The hot topic on the garden lecture circuit these days is native plants, along with the birds and insects that depend upon them for sustenance. These are the pollinators that everyone is talking about! And this is more than a foodweb – it is the underlying support for the world as we know it. Per renowned biologist, E.O. Wilson, still working as Professor Emeritus at Harvard and well into his 90s: “If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.” And a disturbing new study from Cornell was recently released that showed 1 in 4 birds has disappeared in the last 50 years, just since 1970, for a total of 3 billion birds.
Our core staff attended a seminar in December as part of their NOFA Organic Land Care reaccreditation and learned some valuable “how to” strategies. We are prepared to install more of the key plants that will draw pollinators into your garden, no matter how small, in 2020. Contact our Designer, Deanna Jayne, to get started <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It’s best to avoid the so-called “nativars” and stick to straight species. In the case of purple coneflower, use Echinacea purpurea, loaded with more pollen (read nutrition) that insects seek. Stay away from double forms, improved types, and the many cultivars such as ‘Solar Flare’ which may be pretty but lack this value.
It’s also important to provide a long season of bloom since the insects need nectar and pollen all during the growing season: April to November. Remember flowering shrubs as well as perennials in this planning. Even the undeveloped edge of your property can be allowed to naturalize to wood aster, for example, and provide valuable habitat, rather than just coating the area with more bark mulch.
Happily, the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts has set up a two-year program to help the public “Go Native!” More details here, and per entomologist and author, Doug Tallamy, it is alliances like this that will help the most, one garden at a time.