Habitat Restoration Series: Native Plant Suggestions for Western New York/Southern Ontario – Part 2

Here is our second installment in our Habitat Restoration Series for Spring.
Native Plantings for WNY/Southern Ontario – Submission #2 for wet/moist soils:

Common Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)

web_MistyElderberryThese shrubs grow best in rich, moist, neutral soils that have good drainage. I have mine planted on a very shallow slope just above a very mucky spot and they do tremendously well. Sunlight should be from full sun to partial shade (they are often found along the woodland edge in the wild). They will shoot up new canes each year and are subject to spreading so you can choose a spot where they can spread at will or control them through pruning back older woody canes or mowing. It generally takes from 3 to 5 years for fruits to develop after planting young canes. Flowers develop in June so are not usually subject to fruit loss due to frost. Fruits begin to ripen in late Summer and persist well into October. This area native has many, many benefits. It is rich in vitamin C and potassium and has many medicinal qualities, especially in terms of the immune system.

Homeopathically (like treats like) Elderberry is considered to be good for the areas of the body that are “tubular” or “hollow” – blood, respiratory, nerves – based on the plant’s hollow stems. Both flowers and fruits can be used. Be advised that raw Elderberries Elders in flower on "The Acre"can have a strong cathartic effect so we advise that the fruits be heated for 5 minutes to neutralize those characteristics (generally small amounts may be eaten raw – just be prudent). Wildlife thrives on the berries and these shrubs can produce more than enough for sharing. You can have your pie, wine, jam and medicinals while leaving enough for birds and deer to “fatten up” on for Winter.

Sources for Elderberry, other than local nurseries, can be found on our webpage. Be sure you choose the Sambucus canadensis varietal as this is the true native in Eastern North America.

Did you miss Submission #1? Have no fear, you can read all about Winterberry HERE!

Gift-Giving in the Roycroft Tradition

We are pleased to present this hands-on demonstration
at the historic Roycroft Campus in East Aurora.
(rescheduled from original date)


Herbal Crafts for Gift-GIving at the Roycroft Campus, Sunday, December 7th.


Native American Plant Wisdom at the Roycroft

Looking forward to presenting this program next weekend!

Native American Plant Wisdom at the Roycroft

Autumn Programs for 2014

We are excited to share our upcoming programs readying you for the holidays and Winter ahead. See you soon!

Autumn Herbs Series
Country Cupboard (586 Main St | East Aurora)
$5.00 each – call 716-652-9115 to register

  • Tinctures and Extracts
    Saturday, October 25th – 1:00 to 2:30pmmortar-and-pestle
    Demonstration on making these potent preparations for health and cuisine.
  • Salves and Balms
    Saturday, November 15th – 1:00 to 2:30pm
    Learn how easy it is to make these healing preparations.

Roycroft Campus Fall Series
Roycroft Powerhouse (31 S. Grove | East Aurora)
See the RCC website or call 716-655-0261 for cost and registration

  • Native American Plant WisdomThree Sisters
    Sunday, November 16th – 10:00am to Noon
    Inspired by Roycroft son Ralph Hubbard, noted for his work to advance understanding of 20th century Native American culture, we’ll look at how local Indigenous people historically used plants for both food and medicine followed by a demonstration on employing these ancient herbal crafts in modern times.
  • Herbal Crafts for Gift Giving
    Thursday, November 20th – 7:00 to 9:00pm

    A hands-on demonstration of lovingly crafted herbal treats for body and mind – perfect for gift-giving.
Garden Lust

Garden Lust

Been away for a while spending as much time possible working “The Acre”, as is my lust during the warmer 6 months of the year. Actually, I only tend to 1/3 of the property, which is a mix of native and non-native species. Except for Purple Loosestrife beheadings,  Phragmites wacking and the occasional planting of a native tree or cattail, the other two-thirds is allowed to do as the elements dictate (see earlier post).  So I thought it best to drop in and share a bit of what’s been going on.

You reap what you sow: tasty salad toppers.

You reap what you sow: tasty salad toppers.

Each season, I introduce more plants to the property, which is all love and part research for my educational endeavors.  Emphasis is on returning native plants long missing from the landscape, particularly those that benefit wildlife. Despite the small quarters, the land offers a variety of conditions, from dry shade to sunny wet meadow, allowing for a diverse selection of species for trial. Challenges are present, as well. A yet to be identified insect has annually devoured the leaves of one variety of Marshmallow (unfortunately, I remember not which variety) despite regular spraying of insecticidal soap. This year, however, I’ve added Neem oil to the spray and the nibbling has been reduced substantially. Interestingly, the nearby Common Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) is completely unaffected by whatever plagues its neighbor. This is where the research part comes in. I note that the Common variety, while no more than 30 feet away, is in considerably drier soil which: 1.) may make it a stronger specimen; 2.) is in a spot where the drier conditions are less hospitable for the gnawing insect; or 3.) its location among the culinary and medicinal herbs creates a deterrent.  Of course, determining what is eating the other Marshmallow would help but I’ve yet to see the culprit – it must be very tiny or is preying upon the plant at night.

