Good Oak News

Monday, February 4, 2019

Now Hiring - Sutainable Landscaping Manager and Ecological Restoration Manager

If you'd like to get your hands dirty making a positive change for our environment, we're currently growing our crew for the 2019 season! 

 - Sustainable Landscaping Manager: We're seeking individuals that are qualified to lead our sustainable landscaping division. The ideal candidate will be someone with a strong background in horticulture and landscaping, and at least some knowledge of native plants and their importance in the landscape.

Ecological Land Manager: We're always interested in meeting people that are qualified to lead a team conducting land management and restoration work in the field, and work with clients on developing and executing plans.

Ecological Restoration and Sustainable Landscaping Internship: We’re also looking for spring and summer interns - students and recent graduates who are looking to learn while they work. This could grow into a year-round, full-time Apprenticeship for the right candidates. Applications are due March 8th for the Spring Internship, and April 19th for the Summer Internship. We're also looking to extend our internships to a year-round, full-time Apprentice position for good candidates, ask us about it when you apply.
Please pass on to any potentially-interested parties!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Goldenrods of the Upper Midwest Part 1, Prairies, Fields and Roadsides

Part 1: Goldenrods of Full-Sun sites, Prairies, Fields and Roadsides

Goldenrods are blooming all around us now in late-August and September, some will bloom all the way into October. There are 25 species of goldenrod (In the genera Solidago and Euthamia) in Wisconsin and telling them all apart can be confusing. I'm writing this to help educate our staff, but I thought I'd share with everyone. I have to say, I learned a few things myself as I worked to clear things up here. I'll be covering 18 of the most common and notable species of goldenrod, not every goldenrod in the Midwest, but the most common species.

Throughout this guide I'll be underlining key identification information that I use to tell one species from the other, so if you're skimming for identification guidance, look for that.

Part 1 of this guide is for sunny areas, both disturbed sites and prairie remnants. If you are at a site with some shade, check out Part 2 for woodland and savanna goldenrods.

Common, Weedy and Confusing Goldenrods:

Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)

This is, by far, our most common goldenrod species and really, one of the most common plant species overall in the Midwestern landscape. This is a native species that does well in disturbed environments. Roadsides, abandoned fields, even urban areas, are common habitats, but it can also be found abundantly in planted prairies and degraded remnants. It can spread by seed and by rhizomes, and is able to form massive colonies, that can actually really retard prairie restoration efforts.

Usually, these form a large monoculture of yellow flowers in early-fall. They can grow to 3-6’. The leaves are alternate and stay about the same size from the bottom to the top, become only slightly smaller towards the apex of the plant. The margins of the leaves are toothed or smooth with a lanceolate to broadly linear shape to them. White hairs can be found on the stems and the underside of the leaves are pubescent and slightly rough to the touch. Relatively small flowers are arranged on the flower stalks, also called the "rachis",  which arches out gently and which are generally horizontal.  Notably, the stems are rough "scabrous", with short, stiff hairs.
C = 1

tall goldenrod (Solidago altissima)

This species is very difficult to tell apart from Canada goldenrod. Some would say they are subspecies or varieties of the same. Most of my favorite reference books and the Online Flora of Wisconsin separate them out into different species, but interestingly Black and Judziewicz’s Wildflowers of Wisconsin make no mention of tall goldenrod at all. I’m taking the following descriptive notes from Wilhelm and Rericha’s Flora of the Chicago Region and John Hilty’s Illinois Wildflowers: (who in-turn references Vascular Flora of Illinois by Robert Mohlenbrock, 2002):

Tall goldenrod blooms later than Canada goldenrod. In tall goldenrod, the phyllaries (the overlapping whorl of bracts which subtend each composite flower, also called involucres) are always more than 3mm long, and they are shorter than 3mm in Canada goldenrod.

To me, that's a pretty minor nuance to use to split out a separate species among plants that, ecologically and morphologically, are very similar. However, the apparent differences in flowering times suggest we are looking at populations that cannot interbreed. I think its OK for anyone short of the professional botanist to lump these two species together under the 'Canada goldenrod' banner. It certainly makes no difference for land management purposes.
C = 1

giant goldenrod (Solidago gigantea)

This species is also very similar to Canada goldenrod, and is generally found in similar habitats. From an ecological perspective giant goldenrod tends towards wetter areas. It is weedy and forms colonies, but it is not as weedy as Canada goldenrod. Physically, the easiest way to tell them apart is by the stems. Giant goldenrod has smooth, "glabrous" stems which are often reddish, and which also often have a translucent white, waxy "glaucus" coating that you can wipe off with your fingers. There are some minor differences between giant and Canada goldenrod in the flower arrangement and size as well as the leaf shape and how the leaves attach to the stem. However, there is enough subtlety and variability in these features that they aren't particularly useful for quick field identification. Just remember: giant goldenrod has smooth stems, and Canada goldenrod has rough stems.
C = 3

