As the calendar year comes to a close, it is a natural time to reflect on the events that shaped 2019 at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains. I reviewed the last 12 months of the staff calendar and social media posts, made a list of activities our staff have been involved with, and plugged that list into a word cloud generator. Here is the resulting image:
This image brings back a flood of fond memories of 2019. I have so enjoyed working alongside fellow facilitators Scott, Janelle and Katie as these experiences have come and gone. But what gives me the greatest joy is how these events have been made possible and experienced by SO MANY MORE than the four of us.
Our Dyck Arboretum board of directors, volunteers, members, underwriters, event patrons, Hesston College staff, interns, business partners, and collaborating organizations are the glue that hold this word cloud together. I couldn’t be more grateful for how you have so enriched our year. You, who make up this diverse community of people, are an essential element of our mission to cultivate transformative relationships between people and the land.
So, whatever role(s) you have played in helping make this 2019 cloud of activities happen, I want to say a most heartfelt THANK YOU. Your involvement is essential to the Dyck Arboretum community and we look forward with you to the year ahead!
I really enjoy the work we do here at the Arboretum. I am deeply rooted in the Kansas landscape. Having grown up on a farm, connecting with the land seemed like an easy thing for me. However, I never really noticed the small details and intricacies of the plants that grow here until I started working at the Arboretum.
The Arboretum is almost 40 years old. From our founding, building relationships with the land was our foremost charge. The 1981 mission was to “foster and appreciation of the natural beauty of Kansas”. Our growth since those humble beginnings is linked to the timelessness of our mission and connecting people to the Kansas landscape.
As you know, connecting to the land has never been more important. With concerns of habitat loss, declining bird populations, fewer pollinators, or decreasing biodiversity, your connection will have a powerful impact as you learn more about your role in making positive changes. What you do will make a difference.
Knowledge is powerful. Whether in personal or work relationships, in working with plants, or anything else, the more you know the deeper the connection grows. Relationships grow as we learn, relate and spend time interacting with each other or with the elements of nature that surround us. The Dyck Arboretum of the Plains’ mission to ‘cultivate transformative relationships between people and the land’ is all about building relationships through continuous learning.
It is my wish that each of you find a personal connection with the land that makes your life better. As you develop this connection, other positive impacts will naturally happen. Stewardship, conservation, appreciation, enjoyment and reflection are personal responses to a profound connection to the land.
In the coming year, we invite each of you to share in experiences that inspire you and deepen your own connection to the land and with the Arboretum. It is our desire to make your lives richer as you find solace, comfort, joy, anticipation, and discovery in the events and activities centered around our mission.
Whether you support the Arboretum by giving financially, attending events, sharing about our work with your friends and family, or providing your expertise and energy through volunteering, your participation makes this place better. Your commitment to this shared mission deepens our relationships not only with each other, but also with the land.
Winter is a great time to curl up on the couch and enjoy some cozy relaxation. But for wildlife, it is a three month battle for survival! There are many ways we can help wildlife get through these difficult months. Of course, the best way to attract and support biodiversity is to fill our landscapes with native plants, providing seeds, host plants, shelter, and an active soil biome. But if you missed the boat on planting this past year, there are still some things you can do today to attract furry and feathered friends.
I am an avid birder, so I love to put out feeders in winter when food is scarce to witness a diverse set of species as they drop by. Make sure your feeders are hanging high, away from potential predators (read: neighborhood cats!) and that they offer high-value feed like sunflower seeds or suet cakes.
Besides birds, I like to see rabbits and other small mammals hanging around. Toss out food scraps like carrot skins or wilted salad greens, either in a compost pile or along a fence line to attract rabbits and opossums. (Opossums?!? Why would you want them around? Here’s why)
I used to live near a small field that is home to deer. Some people in our neighborhood scatter corn on the edge of their yard to draw them out of the woods. They come out just as the sun is going down, peacefully nibbling the grains.
When the temperatures plummet, puddles and streams freeze over, becoming inaccessible to the animals that desperately need a drink. Heated birdbaths do the trick, but an inexpensive option is to frequently refill a cement birdbath, less likely to crack than porcelain ones. I dump a pitcher of water into my birdbath before I head to work, giving the birds at least a little bit of drinking time before it freezes over again. Easily make your own cement bird bath like this one, a similar process to what we do every year in the EPS summer institute for teachers. I keep my birdbath low to the ground so that it is accessible to birds, but also to other passing friends like rabbits and skunks.
