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Garden tour at Lehigh Gap Nature Center showcases native plants

  • ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Liz Stauffer points to a flower in the native plant gardens at Lehigh Gap Nature Center as she leads a tour.
    ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Liz Stauffer points to a flower in the native plant gardens at Lehigh Gap Nature Center as she leads a tour.
Published May 07. 2012 05:02PM

Linda Fredericks, garden coordinator at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, Slatington, made the original suggestion that the native plant habitat gardens that surround the Center would be a teaching tool as well as nice landscaping.

As the gardens developed, Liz Stauffer, who led a recent garden tour, said some of the plants that were there, but not crowding out the newly-planted ones, were allowed to remain.

Anita Collins said Stauffer has a degree in environmental science, interned at the Chicago Botanical Garden and studied at Longwood Gardens.

She and her husband live in the basement apartment of the original Osprey House and Stauffer works as caretaker.

"We look for plants that will support wildlife. We monitor what's growing and what's thriving. There are study areas laid out," said Stauffer.

Sometimes she has to use books to determine if something is a weed and should be pulled, so she has learned weed identification along with her caretaking duties.

One problem in garden maintenance is that young plants may look different from the adult. Collins said the gardens are not for show but to support Nature Center projects.

The Dutchman's Pipeline is a climbing plant with wires to climb at the front of the Osprey House. It supports the Pipeline Swallowtail Butterfly.

The gardens have several types of milkweed. They provide food for the Monarch Butterfly larva.

Blueberries and chokecherries are blooming.

The flat-topped aster can be cut back until the end of June making it smaller and bushier when it blooms in July.

Aromatic sumac adds a good smell to a garden, though it is not often used. It doesn't get tall and is good where the soil needs to be held in place.

"It is a great time of year to divide plants," said Stauffer. She has been dividing and planting pussy toes where the soil washed away between rocks that line the flower beds. Pussy toes is low growing and the flowers are fuzzy appearing.

A white hydrangea was moved from the backside of the pavilion, something Stauffer does not recommend moving plants from the wild into a domestic garden.

Bush honeysuckle is a favorite with bees. It is the vining honeysuckle that is invasive.

Although butterfly bush is a serious invasive plant and is removed from the gardens as fast as it moves in, some is left undisturbed on the hillside because it does provide nectar for adult Monarch butterflies.

Pasture (native) roses are always pink in color If a white one is found it is the multifloral rose, which is not allowed to be sold because it takes over.

Some tour members thought the pasture rose was a raspberry because of its red berries.

Violets, of which there are many kinds, are good to fill in empty areas quickly, said Stauffer.

Water from a sump pump was running over the road so a small pond and ditch has been excavated that will support plants that need a lot of water. The edges of the ditch will be smoothed out to provide a large planting area.

Solomon seal is ready to bloom. It has a tubular green-white flower on the underside of the stems. Stauffer said it has blue-black berries in the fall. False Solomon seal has blossoms only on the ends of stems. Its berries are reddish and are enjoyed by birds.

Stauffer pointed out a low growing native iris with pale purple flowers.

She said people should not become discouraged because perennial native flowers may take as much as three years before "taking off."

The pond is a future project.

Stauffer invited everyone to come back when more flowers are in bloom.

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