Beautiful Native Plants

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

Monday, July 18, 2016

Bountiful Buttonbush

Buttonbush, (Cephalanthus occidentalis), is a native shrub that gets high marks for its usefulness to wildlife. It’s also a personal favorite because, well, it’s just plain so amusing! And what could be better than a plant that’s useful and entertaining at the same time?

Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis
Just look at that crazy flower! How many different connections does it bring to your mind? Here are some of its other common names: Honeyballs, Spanish Pincushion, Globeflowers, Little Snowball – and that’s before we even get into sputnik space and beyond.

Surrounding the spherical flower heads is a delicate fringe of pistils protruding past white corollas. You will occasionally see variations in the flower color from pale yellow to a very light pink. They are not only showy and long-lasting but also quite pleasingly fragrant.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Pollinators and Native vs. Non-native Plants

A daffodil’s visitor
This bee is not likely to find any nourishment
© Beatriz Moisset
Are native plants important to the plant-pollinator communities? Sometimes I hear somebody say: “When it comes to pollinators, all flowers are the same; after all, nectars are all alike” or “my English ivy must be good for pollinators because it is teeming with insect visitors”. Such comments show a lack of information and understanding, as I mentioned in “Wildlife Food and Non-native Plants”.

I have been photographing and studying pollinators for years, and I learned long ago not to waste time looking for them in the typical suburban gardens that are the pride of many of my neighbors. Nature centers and wildflower preserves are the source of most of my photos. Flying insects rarely visit a daffodil, forsythia or a tulip. Those that do so look rather puzzled, and leave promptly without visiting similar blossoms. Roses, the fancier ones, get no visitors either. The same applies to many of the “naturalized” plants, such as lesser celandine and garlic mustard. Recently, I spent time looking for pollinators on a few non-native flowers (lesser celandines, daffodils and forsythia), knowing what the results would be. I reported some of my observations in “Of Spring Beauties and Lesser Celandines”.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The never-ending story of a native landscape

Plants are alive. They grow, they multiply, and they die. So those perfect-looking landscape plans or meticulously groomed gardens in magazines and online are mere snapshots in time. The reality is that *things* are always changing and that’s a good thing. To see how much my front landscape has changed over the years, read  From lawn to woods: a retrospective. So this is the next phase in the never-ending story…

Time to remove some lawn: those yuccas have grown and
had leaned over the lawn edge.
The fall leaves will make a great mulch.

The trip along the lawn edge

The edging trip around the edge of the lawn is a good opportunity to remove more lawn and to edit the plants that have become too rambunctious, i.e. weeds.

When I started this go-round in late October, it had been very dry for us–1/2″ instead of our average 3.86″– October is the last of our 5 wet months. The dryness made it easy to remove the grass and other plants.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Pollinator Gardens do Double Duty

Syrphid flies. Pollinators and biological controls. Their larvae feed on aphids
© Beatriz Moisset

More gardeners are learning about pollinators and creating habitat for them. It warms my heart when I see them selecting plants beneficial to pollinators, converting portions of the lawn into flower plots, cutting down on pesticides, and creating the right conditions for pollinators’ nests. Many gardeners are learning to be grateful to pollinators for their services. Some are familiarizing themselves with the most common ones. This is a healthy trend.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Is Lawn a Carbon Sink?

Many people and organizations these days are looking for ways to reduce excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, in the hope that this might slow the warming of the planet. Even the turf industry claims that “well-managed” lawn absorbs carbon and thus should be considered a good thing.

“Lawn is a valued resource for sequestering carbon, with a net positive carbon storage for all lawn management practices.” That’s what they say at Scotts Miracle Gro, which calls itself the world’s largest marketer of branded consumer lawn and garden products.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Bring Back the Native Pollinators! Honey bees are not enough

A long-horned bee on sunflower
© Beatriz Moisset
I keep pondering the questions I posed in my previous post (Will We all Die if Honey Bees Disappear?): how did we manage to become so dependent on a single species of pollinators, the domestic honey bee? What happened to the native ones that populated the entire continent and performed the pollination of the native plants? In my search for answers I stumbled upon an old publication of the Department ofAgriculture and finally began to find some answers.
Here is an excerpt from the USDA document prepared by the Division of Bee Culture in 1942: “The Dependence of Agriculture on the Beekeeping Industry—a Review.”

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Native Gardeners Never Give Up!

I wasn’t going to. I really wasn’t going to. We’d left five acres full of native plants and a treasure trove of garden tools for a “lock and roll” townhouse with a postage stamp of an outside. I was getting my gardening highs by volunteering at public parks and schools.  And I held out valiantly for about 18 months. But at the beginning of that merry, merry month of May, the water broke over the dam of pent-up desire, and I did it. I just had to have my own garden. I blame two inciting causes: dull grey blocks, and pollinators.

In the townhouse development, where were all the bees and butterflies supposed to go?

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Will We all Die if Honey Bees Disappear?

Bumble bees have been pollinating sunflowers, an important crop for Native Americans,
long before the arrival of the honey bee
© Beatriz Moisset
One third of our food needs to be pollinated by insects. Honey bees are responsible for most of it. With 4,000 species of bees in North America plus numerous other pollinators of different stripes, how did we manage to become so dependent on just a single species? We know how important it is to diversify our portfolio, our diet, and our crops and gardens. So, what were we thinking?

Friday, July 1, 2016

From lawn to woods: a retrospective

Spring 2014: a pinxter azalea in the front meadow.

Then and now…

I posted the above photo of my pinxter azalea (Rhododendron canescens) a while back with the comment that with the exception of the trees next to the pond (behind the top sprout on the right), this area used to be lawn. People were really surprised and asked for more details and more information about how it was transformed, so I thought I’d share the history here. (Update: I also used this photo on the cover of my book, The Art of Maintaining a Florida Native Landscape.)