Garlic Mustard Image

Garlic Mustard

When it comes to invasive weeds, garlic mustard ranks high in its scary potential to rapidly change an ecosystem. A natural understory plant, garlic mustard readily colonizes wooded areas, outcompeting native vegetation to the point of massive understory loss. A change in food sources means wildlife, including song birds and insects, must move to new locations for forage. Just how rapid this change happens is truly alarming.  A site visit I made to a local campground four years ago now has a wooded understory completely covered in garlic mustard. The area is now eerily silent, bereft of sounds of birds and other wildlife. . . . read more

Creeping Charlie Image

Creeping Charlie

Creeping Charlie, also known as ground ivy, (Glechoma hederacea) is a member of the mint family. In lawns this weed readily spreads, weaving between individual turf plants and sending out roots where nodes touch the soil. Creeping Charlie is the most aggressive in shady moist areas but will fill in lawn spaces in full sun areas too. . . read more

Plastic at base of Tree Image

The Intersection of Landscape Design and Call Before You Dig

The request to the 811 center was like many received—locate the utilities because the homeowner wished to DIY a new privacy fence. Once the utilities were marked, the homeowner began to dig holes for the uprights, thinking each flag marked where he SHOULD dig, instead of where he SHOULD NOT dig. After severing the utility in multiple places, a hefty fine, and costs to reinstate the utility, the homeowner came away with a new appreciation for all that goes on below the soil surface. He was lucky because none of the damaged lines affected people or property. Things could have been worse because what goes on below ground, overhead (think electrical lines), and nearby (houses, outbuildings) all impact the projects we undertake to have safe and beautiful outdoor space.

This story may cause you to shake your head, but the reason for sharing is to foster an understanding that many landscape dangers and mistakes are preventable. Failures at the functional level of landscape design . . . read more

Poison Hemlock Flower Image

Poison Hemlock

Poison hemlock should be handled with extreme caution because of the poisonous alkaloids found in all parts of the plant, including the seeds, flowers, and roots. While not native to the North American continent, poison hemlock has spread beyond its European origin to much of the Central Great Plains. Historically, poison hemlock is infamous as the plant thought to have killed Socrates. 

Poison hemlock, Conium maculatum, is a biennial and a member of the parsley family. Umbels of white flowers, similar to Queen Anne’s lace, sit atop cutleaf pinnate foliage.  Blooming begins in May and extends into July. What sets poison hemlock apart from plants with similar flowers and foliage, such as dill and parsley, are the stems, which are dappled with purplish-maroon blotches.  Left uncut, plants can reach a height of 10 feet. Poison hemlock grows in moist soils, preferring low-lying ditches, roadsides, creek banks, and disturbed sites. It is found in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, extending south throughout the upper and lower Midwest regions. . . read more