I love watching songbirds gobble down bugs and berries on the staghorn sumacs planted outside my front window and listening to owls whoo-ing nearby at night. But some wildlife - voles - have worn out their welcome by eating plants and tunneling through gardens. How do I establish self-sustaining wildlife-friendly plant communities when the wildlife keeps eating my plants? Voles and mice play an important role in ecosystems - but I want them out of my garden.
Fall is aster time, and asters are one of the most important pollinator food sources. Nancy DuBrule-Clemente tells how to plant a succession of blue asters that will bloom in your garden from late summer right into November.
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?
Who is curb appeal for? Why not appeal to wildlife and to your own sense of beauty instead of having a high maintenance cookie cutter suburban landscape?
Sow seeds collected from nearby wild areas, or from plants thriving in your own yard, for well-adjusted offspring. Growing your own is a good way to save money, get your hands on hard-to-find plants, support local foodwebs and promote genetic diversity. Seeds of summer and fall blooming plants, and even some spring bloomers, are ripe in September and October.
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.
A garden coaching client's bed of Physostegia virginiana totally changed my perspective about this aggressive native plant. Now this stalwart perennial tops my list of plants that are beautiful, support wildlife and solve problems. Read about how this plant solved a big erosion problem with style.
Moths are drawn to light. They exhaust themselves flying toward strong security lights and die or get picked off by predators (bats, birds, rats, mice). More than 60% of invertebrates are nocturnal. The Xerces Society’s advice on being thoughtful about night lighting to help fireflies helps a lot of insects - and saves energy too.
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.
Curiosity about how things really work in nature led me to world of environmental scientists who deal in facts, not just feelings. The more I learn from them, the more I know that what we do at home makes a difference (positive or negative) and that every yard counts. Entomologist Doug Tallamy has given substance and urgency to the importance of restoring insects to our landscapes. He speaks eloquently on “Restoring the Little Things That Run the World” (i.e. insects).