I started gardening many years ago with the same passions for my plants, admiring the lovely cut bouquets in my antique vases, taking morning walks in the garden with coffee cup in hand, dutifully watering, weeding, pruning, fertilizing-- whatever-- no chore was too much, this was a labor of love! Anybody here relate?
Still, something bothered me, as I witnessed that parts of the garden were humming with life while other sections, while beautiful to behold, seemed to lack activity by animals and insects. Sometimes a lovely butterfly would flit around the zinnias, but shortly after take off before I could get more great shots. Why didn't they stay longer?
During travels, I began taking notice of plants growing in the wild that kept the insects in place and tracked down the names of these. My first favorite was: Joe Pye Weed. The name seemed intriguing, so I looked around nurseries and...No. Nope. Nada. No such luck, I couldnt find any for sale.
One day my luck was changed...
Years ago, and quite by accident after taking a wrong turn on a backroad, I chanced upon a Mennonite lady with a small Mom & Pop nursery. Her bench signs and plant tags had a smorgasbord of unusual plants: "Culver's Root"... hmm... weird looking, but bumblebees covered it. "Trumpet Honeysuckle" in a breath-taking red, while several hummingbirds darted around the flowers, and then, there it was, my Joe Pye Weed! Yay!
I bought a few assorted flats, then more and more, and more. After plenty of online research and constantly picking the brain of the poor Mennonite lady, regarding lack of abundant life in my garden, I had a partial answer. Native Plants. Plants with fertile blooms. Plants that delivered pollen AND nectar. Plants that were "host" to caterpillars. Plants that fed the bees, not just honey bees, but tiny native bees too. Check out this little guy below:
There was an entire universe of information out there nobody in the other nurseries had mentioned or shared, I just had to dig for it what it was that I didn't know about. Not an easy thing, unless somebody helps in some way and tells the score about bringing more nature into my garden.
So here's the score, not a happy picture, but one that we can help to reverse with our gardening:
Our Planet Earth is steadily dying.
Monarchs reduced by what? 80 or 90 percent?
Massive decline in bees of all types.
Songbird populations dwindling.
I'm sure you've all read or heard this before, but keep on hoping for better news.
" … We have not inherited the land from our fathers, we have borrowed it from our children …"
While we can't fix everything overnight, it's not all gloom & doom! Backyard gardeners own more land than all of our National Parks combined. That's a CRAZY huge chunk of real estate to use as we please! Actually, there's a ton of minor steps an average gardener can take to make a huge difference to our declining environment. Please read on :
1.) Plant native plants (plants that grew here naturally 400 years ago before settlers arrived). They can help better feed caterpillars, butterflies, birds, etc.
2.) Dig out invasive non-natives like Japanese Barberry, Burning Bush, and Asian grasses when able. Birds spread the seeds into natural areas and choke out plants that feed wildlife.
3.) Whenever possible, stop using chemicals in the out-of-doors. There are usually some natural alternatives available.
4.) Reduce unnecessary light usage at night. It disrupts creatures of the night and destroys our night sky. Anyone remember seeing the Milky Way?
5.) Make your property wildlife friendly with fresh water sources: ponds, birdbaths, etc
6.) Try to grow mostly plants with fertile flowers (you can google this). Examples include roses & hollyhocks with pollen not double petal types, and that goes for any hybrid with no pollen. I grow fertile flowers like Haas Halo and White Dome Hydrangea. They're cultivars but still great for bees.
7.) Put up little houses for native bees, the kind that can be replaced every couple of years. You can read up on that subject if you like. Crownbees.com
8.) Reduce your lawn (the green desert) and try to plant as if the dying environment depends upon it, because it does.
There's a mega amount of info out there for gardeners to help reverse our downward trends. So many organizations are reaching out : ) Just a few are: National Wildlife Association, Xeres Society, Pollinator.org, Crownbees.com, Darksky.org, Doug Tallamy's books and YouTube videos.
If we ask our nurseries to stock up on chemical-free native plants and buy them to support their efforts, the landscape could gradually change for the better-honestly! There's so much more to discuss and plenty of ideas at our fingertips to help beef up the environment. While there isn't enough space or time to include everything, I'm sure there are many more NGA folks out there who do passionate things in their garden (wink, wink) and perhaps want to add their own comments to this article: websites, tips, pictures, etc. Thank you SO, SO much for reading!
Cheryl in Pennsylvania
|Thread Title||Last Reply||Replies|
|Untitled by ZPlanted1||Jul 10, 2021 8:48 AM||0|
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|Great advice. by Dotsieradz||Jun 27, 2021 5:20 AM||0|
|Agree by tebay||Jun 26, 2021 4:49 PM||0|
|Untitled by DivadN||Jun 26, 2021 11:55 AM||0|
|Thank you for this great article. by frostweed||Jun 26, 2021 11:42 AM||5|
|Wonderful article! by plantladylin||Jun 23, 2021 1:15 PM||0|