Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

First Wednesday Challenge: Why Trees Matter and Why We Ought To Care

I started to write about the loss of trees in my neighborhood and as alarming as that is to me I was struck by something that is far more important. People are living where there is little or no tree canopy. Imagine no trees when you step outside. That is true for seventy percent of Americans who are now living in urbanized areas where their proximity to trees and nature has greatly diminished. That means that when someone steps outside there is no shade to play under or to protect them from summer heat. There are no trees to help them get healthier. There are no trees to gather under and visit with friends. There are no trees to make the neighborhood feel pleasant or attractive. Observational research has shown that cities without trees are prone to more violence and health issues

 


Add to this that many of the 70% living without a close proximity to nature are living in low income neighborhoods. The good news is that more cities are now engaged in adding trees to their canopy and hopefully, they're planting trees in low income neighborhoods, too. 

 

North Nashville tall skinnies and no trees

 The photo below reflects Tree Equity studies in several Nashville neighborhoods. Trees are critical urban infrastructure that are essential to public health and well-being. The Tree Equity Score was created to help address damaging environmental inequities by prioritizing human-centered investment in areas with the greatest need. To find out your city's score follow the link.(source)

Many of the studies linking trees with improved health are observational. "Observational studies are ones where researchers observe the effect of a risk factor, diagnostic test, treatment or other intervention without trying to change who is or isn’t exposed to it." (source)

Autumn color in canopy trees

Scientists and other researchers are also engaged in experimental research to explore, beyond observational studies how trees affect physical and mental well-being. This is exciting news to me and I am hoping that research studies like this will convince the Nashville city council (and other cities) that we need to protect our big canopy trees from development. According to the Urban Tree Canopy Assessment, Metro Nashville's tree canopy declined by 674 acres. We're also loosing trees to Emerald Ash Borer at an alarming rate. I'll be taking down at least two trees that could fall on my house if left untreated. Deciding to treat them is a huge and often expensive decision. They need to be treated before they're infected and taken down before they're in danger of falling.

Small trees like American Hophornbeam are perfect for planting along streets, too
 

Those of us who garden with nature in mind know how valuable trees are to wildlife. It's clear to us that trees are more than pretty things for our landscapes. Native canopy trees and understory trees support the life cycle of many species. They're keystone plants that are crucial to the food web and necessary for many wildlife species to complete their life cycle. Without keystone plants in the landscape, butterflies, native bees, and birds will not thrive and neither would we!

Here's my probably incomplete list of the many ways trees are valuable:

  • They clean the air we breath
  • They help fight climate change
  • They provide oxygen
  • They cool streets and neighborhoods
  • They conserve energy
  • They slow water evaporation
  • They reduce water pollution, runoff and erosion
  • They shade children while they play ( reduce UV-B exposure)
  • They provide food for humans and birds and animals
  • They provide shelter, nesting and 
  • They help us heal
  • They can sooth our frazzled nerves
  • They help reduce fear and violence in neighborhoods
  • They reduce noise (blocks interstate noise)
  • They bring people together when planting them
  • They help promote healthy soils
  • They provide homes for critters
  • They provide beauty in a concrete gray city
  • They provide property and commercial value to homes, neighborhoods and cities
  • They provide economic value, jobs, etc.
  • They provide spiritual value 
  • They can reduce crime if the right trees are planted in the right way

What can we personally do to help trees:

  • Keep them healthy
  • Contact our city government to let them know you want trees protected
  • Join your neighborhood association in lobbying your local government to protect trees
  • Donate money to organizations that plant trees in neighborhoods
  • Join tree support groups in your city and state 
  • Plant native trees on your property 
  • Pay attention to areas in your city that have no trees. Lobby for them to get trees.
  • Ask congress to support and advance tree planting bills
  • Ask the EPA to invest in trees
  • Ask Secretary Pete Buttigieg to prioritize Tree Equity

Local metro Nashville organizations that support trees:

Root Nashville

Cumberland River Compact 

Nashville Tree Conservation Corp 

Nashville Tree Foundation 

Tennessee Environmental Council 

Urban Forestry Recommended trees for Nashville

Metro Tree Advisory Committee

 


Trees are valuable to all of us. We all deserve to live where we have access to nature.  Simply put trees have the power to heal us, soothe our frazzled nerves, help us feel safe, clean the air we breathe, make neighborhoods more livable, and, mitigate climate change. 