A brush pile is a great and easy way to create high-quality shelter for birds and small mammals. Find a forgotten corner of the yard and collect sticks, limbs, leaves, and other brush into at least a 3 foot by 5-foot stack. Forget taking all that stuff to your local dump; save yourself the work and create habitat for neighborhood critters.
Additionally, planting a few evergreens in the landscape protects tree-dwelling animals from the icy winter winds. Though eastern red cedar is Kansas’s only native evergreen, I have a few other favorites that do well in our climate. Look for Taylor Junipers at our sale (a cedar selection) for a pencil-shaped evergreen good for limited space. Arizona cypress and Green Giant Arborvitae are good non-native options.
Spring is, remarkably, just around the corner. Start planning now for how you want to improve your landscape with native plants so you are ready when FloraKansas arrives! A garden with food, water, shelter, and a diverse set of native plants will attract wildlife season after season, year after year.
Growing plants in Kansas can be a challenge. This spring we had an abundance of moisture – too much in fact – and now we are experiencing expanding drought conditions throughout the state. With the landscape in a state of dormancy, you may forget to water those parched plants. With winter upon us, how do you keep your plants alive? Here are some winter watering tips that will save your landscape investment.
Should I water my garden in winter?
Even though plants have gone dormant and lifeless, they should be watered periodically. Newly planted perennials, trees and shrubs have not developed the extensive root systems to sustain them through a dry winter. Dehydrated plants will struggle to survive the winter even when they are not actively growing. Your plants are thirsty, so you will need to give them a drink.
Cold weather watering tips
Look at the soil around your plants. If the top inch or two is dry you must water the plants.
If the soil is unfrozen, water on days above 40-45 degrees
Obviously, it is better to water after noon so water has time to infiltrate the soil before freezing at night.
Water through the winter any time the top inch or two of soil is dry.
If it stays dry through the winter months, it is critically important to water as the plants break dormancy next April and May.
What to water in winter
Plants installed this year (perennials, trees, shrubs and cool season turf)
Established cool season (fescue) turf, especially under trees and around shrubs. Roots are competing for moisture with the grass roots
Pay special attention to evergreens as they are more susceptible to winter dry-out.
If it is especially dry, even established trees, shrubs and perennials will benefit from an occasional winter watering.
How to water in winter
Use garden hoses to connect to sprinklers and water nozzles. These can be easily disconnected from the hydrant. Obviously, irrigation systems will be damaged by freezing temperatures, so don’t restart any underground automatic sprinkler systems.
Established turf and trees, especially those in sunny,
windy, or exposed areas should be a high priority. Watering prevents them from drying
out due to unique environmental conditions.
Don’t overwater your plants.
Soggy soils and heavy clay soils that stay wet for long periods of time
will cause root rot and fungal issues.
Water as needed with one-half inch to one inch of moisture
to rehydrate the top few inches of soil.
Remember to remove hoses from spigot so pipes don’t freeze. Drain hoses of water to eliminate freeze damage to hoses as well.
The winter landscape can be stark and often forgetten since it is not producing flowers or new growth. However, dormant plants are still using water and can be damaged by prolonged periods without moisture. Hopefully, we get some rain or snowfall, but it takes around 10 inches of snow to equal one inch of rain.
Don’t forget about your plants in this busy season of the year, keep checking those plants and the soil around them. We don’t want you to be surprised by dry, dead or desiccated plants next spring. A little winter watering now will keep you from replacing plants next spring.
December in Kansas is the time to enjoy textures in the landscape and appreciate dormancy. These textures have been present during earlier months, but they have been obscured by the bright, colorful eye candy that more dominantly draws our attention.
The waning purples, yellows, reds, and greens of fall have served their purposes of pollinator attraction and energy production and finally given way to the variously rich shades of brown in winter. These remaining warm hues of frugal colors make shapes and textures stand out more prominently in the prairie against itself and the sky.
The previously perfect ovals of grey-headed coneflower seed heads, slowly release their grip on propagules, only to uncover another perfect oval.
The white hairy pappus of a variety of grasses, asters, and goldenrods, which will eventually carry away its host seed in the wind like a parachute, is particularly eye-catching in the way it reflects light while held on winter stems.
From a prairie management perspective, wintertime is the best time to see and root out invading tree stems with their obvious coarse textures that are otherwise hidden by greenery.