In nature, you don't see plants just sitting there next to each other, politely not touching. They grow together, in community, without wood chip mulch in between, without social distancing. How do they manage to mingle, and how can we emulate natural plant communities in our home landscapes?
In my training as a NOFA-Accredited Organic Land Care Professional, I was intrigued to learn a bit about what the plants we call weeds reveal about soil. Wanting to learn more, I called the instructor Michael Nadeau, Wholistic Land Care Consultant at his home in Connecticut. Mike, a leading authority on sustainable organic and ethical [...]
To restore, protect or create habitat, first you need to determine what is already there to preserve and encourage to spread. Even in winter, deciduous trees and shrubs offer a lot of clues about the site and what wants to grow there.
Emerald ash borers (EAB) are bright metallic green wood boring beetles. They play a role in decomposition of dead and dying trees in their Asian home habitats, but quickly devastate even healthy ash trees in ours.
Bees are smart. They recognize high quality food and habitat. The buzz has gone out that my house is a happening place for carpenter bees. I don't want to kill or drive carpenter bees away, I just don't want them messing with my house. Looking into their habits and life cycle gives clues to peaceful coexistence with carpenter bees.
Sometimes our good intentions backfire. Scientific research, like insect-plant relationships, is highly specific. But researchers are beginning to fill in the dearth of data and come up with some pretty good clues to answer the big question: Are native plant cultivars - "nativars" - and hybrids good for pollinators and other beneficial insects?
Research on wildlife value of every single native plant species and cultivar in every genus in every region simply has not been done, but we have lots of clues and resources. And we can keep looking and learning.
Fertile, self-sowing, open-pollinated plants are full of genetic diversity and food for pollinators. They often charmingly appear in places we’d never think to plant them.
How do we support resilient local food webs? Entomologist Doug Tallamy notes that caterpillars transfer energy into the food web better than anything else, so we need to increase their numbers. Dr. Tallamy's research shows that some native plants are more ecologically productive too, that 5% of our native plants make 75% of the food that drives food webs.
If you can’t please yourself in your own garden, where can you? Why put up with plants that just sit there without speaking to each other - or to you? If a home landscape conveys all the charm and originality of a heavily mulched McDonald’s parking lot (minus cigarette butts), it’s time to fill in with more plants, more color and more contrast to make it more personal and exciting.