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Cultivate to Breathe

Cultivate - Pollinator Junction As you visit the pollinary park at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, Missouri, you may notice one constant beyond flowers, butterflies, hummingbirds and bees. There is always the appearance of the newly disrupted soil. No, it's not an army of moles or deer tromping through (though there is some of that for sure). We are "cultivating!" Cultivating is actually a combination of many things. Besides removing weeds from the garden, cultivating includes loosening the soil to improve the retention and penetration of air, water and nutrients. The primary reason to surface cultivate your garden's soil is to break up the soil macro particles into an assortment of sizes and loosen the soil. Loosening the soil slows down water runoff from rain and exposes more surfaces on the particles. Those particles have facets, sort of like a prism or diamond, except these are a little like magnets and are micro homes for organisms that help the soil feed the

I Know It’s Corney, But This Is What Makes Me Smile – Dogwood Cornus mas

By MaryAnn Fink Curator of Living Transport Exhibit Lead Horticulturist/ Pollinator Junction Despite the dreary weather, it is time for me to get to know some of the other areas now under my care at the Museum of Transportation. The first "find" of the season is a twiggy bouquet of acid yellow flowers on a youthful specimen of Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas), tucked up against the porch at Barrett Station. A period of discovery in a new pocket of landscape is glorious for me. It is like no other part of horticulture for me as it is when my relationship with a site literally and figuratively starts to grow. I can only compare it to falling in love! This preseason bloomer is likely to continue carrying on well into Spring and she looks comfortable despite the chill and the silly Easter snow shower. She looks warm with her yellow flowers showing. It is like she has her own personal sunshine! I do think she is situated now a little close to the railing, so I am guessing she's been in

Bee Witched by First Flowers of the Season

by MaryAnn Fink, Curator of Living Transport Exhibit Lead Horticulturist Pollinator Junction Bee happy-it's almost spring! What better way to celebrate the sporadic temperature shifts and "what's next weather" of St. Louis, than enjoying the tiny but lovely first flowers of the season at the National Museum of Transportation's Pollinator Junction. These beauties are on our Ozark Witch Hazel (Hamamelis vernalis). The petite strappy flower petals can be a range of colors from shades of yellow to dark purple-red. The coiled ribbons of color remain rolled tight on cold cloudy days and gently unfurl on sunny days as temperatures peak. Each extended petal "bee"comes a tiny royal carpet welcoming our earliest pollinators. There is some question as to who all that might be but it obvious that these flowers are naturally intended for some tiny hungry creature as they are sweetly fragrant! No doubt some warm sunny day flower flies are hungry-and maybe honey bees (Apis

To Leave or Not to Leave

"To Leave or Not to Leave" (the Fallen Leaves), That is the Question! By MaryAnn Fink Curator Pollinator Junction/ Life Exhibit 'Tis it nobler in the mind... to blow away the foliage debris in the fall or suffer the consequence of a messy appearance? This is the question that may haunt some homeowners who have a choice in the way they approach their landscape upkeep at the end of the season. Many end up straddling the "eco-friendly" fence by keeping the front more traditionally manicured and the back yard managed in a more relaxed manner by allowing leaves in the garden but off the lawn. Some landscape arrangements leave few other options. Landscape fabric and decorative rocks create an unforgiving barrier that disallows any organic matter to re-enter the soil. Landscape fabric and rock topdressing cause damage. Leaves  become homeless, huddled in crunchy and eventually mucky masses in random places in invisible wind traps in front of shrubs. The brown clumps

Elderberry

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra canadensis) By MaryAnn Fink LIFE Exhibit Curator Pollinator Junction Wild and wonderful, the Elderberry stands out in any setting. She is sometimes a roadside resident, occasionally at home on a hillside, and always lovely in landscaping. In selected situations, the Elderberry is a most striking addition as an unexpected anchor in a container situation! She can be a good size girl at a height of 8-10' or groomed into a more compact manageable size with a gentle hand.  Either way her bundle of branches creates a living bouquet of flowers and berries. Her flowers are sweetly scented and tempting to touch. Be gentle as anything more than light brush with flower or foliage releases a distinct antiseptic scent that may be more appropriate in a medical clinic setting! She decorates herself with fragrant flowers for several weeks beginning  in June in Missouri. An independent girl, she is able to produce some fruit on her own (i.e., self-fertile).