).  This surprised me as we harvested a lot of serviceberry berries last year, and I was very impressed by the quantity of berries produced by a single plant!  I just assumed a plant that put SO much energy into producing SO much fruit be primarily successful reproducing by seed, not by cloning itself.  Hmmm…
Terry Spivey, USDA Forest Service,

(Amelanchier alnifolia)
Anyways, the plant sale and workshop have gotten me thinking, and I am looking forward to incorporating some of these species into a few garden-able areas around my house this spring.  I’ve already formulated plans incorporating golden currant, kinnikinnick, maybe some Wood’s rose and mock orange…

2012 Native Plant Sale
Please send in your order by February 15th.
On your order form, please indicate your plant pick-up date:
March 31st, 10am to 1pm
 April 14th, 10am to 1pm

Interested in volunteering?
Take a look at our Plant Sale

Finally, I’m looking forward to working with volunteers for these events and meeting people who are making an effort this year to keep our area healthy, beautiful, and natural! 

I urge you to consider participating in either or both of these events; I hope they will be a great learning experience and will generate some new ideas for working with and living amongst our native plant and animal communities!

If you would like more information about
these events, please go to our website,
contact our office at 509.664.9370,
 or post any questions in the comments box below! 

Your Friend in Conservation,