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Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Season of "Sprinter"

Laramie is in its classic shoulder-season: Sprinter. The time of year where spring and winter collide, and you might grill out in your flip flops one day and shovel 8 inches of snow the next. Literally. Like the weather we've experienced this week.

But Sprinter is a super necessary season for our native plants that rely on the slowly melting, heavy snow that soaks into the soil. This is good for plant growth, fire prevention, water resources for local communities, etc etc. 

So no complaining about snow! After all, the Berry Prairie plants that you can't even see aren't complaining. If they could, they'd be grinning leaf to leaf!

Written by Brenna  Marsicek, UW Biodiversity Institute

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Before Its Time

When you live in Laramie, you quickly learn that springtime can be such a tease.  One day it will be sunny and 60, the next a blizzard - and this lasts usually through May!  
The emotional rollercoaster of springtime in Laramie.

But this year, we've had an unbelievably warm "spring," and the plants (and insects - my first honeybee sighting was March 14!) are falling for her tricks.  In fact, one poor soul on the green roof - the Devil's Gate Twinpod (Physaria eburniflora) - began budding out in February, only to get frozen out a few days later.  It became the laughing stock of the garden plants, poor buddy.

But one plant in particular, the Fewseed Draba (Draba oligosperma), is a tough plant that is consistently the first to bloom.  This year was no exception!  This year it began blooming particularly early: March 23.  Last year, it bloomed on April 21, in 2013 on April 30, and in 2012 on March 30.

Fewseed Draba in bloom

Draba buds - more flowers to come!

Maybe it's just not the warm weather though... the blooming plant in question is located on a south aspect of one of the berms we installed last year (inside the red circle below).  That means it likely gets more sun and warmth than other locations on the roof.  Or maybe the mulch is allowing all plants to move ahead in their phenology - and other plants will bloom sooner than normal too.  

What do you think?

Location of the flowering plant in question.

Can't even see the little Drabas from here - but they're there!

We have a long ways to go until Spring actually arrives, and we look forward to seeing how the Berry Prairie springs to life!

Written by Brenna Marsicek, UW Biodiversity Institute

Friday, November 14, 2014

Snowy Slumber

"Change will come as surely as the seasons, and twice as quick."
                              - Louisa May Alcott

Indeed, the Berry Prairie has changed a lot this year.  In a lot of ways.  A new design, a new plant list, a new irrigation system, a new mulch cover, and all just in the time for the snow. 

Laramie experienced a wonderful, long fall.  Temperatures were mild through all of September and October, and only this past week did we get any substantial snowfall.  We're thanking our lucky stars, and hoping this bodes well for the new green roof plants come spring.

But for now, we enter our winter senescence.  Until spring, here are a few photos of the roof as you'll see it.


 Written by Brenna Marsicek, UW Biodiversity Institute

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Green Roof Mulch

The Berry Prairie has a tannish-tone to it these days.  One of the big issues in the original roof was that the black growing medium (the fake dirt) absorbed so much of the intensive, high-elevation sun that it was very, very hot on a regular basis.  The plants did not seem to care for this much, so we've tried to tackle this problem through two different solutions:

1. Pop-up irrigation.  The cool water coming from above (rather than below as with the drip in the previous edition) will help cool all layers of the growing medium.

Photo from Sept. 19

2.  Light-colored mulch.  We used a "rose" colored, 3/8" pea gravel spread 1" deep all over the roof.  This lighter color will help prevent so much absorption and look/act more like a native prairie with their light-colored soils.

You can see the difference in color between the tan pea gravel (right and top of image) and the darker growing medium (left of image)

Written by Brenna Marsicek, UW Biodiversity Institute