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In Your Garden, Choose Plants that Help the Environment

Required reading (use this link to read the article) from Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home , via the NY Times. If the plants (that includes trees and shrubs) in your garden don’t help feed beneficial insects and animals, it’s time to re-think your choices. Which means a visit to the garden center, always a highlight of my week!

A Quote from Doug Tallamy:

“To me the choice is clear. The costs of increasing the percentage and biomass of natives in our suburban landscapes are small, and the benefits are immense. Increasing the percentage of natives in suburbia is a grassroots solution to the extinction crisis.

To succeed, we do not need to invoke governmental action; we do not need to purchase large tracts of pristine habitat that no longer exist; we do not need to limit ourselves to sending money to national and international conservation organizations and hoping it will be used productively. 

Our success is up to each one of us individually. We can each make a measurable difference almost immediately by planting a native nearby. As gardeners and stewards of our land, we have never been so empowered—and the ecological stakes have never been so high.” #

monarch on milkweed

 

 

Good Conference on Native Gardening: Nov 15th

Hi, everyone. If you want to hear some excellent speakers, check out this conference, sponsored by The Wild Ones, to be held at the College of Lake County on Saturday, November 15. I loved the book on pollinator plants by Doug Tallamy who speaks at 9 am, and Ray Wiggers knows all about WHERE (ravines, gravel, sand, limestone, glacial ridges, lake bottoms, etc) plants grow best (and what fish and birds and insects are where) since he’s a geologist and naturalist. I read his book over and over because there is too much about Chicago’s natural history to absorb all at once. I wish I could attend this conference but I am committed to going to a meeting for my favorite children’s charity: Mothers Trust Foundation. Two good choices, but can’t do it all… Rommy

PS Probably the last of the beautiful autumn leaves will succumb to the wind today….here is a yellow witchhazel against a reddish Viburnum prunifolium. Great shrubs for everyone’s yard! Get rid of the dreaded buckthorn and plant these beauties instead!#

 

 

 

Got Milkweed?

If you are reading this, doubtless you know the Golden Rule of Biodiversity: plant milkweed. Please. No, I take back the “please”. Just do it. Even if you garden on only a balcony, grow some milkweed in a clay pot. However you manage it (ie “float” its diaphanous seed in the parkway or the alley), be a guerrilla biodiversifier and…plant milkweed.

You know why I am pushy about this plant: because its leaves are the only thing that Monarch butterflies can eat. As noted entomologist Doug Tallamy says, “To have butterflies, we need to make butterflies. To make butterflies, you must use a native species that serve as a host for butterfly larvae [Ed: that’s a caterpillar] as well as a supply of nectar for adult butterflies. Butterflies do not lay their eggs on any old plant. They lay their eggs only on the plant species to which their larvae are adapted”. And that means…Milkweed.

You even have choices when it comes to which milkweed, but three species are commonly available in garden centers or via seed packets:

The Common milkweed [Asclepias syriaca], which has husky leaves, roots that grow to China, and a handsome dusty rose globe of a flower. [If you are worried about this being too aggressive, look for its cousin, Sullivant’s milkweed, which grows slowly, albeit by rhizomes, which means its good in tough-to-grow-anything-else spots. Nonetheless, I like the Common milkweed in gardens–it provides a tall, solid, almost tropical contrast although you might have to tie it up with a strong shoelace.]

 

Common-milkweed-

Common Milkweed

The Butterfly weed [Asclepias tuberosa], which has flowers the extravagant color of a Navel orange, does well in dry, “crappy” soils, and makes a great bouquet;

1-P1060073 butterfly weed

 

 

The Red or Swamp milkweed [Asclepias incarnata] has a two-toned pink flower, narrow leaves, and a pleasing way of gracing a moist spot–especially nice en masse if you have a lake edge to landscape.

Swamp milkweed [Asclepias incarnata]

Swamp milkweed [Asclepias incarnata]

And if Monarch’s weren’t good enough for you, at least 11 other species of butterflies and moths reproduce on milkweed as well. Goldfinches eat the insects that get trapped in the flowers and also use milkweed seed “down” for nesting material, and you may see (good) beetles on the plants as well. Biodiversity can be easy if you try!

Milkweed pods and the seeds that float on the air...

Milkweed pods and the seeds that float on the air…

Okay, I’ll be nice again. PLEASE plant milkweed someplace on your property. Or your balcony. And now I won’t be nice: if you work for a municipality, we gardeners expect to see milkweed growing everywhere around town. It’s the law.#