gardening

Clarion River Brewing Native Seedlings

Every backyard is part of a larger ecosystem, and every plant you plant can make a difference – for wildlife, for clean water, for climate change.  Join the Clarion River Brewing Company in its inaugural drive to help locals plant more native trees & shrubs!  Here’s what’s on offer for the 2022 Native Sapling Sale, and tips on which to plant to better your backyard habitat

Native Trees:

According to Professor Doug Tallamy, oak trees are the best choice for supporting healthy ecosystems (bugs, birds, & critters) – and they’re pretty low-maintenance and long-living.  Interesting note:  oaks only propagate by acorns – cuttings generally won’t work, which means they stay genetically diverse and evolutioniarily adaptable. 

Red Oak

Quicker-growing than some, red oaks will reach 70 feet tall and live 300 years.  Red oak tolerates pollution , enjoys acidic soil and full sun, and puts on quite a nice show of vibrant fall leaves.  

Pin Oak

Water-loving pin oaks also grow pretty quickly, and prefer streambanks, swamp conditions, and damp hollows. Pyrimidal in form, pin oaks will also grow to 60-70 feet in height, but are narrower than red oaks – more like half as wide as tall.  Pin oaks are less great as street trees and in small spaces, but are excellent for birds and mammals.  

Native Small Trees & Shrubs:

Ninebark

Ninebark is the native that has it all – ninebark attracts pollinators, looks good in all seasons, and is tough & resilient.  Ninebark makes a great hedge, and blooms best when it has three or more sister plants.  A favorite of bees and as a floral bouquet filler!  It’s also easy to make more natives – by physically dividing ninebark plants in spring, or by rooting cuttings.  Ninebark grows well in most soils and locations, including clay and shade, and reaches approximately 5-10 feet in height and width. 

Silky Dogwood

Glossy green in spring with maroon twigs for winter interest, Silky Dogwood produces creamy white flowers from May to June.  It likes living along well-drained streambanks, with roots shaded by… shade… or about 2″ of mulch in brighter locations.  Silky dogwood is multi-stemmed, charmingly unkempt in form, and good for erosion control. 

Greystem Dogwood

Birds love greystem dogwood, which grows to 16′ tall and will form thickets by underground rhizome where it’s happy – or, it can be trimmed into single specimen trees.  Lots of winter interest and low-maintenance.  Also known as panicle dogwood, it is a good choice for borders or mass plantings, and enjoys a streamside location.  

How to Create Native Habitat

Plant saplings, and seedlings, and eliminate or limit your use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. 

Improve the health of all your trees:

  • plant and encourage a biologically diverse property – trees with unrelated but nearby neighbors are often healthier 
  • invite and protect pollinators, both bird and insect
  • plant natives 
  • insist on local stream and riparian health protections
  • reduce pollution:  gasoline, exhaust, consumer pesticides; minimize lawn
  • monitor your trees for stress or disease, and act early 
  • protect roots from soil compaction (e.g., don’t park or drive  under tree canopies)

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Plant Propagation – Woody Natives

Many of the most popular decorative (and practical) landscape plants—shrubs, vines, and fruits—can be propagated by the simple technique of rooting a piece of a “parent” plant. Improve your gardening skills while saving money, by learning simple plant propagation techniques.  One  source plant – already in your yard or your neighbor’s – can produce hundreds of identical offspring, at little to no cost!

Clone your Favorite Native Plants:

Join Ty Ryen, DCNR Bureau of Forestry Service Forester and Certified Arborist, for this FREE indoor event – a hands-on demonstration with hardwood cuttings, plus tips on timing your cuttings and mixing soil:

<< Saturday, 19 March 2022 – 11 am – 1 pm >>

This free event is open to all.  The DCNR Cook Forest State Park office has generously donated their conference room for the gardening seminar – the address is 100 PA-36, Cooksburg, PA 16217, and the google maps code is 8QMR+59 Cooksburg, Farmington Township, PA.

Now approved for 2 Continuing Education Units for ISA Certified Arborists!

Still Free!  RSVP to save your seat – space is limited – via Facebook, or via

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Pennsylvania Invasive Plant Information

Penn State Extension has released updated guides to the invasive plants of Pennsylvania — these are excellent free info for landowners struggling with non-native plants taking over their properties.  

A synopsis of the threats posed by these invasive plants, from the Invasive Plant Sheet Series announcement:

The term “invasive” is used to describe a plant which grows rapidly, spreads aggressively, and […] degrade native environments by causing a decline in native plant species diversity. They degrade wildlife habitats for native insects, birds, and other wildlife and threaten rare species. In addition, invasive plants have been shown to inhibit forest regeneration success, and slow or halt natural succession. Once well established, invasive plants require large amounts of time, labor, and money to control or eradicate.

Invasive Plants of Pennsylvania

Japanese Knotweed - Invasive Plant in Pennsylvania - photo by Dave Jackson
Japanese Knotweed - Invasive Plant in Pennsylvania - photo by Dave Jackson

Once Pennsylvania landowners learn how to ID these invasive plants, they can effectively “implement control measures to help prevent further spread and habitat degradation,” hopes David Jackson, Penn State Forest Resources Educator, and co-author on many of the species sheets.

Direct links to the species most problematic in the Cook Forest State Park area are in the bullet list above – or find an links to all the invasive plant species fact sheets via the button above.   

Even MORE information, including the most effective methods of control, are indexed at the Penn State Extension Invasive & Competing Plants page

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Plant Propagation Resources

Plant Propagation Resources - Cook Forest Conservancy & DCNR

Save money and multiply your favorite heirloom plants for your yard and to give to friends — hardwood cutting techniques are simple and inexpensive to do at home, once you’re familiar with the procedures.  Ty Ryen, PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry Service Forester and Certified Arborist, compiled a list of recommended resources:

Plant Propagation Supplies:

You can usually use things you have on hand – just disinfect all potting vessels (pots, nursery flats, etc.) with hot water and dish soap, or a 10% bleach solution, to protect cuttings & seedlings from disease.  Make sure your pruners are very sharp, and disinfect these as well between cuttings, too.  A pair of high-quality pruners to consider:

Buy or mix a high-quality planting medium, ideally also sterile.  Ty suggests 60% perlite and 40% soil-less growing medium, i.e. coconut coir, peat moss, or very fine compost.  Don’t use a mix with fertilizer, as this can burn cuttings. 

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Plant Propagation

2020-03-14 Plant Propagation Seminar
Many of the most popular decorative (and practical) landscape plants—shrubs, vines, and fruits—can be propagated by the simple technique of rooting a piece of a “parent” plant. Improve your gardening skills while saving money, by learning simple plant propagation techniques.  One  source plant – already in your yard or your neighbor’s – can produce hundreds of identical offspring, at little to no cost!

Clone your Favorite Native Plants:

Join Ty Ryen, DCNR Bureau of Forestry Service Forester and Certified Arborist, for this FREE indoor event – a hands-on demonstration with hardwood cuttings, plus tips on timing your cuttings and mixing soil:

Saturday, 14 March 2020 – 11 am – 1 pm >> add event to your google calendar

This free event is open to all.  The DCNR Cook Forest State Park office has generously donated their conference room for the gardening seminar – the address is 100 PA-36, Cooksburg, PA 16217, and the google maps code is 8QMR+59 Cooksburg, Farmington Township, PA.

Now approved for 2 Continuing Education Units for ISA Certified Arborists!

Still Free!  RSVP to save your seat – space is limited – via Facebook, or via

Plant Propagation Read More »