This year, I’ve really worked on adding species specifically intended for aiding pollinators. Milkweeds,  Butterfly Weed, Turtleheads, native Roses and Lupines have been put in and all except the Lupines are doing very well.  Natural precipitation has been nearly perfect so far which is sure to be helping.  Also in the mix has been work on critter deterrents, particularly for White-tailed Deer who, despite having lots to eat in the wild meadow where their young regularly bed down, make regular stops at the garden beds to snack. Protecting both an established and newly added Daylily bed has taken up some time. Gold Dial Soap hanging on a string works for about one season but then has to be rotated out.  Planting a border of Garlic and Onions around the new bed kept the Deer from eating the greens, but once the Daylily flower buds formed, they were quickly nibbled off. So, I expanded the bed and added Lavender and Tarragon on the outside with a complimentary planting of one Curry Plant and one Artemisia as decorative and strongly fragrant corners.  A Curry Plant has worked quite well protecting a planting of Echinacea for several years, which beforehand were regularly beheaded, so hoping this one-two punch will be enough to keep the Deer at bay on the more highly favored Daylilies. Last Autumn, I planted small Boxwoods on two sides of the established Daylily bed. So far the Boxwood (which Deer completely ignore) and the Dial Soap have been doing the job.

In the shady areas, Foam Flower, Wild Ginger and Mayapple have been added to a variety of native ferns planted in previous seasons. St. John’s Wort has volunteered itself, which is a nice addition to the ever increasing medicinal herbs that are on the property, both wild and cultivated.  The Yucca, which is planted in a bed along a sunny dry slope, flowered very heavily this year for the first time – wish they lasted longer. Native Prairie Blazing Star was also planted to compliment the established Yarrow, Echinacea and Coreopsis. I’ve also done some companion planting in the vegetable garden adding Borage to aid the Strawberries. The Borage flowers are a great attractant for pollinators along with being a tasty addition to salads.

Gardening is one long experiment, affected differently each year by weather, climate change and fluctuations in wildlife populations. It never gets boring. I’ve posted a few photos below (click one photo and glide through the larger image gallery) and will follow up later in the season as other plants come into their bloom time. In the meantime, be well and enjoy Nature’s wonders.




Foraging Season Begins

Echinacea, a native composite, supports human health and feeds native pollinators

Echinacea, a native composite, supports human health and feeds native pollinators

A concern about the composition of commercially produced food, genetically modified crops and a seemingly endless litany of food recalls has spurred many people to become more knowledgeable about the source of their sustenance. The rise in kitchen gardens, the opening of more farmers markets each year, and the conversion of empty urban lots to community gardens are definitive signs of a surge in the local food movement, allowing us to have a solid grasp on that which nourishes our bodies. Add to this a swelling interest in wild foraging for both food and medicine, and it becomes clear that we are taking self-reliance much more seriously. This can have many excellent benefits for our environment.

But with this rediscovery of “homegrown” comes an important responsibility, particularly in our foraging and wildcrafting. To understand how to be an ethical harvester of wild plants, one must become well-versed about these species beyond just what value they bring to our own personal well being. In addition to the “Six Knows” of harvesting wild plants, we must also consider the following.

      • Know the plant’s value to other species: We are not alone on this planet. While humans can grow their own food, wild animals depend upon naturally occurring plants for their sustenance. If a plant you wish to harvest is an important food source for another species (including insects), evaluate its local availability before harvesting. If its occurrence is limited, perhaps you can forsake the harvest in this location, finding a more prolific source, or forgo that plant altogether until it becomes more established.
      • Understand the plant’s life cycle (reproductivity): Many plants are like animals in that they take some time to reach sexual maturity. Harvesting a plant before it has begun reproductivity can compromise the future population of that species. Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) is an excellent example. While it is a perennial, it takes up to five years for it to reach flowering age. We want to avoid harvesting the Trout Lily in its first year of flowering, which we can determine by the presence of two leaves, instead of one.

So, please enjoy your foraging but remember to take no more than 1/3 of a complete stand and become acquainted with the aspects of your selection to ensure its future availability for the many species who rely on these wonderful gifts of nature.