Last year, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Gerry Charitable Trust, the restoration of the historic greenhouse at Wawapek began. This Hitchings and Co. structure was once a small part of a very large complex of greenhouses. It was cleaned up, broken glass was removed and replaced, window frames were repaired and repainted and new planting beds were installed. While the full restoration isn’t yet complete, we couldn’t wait to start putting it to use!
This fall, with the help of our volunteers, we’ve been collecting native wildflower and grass seeds from our preserves to propagate in the greenhouse. When collecting native seeds, it is important to remember not to take all the seeds in an area. Native wildlife relies on seeds and berries for their food at this time of year (when there aren’t many insects available to eat).
Propagating seeds that will eventually be planted in places that have a winter season requires cold stratification. Stratification is a survival mechanism that ensures that seeds don’t germinate too soon. You may have heard of people putting native seeds in their refrigerator to mimic a cold period. This is the same process. The difference is, we will be leaving the potted seeds outside in the greenhouse instead of in the refrigerator. This will allow them to stratify naturally over the winter in a contained environment where birds cannot feast upon the seeds.
The plants that we grow will be used in Land Alliance pollinator gardens and meadows (which include more than 50 acres at this time). Once the restoration of the full greenhouse has been completed, the possibilities are endless. We could expand to grow vegetables or annual flowers for use on our properties. We could host a plant sale and/or expand our growing efforts to other locations like Humes.
For now, this is a good start but… as those of you who know us can understand… we dream big!
Native Seeds We Are Propagating in the Wawapek Greenhouse
False Blue Indigo
False Blue Indigo (Baptisia species) is a perennial plant known for its attractive blue-green foliage and striking blue, purple, or white pea-like flowers. It’s a native wildflower that provides nectar for pollinators and is part of the legume family.
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is a native perennial plant that plays a vital role in supporting monarch butterflies as a host plant for their caterpillars. It has clusters of pinkish-purple flowers and produces a milky sap.
White Wood Aster
White Wood Aster (Eurybia divaricata) is a native perennial herb with small, daisy-like white flowers. It’s often found in woodland settings and provides nectar for various pollinators.
Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum) is a native warm-season grass with attractive, upright foliage that turns a beautiful golden color in the fall. It’s valued for its ornamental qualities and as a habitat for wildlife.
Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium species) is a tall, native wildflower with large, domed clusters of pink to purple flowers. It’s a favorite among pollinators, particularly butterflies and bees.
Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) is a native wildflower with tubular, white to pale pink flowers and attractive foliage. It’s known for attracting hummingbirds and other pollinators.
Little Blue Stem
Little Blue Stem (Schizachyrium scoparium) is a native grass species appreciated for its fine, bluish-green foliage and attractive seed heads. It’s a crucial component of prairie ecosystems and provides habitat for wildlife.
Anise-Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is a fragrant, native perennial herb known for its lavender to blue spikes of flowers. It’s a favorite of pollinators, especially bees and butterflies, and has a sweet, licorice-like scent.