Beautiful Native Plants

Blog HOME ***Our team of bloggers writes about all aspects of ecosystem gardening, from native plants to pollinators and wildlife.***

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Healthy Garden is a Buggy Garden

Collage with several species of lady beetles
© 2006 Beatriz Moisset
We are all familiar with bad insects, the ones that cause damage in our gardens. However, most insects are beneficial or harmless. We are so concerned with the bad ones that tend to ignore the beneficial ones. Worse yet, sometimes we paint all insects with the same brush and want to kill them all. I had the opportunity to learn about good bugs when reading an old book published in 1941. It is rather surprising that somebody already knew so much about beneficial insects that long ago.

Frank E. Lutz, an entomologist and gardener, wrote “A Lot of Insects” in which he tells us about all the six-legged fauna of his large suburban yard. He noticed that native plants were good at attracting what he called guests and residents of this realm. His property was located near the center of a small town not far from New York City. In the course of a few years, Dr. Lutz collected and identified every kind of insect that he found in his property, a grand total of 1,402 different species. Before you shrink in horror at that staggering number of buggy creatures, let me tell you that Dr. Lutz was a fine gardener and, while he was sorting out and studying the little creatures in his garden, he was winning numerous gardening awards. And he had the insects to thank for such a healthy garden.

The fact is that many, probably most, insects are invaluable components of the ecosystem. It is wise to learn to recognize and appreciate these gardener friends. A good dose of curiosity may allow you to enjoy their intriguing, sometimes perplexing, comings and goings if you manage to overcome your bias against insects.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

What is native? What is not? When does it matter?

Common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca (© B. Moisset)

Definitions of native plants abound. None is entirely satisfactory in all circumstances but each may serve a specific function. Some strive for scientific accuracy; others serve practical purposes. Moreover, in some instances the nativity of a plant may not matter to the native-plant gardener. None of us is about to give up growing tomatoes regardless of their non-native status.
The FederalNative Plant Conservation Committee proposes the following definition: “A native plant species is one that occurs naturally in a particular habitat, ecosystem, or region of the United States and its Territories or Possessions, without direct or indirect human actions.” Such definition may be useful for policy making.