Prairie Goldenrods, Mesic to Dry Sites:

early goldenrod (Solidago juncea

If you see a goldenrod blooming July, this is it. The flower period can extend into mid-August in Wisconsin, but early goldenrod is generally done blooming before the similar Missouri and old-field goldenrods start to bloom.This species has smooth stems and leaves and its leaves get sequentially smaller from the bottom of the plant to the top. Its inflorescences all tend to arch out charmingly to the side. Its a really attractive, short-stature plant, and with its usual bloom time, its a shame its not more readily available for use in landscaping.
C = 4

Missouri goldenrod (Solidago missouriensis

I'll admit, this is a species that has always confused me. Its a lot like early goldenrod. It blooms earlier than most goldenrods, but not as early as early goldenrod. Its stem and leaves are generally smooth like giant goldenrod and early goldenrod. Its inflorescences all arch outward gracefullyThe best way, that I can tell, to differentiate it from early goldenrod is that Missouri goldenrod typically has serrated leaf edges, where as early goldenrod usually has smooth leaf edges. Compared to giant goldenrod, its much shorter, and giant goldenrod is among the last goldenrods to bloom. This species could easily be placed among the "confusing" goldenrods listed above, but I don't think its common enough to make that list. This species is typically found in prairie remnants whether in good condition, or degraded.
C = 7

old-field goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis)

Old field goldenrod looks a lot like early goldenrod with its short stature, large basal leaves, and small leaves towards to tops. They often grow in similar habitats too, from dry-mesic to dry prairies and I've seen them in a few savannas and barrens...  However, old-field goldenrod, ironically, never grows in old fields. It does seem to stick around in degraded prairies longer than many species, so perhaps it should be called "old-prairie goldenrod"? Its other common name, grey goldenrod, may be more appropriate, because it has a sort-of frosted, grey appearance to the foliage. Its rough to the touch, and blooms in the typical goldenrod season of late-August to early-September, so despite having the same gestalt as early goldenrod, they are easy to tell apart. Its inflorescences generally arch off charmingly to one side. This is another shorter, more charming species that should be used in landscaping more.
C = 4

showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa)

This species is fairly common in wet-mesic to dry-mesic prairies, and is often found in prairie plantings and wildflower gardens. Its attractive and easy to propagate, but it gets too tall and floppy in relatively rich garden soil. Showy goldenrod is a fairly smooth plant. Its leaves are somewhat smaller as they ascend the stem, and especially small just below the flower plume. Stems are often, but not always, reddish-maroon. The inflorescence (flower plume) is more upright that most goldenrods, (individual flower heads are larger than most), kind of like a big plume of feathers.
C = 5

stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida)

Stiff goldenrod is pretty unique looking among goldenrods Its fairly tall, but very, well, stiff looking, with a thick, rough stem. Leaves are rounded at the tip and have a rough texture. It has relatively large flower heads, that arrange themselves in relatively a flat-topped structure. Some botanists are now assigning this species to a new genus, as Oligoneuron rigidum. With its rather distinctive appearance, this seems justified to me.

This species looks tidy in a prairie remnant, but its another one that becomes an oversized ogre in gardens. It is common in planted prairie reconstructions where it can compete well with other tall grasses and forbs.
C = 5

White Goldenrods...?

upland white goldenrod (Solidago ptarmicoides)

It seems a contradiction in terms, but there are in-fact a few white-flowered goldenrods. As the story goes, upland white goldenrod was considered an aster once upon a time (called "stiff aster"), until one botanist noticed that they would hybridize with rough goldenrod. Solidago it is then, white flower or not!

This species blooms in late summer or early fall in rocky soils, often on dry sites. Each plant has a handful of white flowers, which are relatively large among the goldenrods, clearly separated from each other, with all the flowers at more or less the same height. These flowers are all at about the same height at the very top of the plant.

Note that some botanists are now splitting this species into a new genus as Oligoneuron album. Its not reverse discrimination because its white, several other yellow-flowering goldenrods are being put into this genus as well (see above).
C = 8

There are two other "white goldenrods" in our area, silver-rod (Solidago bicolor) C = 7,and white goldenrod (Solidago hispida), C = 6. However, these are considerably less common. They also have white flowers that are likely to be confused with asters, and both have vertical stalks of flowers, rather than the flat-top of upland white goldenrod. 
Interesting side-note: these species are staying in the Solidago genus (rather than being moved to Oligoneuron), as far as I can tell, so it appears that yellow flowers are not necessarily a defining trait of the goldenrods.

