Monday, June 30, 2014

Intergrating Native Plants into the Garden Design Makes it Hum

  Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa

Diane Marchese, Guelph Wellington

(a version of this article was published in the Puslinch Pioneer Community Newspaper)

It always surprises me when someone finds gardening an act of frustration. Or when they devise a plan for a garden consisting of one type of plant, thinking this will ultimately cut down on their work outside. I had someone once say to me as I stood in my front yard garden, “Image a front yard filled with nothing but hostas.” “What! I proclaimed, that’s asking for trouble.” Are these new landscape aesthetics really working for us?

Before I became a Master Gardener I didn’t think twice about native plants. I probably wouldn’t have been able to name one. But now, I treasure them, the true native plants that flourish in our environment. These native plants have adapted to our land due to the accumulated wisdom they’ve developed over thousands of years and assimilated within their DNA. They are adapted to our climate, soil and weather trends. When not interfered with by chemical-poisoning, fertilizers and the invasive competition of alien plants they will thrive and require less water and very little ongoing long term maintenance.

Native plants also nurture the environment. This year there’s a great deal of attention being paid to the plight of the Monarch butterfly.

Studies have revealed that the Monarch butterfly migration is at its lowest in 20 years. Several reasons account for these startling numbers; chiefly severe drought and herbicide use, which are killing the milkweed plants that these butterflies require for laying their eggs and for the caterpillars to feed on. Other necessary wildflowers that offer nectar for the adult butterfly have been severely decimated.

It’s so easy to include a few native plants in your garden beds or even develop an area of your garden for butterflies that are filled with nectar giving plants.
Consider some of these plants in your garden as you organize your plant list of “Must have plants”: remember if you use the Latin name, you are requesting the correct plant by its scientific name and any nursery or greenhouse should be able to access the exact plant for you. Start out with planting:

Beebalm, Monarda didyma 
Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirtae 
False Sunflower, Heliopsis helianthoides 
New England Aster, Aster novar-angliae 
Pasque flower, Anemone patens 
Purple Coneflower, Echinacea palida 
Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa 
Blazing Star, Liatris spicata 
Joe Pye, Eupatorium maculatum 
Colombine,  Aquilegea
Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa 
Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnate 

Developing our gardens with the diversity of native plants will also contribute to our own health. After all a garden is never finished and there’s always something to do. Gardens breathe, grow and are constantly communicating, nurturing interactions with other plants, birds and yes butterflies. A healthy garden makes lots of noise, with birds singing, bees buzzing and insects humming. All that activity insures that, as it grows, your garden can offer shelter and protection to the pollinators who make it grow.

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