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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Purple Pleasures

The Berry Prairie continues to bloom this summer, blissfully unaware of the changes about to come.  If it knew, I'm sure it'd be as excited as the rest of us!  We received one bid for the green roof remodel, and we're now talking with that contractor to figure out what we will and won't do in that process.  Once the contract is signed, you will get ALL SORTS of news about it!  But: no putting the cart before the horse.

Anyway, the flowers on the green roof right now are exclusively purple.  And oh so lovely in the morning sunlight.  Here are a few photos to tantalize, dazzle and awe:

In this Smooth Penstemon (Penstemon glaber v. alpine; below),  a pollen wasp sleeps until the sun hits it and warms it up enough to fly.

Written by Brenna Marsicek, UW Biodiversity Institute

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Indian Paintbrush Garden

Last summer our garden intern, Jenna Ramunno, started a project that looked at propagating Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja spp.) with four different types of host plants to see which host plant best serves the paintbrush.  In case you haven't read, Indian Paintbrush are hemi-parasites, meaning they attach their roots the the roots of another plant to siphon off some water and maybe nutrients.  Without a host plant, paintbrush would be able to survive, but likely not bloom.  It doesn't hurt the host plant, but gives the paintbrush some extra blooming power!

This spring, the paintbrush came back beautifully!  And even attracting some unwanted biodiversity...

Here's triumphant Jenna, one year after starting the experiment.


We'll be keeping track of the progress this summer, so stay tuned for updates!

Written by Brenna Marsicek, UW Biodiversity Institute

Monday, June 2, 2014

Bloomin' Report

We have two white beauties blooming on the green roof right now:

Fleabane (Erigeron compositus)

as well as the ever reliable

Devil's Gate Twinpod (Physaria eburniflora)

And to switch up the color palette a little bit, there is a penstemon in bloom as well!

Blue Mist Penstemon (Penstemon virens)

Thanks to the 1.58" of rain we received in May (that's a lot of rain for Laramie!), our green roof is in fact greening up! Can you tell?  Really, I swear it is looking greenish!

Stay in touch for more updates on current plants and activities, as well as progress on our remodel!

Written by Brenna Marsicek, UW Biodiversity Institute

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Berry Prairie Remodel!

This summer, the Berry Prairie will be undergoing an overhaul!  We are in the final planning stages of designing the green roof remodel, and hope to start in the beginning of July.  The new green roof will include many of the same plants, plus others that are native to within 200 miles of Laramie, but will have a very different look.

Whaaaa?  It's only 3 years old!

A few of you might be looking at this screen thinking YOU CRAZY UNIVERSITY PEOPLE!  YOU JUST PLANTED IT!  And of course we are slightly cooky, but this is for a good reason.

A little backstory (if you know it, skip down to the next section)

The green roof was installed in June 2011, with 4,400 plants native to the Laramie area (within 25 miles or so).  The plants did splendidly the first summer and winter, and in spring 2012, we had lost only 7% (or 308) of the plants.

Berry Prairie, June 2011

Then during the spring of 2012, the company that installed the green roof came back to put in the leak monitoring system, and accidentally cut through both membranes of the roof that separate the soil, water and plants from the room below.  This caused a major water problem, resulting in the removal of all of the plants, soil and layers of the roof until the problem was fix.  

Berry Prairie, August 2012

All of the plants hung out on the golf course in the meantime. 

Berry Prairie Refugees, August 2012

Then, once fixing the roof was complete, they all went back on.  Which means the plants had been transplanted a total of three times (first into the roof in 2011, then into pots in 2012, then into the roof again in 2012).  This transplant shock is what we think killed approximately HALF of our plants.

2013 was a rough year for the green roof.  Ugly and boring.  Boo. 

Berry Prairie, August 2013

Fortunately, we had leftover funds from the building construction project that we could use on building-related expenses.  And we have a team of dedicated Berry Prairie enthusiasts that want to make this place simply awesome.  So we decided to take this as an opportunity to rethink how the green roof looks and functions, and replace the dead plants in the process.

Remodel Plans

With the help of Allison Fluery out of Jackson and Mark Fusco out of Denver, we have big plans for the Berry Prairie.  The new edition of the green roof will have more topography and vertical interest.  We'll install two large berms that will reach 2 feet above the current soil level, and we have dwarf trees and more shrubs on the plant list.  The plants will come from a broader geographic range, but will still be local to the Rocky Mountain region.  We will have three distinct zones: plains, foothills and alpine.  And much more!!  I wish I could share every detail of the plans with you!

But that's all you get for now.  Stay tuned for more information and updates!

Written by Brenna Marsicek, Biodiversity Institute