My hope is that as the scientific research continues our city and state governments will embrace the value that trees bring to our quality of life and invest in planting more in our communities. xoxogail




 

Here's a recap of what the First Wednesday Monthly Challenge is all about.



Want to Take the Taking Care of Wildlife In Our Gardens Challenge?

The first part of this challenge is to do something, even lots of things each month that support the critters living in our gardens. Gardening with native wildflowers, shrubs and trees that make sense for our ecoregion is a good place to start or continue (as the case may be). Plants and their pollinators are a classic example of mutualism: they have coevolved through evolutionary time in a reciprocal beneficial relationship. This is also true for other critters that visit and live in our gardens. 

Activities that increase our knowledge of the natural world are equally as valuable. Helping others learn about nature is included. Golly gee whiz, there are so many things you can do. 

The second part of the challenge is to post about it somewhere: Your blog, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or even your neighborhood listserve. Wouldn't an article in the local paper be a coup for nature! Why post it? Because positive publicity is needed to educate our friends, neighbors and communities about how important even the smallest changes we make as gardeners can be for pollinators, birds, insects and mammals, including humans, that live all around us. 

Why now? My neighborhood is changing. Yours might be, too. Every day an older home along with many (if not all) of the mature oak, hickory, maple, Eastern cedar and hackberry trees are cut down. Insects, birds, even mammals lose their home site and food supplies when we lose trees. During construction soil is compacted by bulldozers, trucks and piles of debris cause runoff; surface runoff that can carry pollution to streams and rivers. It's important that our neighbors and our community have information about how important trees are to our ecosystem. Trees contribute to their environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, climate amelioration, conserving water, preserving soil, and supporting wildlife.

In place of the "bee lawns" composed of Claytonia, Salvia lyrata, Ruellia humilis, fleabane, Western Daisy, Violets, self-heal, clovers, native grasses (in my neighborhood it's poverty oat grass) and sedges, they're being sodded with non-native grasses. These monoculture turf lawns contribute nothing environmentally. Here's what we lose when our diverse lawns are replaced with pristine turf grass:

  • Gone are the lightening bugs.
  • Gone are the ground dwelling/nesting native bees.
  • Gone is the habitat for insects, spiders and other critters. 
  • Gone is plant diversity. 
  • Gone are trees that provided for hundreds of moths, butterflies and other insects.
  • Gone are the nesting sites for woodpeckers, hummingbirds, Chickadees and other birds. 
  • Gone is a healthy foodweb.

 It breaks my heart. 

We can't stop the progmess, but, maybe we can make a lot of educational noise and help our new neighbors see the value in providing for critters and ultimately helping the environment.

A gardener can hope! 

xoxoGail



Here's an incomplete list of things you might consider doing or changing in your garden, and things you can do for and/or in your community. But don't limit yourself to my list, make your own list or check out the internet for ideas.

 

Looking for ways to get involved go here for a list of environmental advocacy groups.

Buy the best wildflower, butterfly and bird id books for your state.

Read nature books to your children and grandchildren. Buy them nature books.

Get in the garden with your children and grandchildren.

Give nature books as baby shower gifts (Nature books for infants and toddlers)

Shrink your lawn and make your planting beds larger.

Plant your favorite native perennials and shrubs. Leave them standing after they've gone to seed to continue to provide for wildlife. What you plant in your yard makes a difference to wildlife. I garden for wildlife so every tree, shrub and plant is chosen with wildlife in mind.


 

Plant more natives and then consider planting even more. "A typical suburban landscape contains only 20-30% native plant species. Try reversing that trend in your own landscape by using 70-80% native species." (source

Plant for bloom from late spring to early winter. Bees are most active from February to November (longer in mild climates) late winter blooming Hamamelis vernalis and the earliest spring ephemerals (like the toothworts, hepaticas, spring beauties, and False rue-anemeone) are perfect plants for a variety of pollinators.

Commit to never, ever, ever, ever using pesticides in the garden.

