Beautiful Native Plants

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

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Feed the Birds!

While there are many discussions on the pros and cons of using bird feeders, you can never go wrong by feeding them with the native plants they depend on in the wild. As we wrestle with the reality of increasing species loss, we can take action in our own yards and community spaces by promoting and using plants native to our region. Yes, changes are occurring, and the ranges of both flora and fauna are moving ever northward. But less is not more - let’s keep as many of the local eco-type plants as we can for as long as we can. And enjoy the benefits of the company of the animals that are still counting on them. 

Taken from a distance, but you can see the juniper cone right in the robin's mouth

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Toward the Plastic-free Garden

Leaf recycling the natural way, an eternal cycle
© Beatriz Moisset
Plastics are a curse and a blessing. They are changing our world for better and for worse. That is why Susan Freinkel titled her book on this subject Plastic: "A Toxic Love Story." I recommend her ForaTV lecture.

The most serious trouble with plastics is that they are not truly recyclable. It is true that we place them by the curbside and they are taken by trucks to recycling facilities. If all goes as it should, that plastic is turned into something else and given a new life. But that doesn’t complete the circle back to the original components. Perhaps it should be called something else, down-cycling, half-cycling?
Recycled or not, this is where plastics end up
© Kevin Krejci. Flickr

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Oh, Yucca! A Plant for All Reasons

Oh, Yucca! Do you picture this plant as a pokey, static, and rather dull component of a landscape?Au contraire! We posit the yucca as a plant of majesty, elegance, and fascinating complexity. Not to mention an easy evergreen keeper in the garden. 
Native yuccas have architectural interest after flowering

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Rethinking Pretty in Suburbia

Every year I ruminate on what more I can do to support (and not just attract) wildlife in my home landscape. When an F1 tornado took down a dead elm tree and a few birch leaders last summer, we left the trunks of both as snags. When I clip shrub and tree branches I put them in a growing pile in the back corner of our lot instead of chipping them up. And I’m always experimenting with different management techniques in our prairie-inspired headquarters deep in the heart of suburbia.
In 2014 I converted our thinning / neglected back lawn of about 2,500ft into meadow. Over the years I’ve tried different methods of spring removal of plant top growth -- fire is illegal in city limits here in the Plains -- as well as employing fall forb plug planting and variously-timed seeding. I’ve not found the magic sauce to increase forb density without burning, but plugs out back and in the front beds has been modestly effective.

Speaking of out front, that’s where I spend more time tweaking. Honestly, it’s amazing the pressures a small 400-500ft space must face. The two garden beds are divided by a wide lawn path that’s slowly succumbing to little bluestem self sowing. The west bed is watered daily by my neighbor’s lawn sprinkler over spray, and the really drought tolerant plants have vanished so each year I make additions. The east bed fares better and forbs are actually starting to dominate the grasses to the point where early each summer I do a little thinning. Did I mention the garden capture a lot of neighborhood trash? Kid’s crayon drawings, work evaluations, socks, little plastic trees, plastic coffee cups, credit card bills, glue dot sheets, bags of sequins, packages of eyeglass wipes, play money…. The garden filters trash and rainfall. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Stinging Nettle. Food for Butterflies and Food for Us

Stinging nettle foliage © Beatriz Moisset.

Last May I went for a walk at my favorite nature center, and I noticed the nettles growing fast and furiously along the trail. Urtica dioica is a native plant that grows through most of North America as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center tell us. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden warns us about its powerful sting in Weed of the Month: Stinging Nettle.

This plant is a healthy vegetable, and its tender leaves invite gourmets who know what is good. I have never tasted it, but I thought it was time to do so. I tried collecting a few leaves, but soon found out the sting was surprisingly powerful. I have picked up leaves in other occasions with little consequence, and I have seen others collect leaves with no concern. I may to wear gloves in my next foray.