Invasive Goldenrods...?

seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens)

This species is from the East Coast and has been moving inland along the interstate highway system. All the excess salt spread on our roadways is creating an environment in which this species has a competitive advantage over other vegetation. Is it truly invasive? I'd call it opportunistic.

The easiest way to identify this species is to note that its always along roadways. It also blooms later than any native goldenrod, in fact it often doesn't start blooming until other goldenrods have finished. We're talking late-October and November here. Leaves and stems are smooth to the touch. Overall appearance is similar to giant goldenrod or an oversized Missouri goldenrod.
C = n/a

To Be Continued...

In: Goldenrods of the Upper Midwest... Part 2,  Woodlands and Wetlands

Friday, August 3, 2018

Native Plant Care After Planting

We are quite often providing our clients information on how to care for plants after we have installed them for them. I thought I'd post this information here to make it easier to share. These are the care instructions we require clients to follow in order to qualify for our plant warranty. As always, I may have gone into more detail than is necessary, but the key points to follow are highlighted in bold.

Perennial Care:

Native species will grow slowly at first since they are putting most of their energy into their substantial root systems.  Because of their substantial root systems native plants need no watering once they are established and are very hardy.  However, “baby” plants need a little more care to get established. Larger gallon-sized plants can often be showy in the first year they are planted, but smaller quart and 2.5" plug-sized plants will take at least a season to get established before they start to show off.

We recommend watering the plants extremely-heavily every-other day for the first two weeks after they are planted if mother nature doesn't take care of this for you. By "extremely-heavy", I mean you need to water them to the point that you are sure you are drowning the plants, then continue watering for a while longer! By doing this, you are saturating the soil column several feet down, and encouraging deep root growth to follow that water down into the soil. By taking a day off between these heavy waterings, you give the surface soil some time to dry out to be sure enough oxygen is getting to the roots to avoid rot and to promote optimal growth.

Be sure to avoid run-off with this very heavy watering. I usually just rotate the watering around the planting bed as I am watering, moving from one area to another as each gets saturated and starts to form puddles. Once the puddles drain, I return and saturate the soil there again, and repeat.

Also water the plants during any prolonged dry spell during their first growing season.  A lack of significant rainfall for a full week constitutes a "prolonged" dry spell. Look for the leaves on the plants "flagging" as an indication that they are drought-stressed.

If you wish to accelerate the establishment of your plants a bit, you can water them regularly throughout the first growing season.

Weed your planting about every 2-4 weeks during the first two growing seasons, as needed. Muched perennial plantings don't require much weeding at all for the first year.

Trees & Shrubs Care:

Any tree or shrub will need lots of watering in its first year of life. Larger plants that come in the 'ball and burlap' (B&B) form are especially sensitive since so much of their root mass, particularly their fine roots, were cut-off when these plants were dug from the ground at the nursery. For this reason, we prefer to plant smaller woody plants that come in containers whenever possible, or some larger trees (up to 1.5" caliper) are now available in root bags and these are much hardier than equivalent B&B plants.

Any tree species is also going to be sensitive to dry soils since their root structure (which focuses on large, permanent roots) is less adaptable than that of a shrub (which tend to have smaller roots that can be replaced more easily).

As a general rule, trees less than 1” in diameter (or shrubs of equivalent size) or less will only need watering for the first growing season they are in the ground. For each additional inch of width, you should water it for one more year. I'll call this time period based on plant size the supplimental watering period. So a 4” caliper tree will have a supplemental watering period of four years installation. This is another good reason to choose a smaller plant to begin with. Typically, shrubs in 5-20 gallon containers will only need watering during their first year on site. These small plants also grow faster than larger plants which suffer more from "transplant shock" and often halt growth for a year or two after planting.

No matter what size plants you have, watering should be done frequently and intensely. For the first two weeks after planting, we recommend the same watering regime for woody plans as we do for perennials: water extremely-heavily every other day for two weeks, as described above.  This is probably the equivalent of 6"-8" of rainfall for each of those first two weeks.

