Summer Solstice Lecture: Native Plants of the Midwest

Lauritzen Gardens.

Last night I attended a Summer Solstice Lecture featuring Alan Branhagen at Lauritzen Gardens located at 100 Bancroft Street in Omaha, NE.

Lauritzen Gardens, Summer Solstice Lecture by Alan Branhagen.

Alan Branhagen is currently the director of operations at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and is also the author of Native Plants of the Midwest. We learned which natives grow to best suit your conditions and heard ideas on how to use natives to create a functional and beautiful landscape.

It as a very inspiring lecture as Alan is obviously very passionate about our native prairie plants, butterflies, bugs and more.

Lauritzen Gardens, Summer Solstice Lecture by Alan Branhagen.

He spoke about how the luna moth (pictured above) uses Walnut trees as one of its host plants and the papery brown cocoons overwinter on the ground of the tree. When people wonder why they don’t have an luna months, what are you doing to the ground underneath their host trees? Are you mowing that area?

Alan’s inspiration for native plants came from finding Dutchmans Breeches.

Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) is the first of the bleeding hearts to bloom in spring.  Blooms are creamy white with ribbons of pale yellow.  Flowers resemble white pantaloons hung upside down on arching lines, hence the name Dutchman’s breeches.   Plants typically bloom in April in Iowa.  The foliage is finely dissected and gray-green.  Plants are small — rarely reaching more than a foot tall with blooms.  This species is native to Iowa woodlands and ephemeral.  Woodland areas covered in Dutchman’s breeches are a sight to behold! Source: Iowa State University.

He doesn’t understand the desire for mulch beds and suggests violets, Zig Zag Goldenrod and Eastern Star Sedge as alternatives.

Alan pointed out that if every farm in Iowa planted a windbreak, it would be the largest conservation effort of all time. He said that our ancestors knew to plant windbreaks and wonders what made us forget the benefits.

He spoke a lot about species that are dependent on another, for example the wild geranium has a “wild geranium bee.” He advised that when we are filling our gardens with native and pollinator plants to think both generally and specifically, to consider researching and adding very specific plants that certain insects are dependent on.

Alan used to work for Powell Gardens outside of Kansas City, encouraging people to visit that garden along with Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue and DeSoto in Missouri Valley during migration, in addition to others.

He showed a photo of over 100 butterflies drinking out of a butterfly feeder he made from a bird feeder filled with fermenting fruit.

Throughout the talk, he mentioned his book, Native Plants of the Midwest: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best 500 Species for the Garden. I picked one up at Lauritzen Gardens that night but you can also buy on Amazon here.

Native Plants of the Midwest by Alan Branhagen.
Native Plants of the Midwest by Alan Branhagen.

It is full of amazing photographs and descriptions. I love a book with lots of photographs and this one does not disappoint.

If you want to hear from Alan directly, he was just featured on The Native Plant Podcast here.

Laurtizen Gardens knows how to throw a great event, here are some photos of the event.

Event at Lauritzen Gardens.
Event at Lauritzen Gardens.
Event at Lauritzen Gardens.
Event at Lauritzen Gardens.
Event at Lauritzen Gardens.
Lauritzen Gardens.
Lauritzen Gardens.

I caught this beautiful sunset on the way home.

Have a great weekend!

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