Posted 7-30-18,  Barb Gorges – Habitat Hero demonstration gardens get started. This spring, my eyes were bigger than my garden. I blame all those luscious Botanical Interests seed packet illustrations (www.BotanicalInterests.com).

March 1, a little later than usual for winter sowing (see https://cheyennegardengossip.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/winter-sowing/), I planted 25 cut-open milk jugs with perennial seeds and set them outside.

Gaillardia – Photo Credit: Barb Gorges

The seeds included:
Aquilegia (Columbine)
Asclepias (Milkweed)Coreopsis (Tickseed)
Echinacea (Purple Coneflower)
Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)
Monarda (Bee Balm)
Penstemon (Beardtongue)
Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan).

There were sprouts in every gallon jug by the end of April. The Rudbeckia seedlings formed a carpet.

I planned to have the front yard ready to plant, but between wet weather and various commitments, that didn’t happen. The seedlings were also too small for the Master Gardener plant sale mid-May.

Then the Cheyenne Habitat Hero committee got a query from the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens. Would we be interested in having a Habitat Hero demonstration garden site between the rose garden and the parking lot? I soon realized my winter sowing overflow would be perfect there.

On the other hand, the Cheyenne Habitat Hero committee spent months over the winter planning a Habitat Hero demonstration garden with the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities. It will show how to save city residents and business owners money and water by planting a flower garden in place of a lawn. I wrote a successful grant proposal to National Audubon that funded nearly half of the $1,200 to buy plants, plus another for $3,500 for an interpretive sign.

The BOPU garden area, in front of their office, was measured and plans were drawn digitally by Kathy Shreve from Star Cake Plants. She chose an assortment of drought tolerant species that over time will grow into a solid mass of colorful mounds of flowers attracting birds, bees and butterflies. An order was placed for plants in 4.5 and 2.5-inch containers, plus a few shrubs.

The turf was removed mechanically. Volunteers broke up the hard clay with shovels and mixed in compost. A flagstone garden path was installed as well as an irrigation system that snapped into existing lawn sprinkler heads. About 50 people showed up June 2 and planted 428 plants in two and a half hours—and watered them all in by hand and mulched them with wood chips.

Echinacea Purperea Cheyenne Spirit – Photo Credit: Barb Gorges

At the CBG site however, rather than decide how many plants are needed to fill the space, Kathy is helping me figure out how to use the 900 seedlings I started and any donations of other native-type plants. At least there is no lawn to remove and the soil is reasonable.

At home, my winter-sown seedlings go directly into the garden, but water wasn’t immediately available at the CBG site, so they are in the greenhouse waiting.

Seedlings can live indefinitely crowded together. The above-ground parts don’t grow much bigger, but the roots get longer and longer and are harder and harder to tease apart so I started “up-potting.” I claimed all the plastic containers from the BOPU planting and more from the CBG and bought six bags of potting soil at cost from Habitat Hero sponsor Gardening with Altitude, enough to fill 33 flats.

After 10 days the first 200 Rudbeckias Sandra Cox and I transplanted had grown 50 times larger than the ones that were still fighting it out in the four remaining milk jugs. I’d forgotten how my winter-sowing instructor, Michelle Bohanan, had carefully counted out 16 or 25 seeds for each jug rather than spill an unknown number. Later, in the Botanical Interest seed catalog, where it states how many seeds are in each packet, it said the Rudbeckia packet has over 2,000 for only $1.69. Maybe it was a typo. Maybe not.

The repetitive nature of potting up seedling after seedling for hours made me wonder how much of propagation is mechanized at large companies. While washing pots I listened to a recorded book, “The Line Becomes a River” by Francisco Cantu, about the U.S.—Mexico border issue. It occurred to me this is the kind of tedious work immigrants gladly do just to be in our country.  These soil-based jobs many of our own citizens disdain, leaving the “green” industry shorthanded.

If all goes well with this latest Habitat Hero project, by late summer—or maybe next summer—you may see 450 Rudbeckia plants flowering brown and gold—maybe in time for the University of Wyoming football season. Also stop by BOPU, 2416 Snyder Ave., on a regular basis so you can see the growing transformation.

BOPU Habitat Hero Demonstration Garden Plant List

BOPU Habitat Hero Demo Garden Plant – Photo Credit: Don Chesnut

Agastache aurantia “Sunlight” (Hyssop)
Agastache cana “Sonoran Sunset” (Hyssop)
Aster alpinus “Goliath” (Alpine Aster)
Aster (Symphyotrichum) novae-angliae “New England Pink” (New England Aster)
Bergenia crassifolia “Winterglut” (Bergenia, Pigsqueak)
Buddleja sp. “Blue Chip” (Butterfly Bush)Buddleja davidii “Miss Ruby” (Butterfly Bush)
Echinacea purpurea “Magnus Superior” (Coneflower)
Fragaria vesca “Alexandria” (Runnerless Strawberry)
Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue Avena Grass)
Juniperus scopulorum “Blue Arrow” (Juniper)
Oenothera macrocarpa (Missouri Evening Primrose)
Panicum virgatum “Heavy Metal” (Switchgrass)
Papaver orientale “Salmon Oriental” (Poppy)
Penstemon x mexicali “Pike’s Peak Purple” (Penstemon)
Prunella lacinata (Lacy Self-Heal)
Pulsatilla vulgaris (Pasqueflower)
Ribes rubrum “Red Lake” (Currant)
Sedum sieboldii “October Daphne” (Sedum)
Veronica pectinate (Wooly Creeping Speedwell)

Barb Gorges invites readers to share their bird sightings and stories. Email bgorges4@msn.com or call 307-634-0463. Her bird columns are archived at her blog,  http://cheyennebirdbanter.wordpress.com.