Once the young woody plant has been in the ground it will be slightly better able to handle drought stress so you can back off a bit. A good rule of thumb for any tree or shrub is that they will do best with the equivalent of 2” of rainfall a week during the entire supplemental watering period, whether provided by you, or the weather. If you are using a sprinkler to water your plants then leave out a small container in the area, and once it fills up with water 2” deep, you can turn the sprinkler off.  Soaker hoses help reduce any leaf mildy issues that can arise from frequent use of a sprinkler, and are generally more efficient uses of water but are more difficult to monitor.  Remember, you are trying to saturate the soil in the entire area surrounding the plant, but also, giving the soil time to drain between watering.

Weeding is less necessary for tree and shrub health. However, weeds often come in the pot with the plant, so check them a few times in the first growing season or two for dandelions, thistles and various biennial weeds such as foxtail grasses.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Hosting Wildland Firefighter Training: S130/190 and S290

Good Oak is teaming up with Ken Terrill of Incident Management Specialists to host two NWCG wildland firefighter training courses this spring. These courses will be held here at Good Oak Headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin.

Basic Wildfire Firefighter & Prescribed Fire Training

 (S-130 / S-190, I-100, L-180)

Friday, March 16th 2018, 9am to 5pm 

This program is designed for entry-level personnel with little or no formal training in wildfire fire suppression or prescribe fire. This 32‐hour program (24 hrs. online and 8 hrs. formal workshop) encompasses S‐130 Fire Fighter, S‐190 Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior (self-study), L‐180 Human Factors on the Fireline, and I-100 Introduction to the Incident Command System (self-study) training. It is designed for entry level firefighters and personnel and required by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) for agencies subscribing to National Interagency Management System (NIMS). Upon successful completion of this course, students will earn a NWCG certificate which is necessary to work on wildfires or to participate in prescribe fires sponsored by some agencies. 
Sign up by March 9th, as a substantial portion of the course is conducted online, and must be completed before the classroom day! 

Click Here to Learn More and Register for S130/S190! 


Intermediate Wildland Fire Behavior S-290

Friday March 23rd, 9am to 5pm

 This course is National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) certified. The online course work can be completed in approximately fifteen hours (current average), and consists of a pre-course test and twelve online modules with a test for each that the student must successfully complete before attending the classroom portion and becoming eligible to receive a certificate. The classroom portion of the course (March 23rd) involves discuss of the areas of fuels, weather and topography and how they determine what the fire behavior will be on a specific site in Wisconsin. 
This S-290 course is the second course in five course sequence developing wildland fire behavior prediction knowledge and skills. It builds upon the basics in S-190, Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior, but with more detailed information about characteristics and interactions of the wildland fire environment (fuels, weather, and topography) that affect wildland fire behavior for safety purposes.

Click Here to Learn More Register for S290!

For more information, contact Ken from the IMS Website.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Good Oak at Garden Expo 2018!

The Booth:

Good Oak will again be attending the Wisconsin Garden Expo, this weekend, February 9th - 11th.  See us at booth 324! We'd love to talk to folks about ecological land management and sustainable landscaping practices.

We will also be selling items from our Sustainable Garden Center, including quality tools and books on a variety of topics including natural landscaping, edible wild plants, pollinators, and restoration practices.


This year Frank will be giving four presentations, at least one each day of the Expo. Here's what's on the schedule:

Planting a Prairie: Choose Your Own Adventure

Friday, Feb. 9, @ 5:15 pm
Room: Mendota 5
Add beauty to your landscape, reduce maintenance costs and provide a critical haven for wildlife. This talk will outline the process of prairie establishment and help you chart a course that fits the needs of your site. 
Handouts:  Prairie Plant Sources, Books and Websites

Restoring Your Woodland to Health

Saturday, Feb. 10, @ 4:45 pm
Room: Waubesa/Kegonsa

Learn the steps necessary to restore your woodland to a stable, healthy habitat and home for birds, butterflies, bees and wildflowers.

Handouts:  Woodand Restoration HandOutline

Gardening for Pollinators

Sunday, Feb. 11, @ 10:15 am
Room: Mendota 8

Pollinators provide critical ecosystem services and are under threat from a variety of human impacts. Learn what you can do to make your yard a haven for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and the many other "little things that run the world".
Handouts:  Native Plant Sources, Books and Web and Native Bee and Hummingbird Plants

Rain Gardens: The Next Generation

Feb. 11, @ 2:00 pm
Room: Mendota 8 

Rain gardens help us control runoff and clean up our lakes and streams. They can also present many design challenges.  Learn why we need rain gardens, how they work and how you can make your next generation rain garden better.
Handouts:  Native Plant Sources, Books and Web
Reference:   Rain Gardens: A How-To Manual for Homeowners

We look forward to seeing you there!