Stay away from native plant hybrids and cultivars that are double flowered. They are sterile and have no pollen or nectar for insects and no seeds for the birds. If possible plant “true open-pollinated native wildflowers”

If you want to garden for wildlife and pollinators, don't let lack of space stop you! Plant your favorite wildflowers in large containers. You just might have the prairie or woodland garden you've always wanted...in a pot!
 
Create a water feature. Provide water year round that is accessible to birds, bees and other critters.

Make a rain garden in low spots to collect and mitigate runoff.

Show some soil! Our native ground nesting bees nest in bare soil, so don't mulch every square inch of your garden. 

Get rid of the plastic weed barriers in your garden, it's not good for anything.

Invite bugs into your garden. Plant annuals that attract beneficial bugs.

 


Learn to tolerate damaged plants. Imperfection is the new perfect.

Don't be in a rush to clean up the fall garden. Leave plant stalks and seed heads standing all winter. Leave those fallen leaves or as many as you can tolerate! Insects over winter in the fallen and decaying leaves. Leave a layer of leaves as a soft landing material under trees for moths and butterflies to over winter. Many caterpillars drop to the ground from the trees in the fall and need a soft landing site and a place to live over the winter.

Allow a fallen tree to remain in the garden. Limbs on the ground are a perfect shelter for small animals such as rabbits, chipmunks and squirrels and a habitat for beetles, termites and other insects.


Make a brush pile. Stack fallen brush, cut tree limbs, broken pots for ground beetles. Ground beetles are excellent at eating "bad bugs". Bugs are also good bird, toad and small critter food. 

Rethink what you consider a pest. Lots of good bugs eat aphids. Spiders are important predators and they're great bird food!

Add nesting boxes for birds. 

Turn off your yard up-lighting, eave lights and porch lights after 11pm. This is important for nocturnal critters including mammals, snakes, insects, bats, birds (especially during migration). (Birdcast suggestions)

Plant shrubs and small trees that provide berries and nuts.

Keep a nature journal: You can observe visitors to your water feature, make note of when they visit. Notice which flowers attract the most pollinators and which ones are just pretty faces. 

Join your state native plant society (Tennessee Native Plant Society)

Join WildOnes even if there's no local group you can join the national organization.  (Middle Tennessee WildOnes)

Support your local native plant sellers. (GroWild in middle Tennessee, Overhill Gardens in east Tennessee,  Resource Guide TN Native Plant Society)

Encourage your local garden clubs to offer native plant talks.

If your garden club has a plant sale encourage them to sell more native plants.

Get trained as a naturalist (Tennessee Naturalist Program. Almost every state has their own Master Naturalist training program

Take an online course on tree, fungi and wildflower id. 

Take an online course on designing with native plants.

Take a walk in your neighborhood and observe nature. To quote Joanna Brichetto in Sidewalk Nature "Look Around. Nature is here, is us, our driveways, our baseboards, parks, and parking lots."

Read! There are hundreds of books on gardening for wildlife, the environment, and rewilding our world. There are delightful blogs with wonderful and informative articles.

If you are already gardening with wildlife in mind then add a few signs that help educate your neighbors. (Xerces Society, Pollinator Partnership)

Join the Xerces Society.

Set up an information station where neighbors can pick up brochures about your garden and other info. 

Get certified (National Wildlife Federation, check to see what your state offers)

Support trees by joining the effort to make sure developers don't remove more trees than are necessary for their project. Work to make sure there are tree removal permits and that they are actually enforced in your community.

 

 

 

 

 

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Wildflower Wednesday: Thermopsis villosa, Another Fabulous Fabaceae

If you're looking for a beautiful accent plant that's attractive to bumblebees and butterfly I think you'll be happy with Carolina lupine. Itslong spikes of butter yellow pea-like flowers are beautiful.This upright beauty resembles lupines and is related to Baptisia. 


 
New Moon nursery describes it as an upright unbranched wildflower anchored by a sturdy taproot. You'll want to site this tall plant carefully (in bloom it can reach 5 feet tall and spread up to 3 feet wide) because once the tap root is settled it might be difficult to transplant. 

Foliage is bright green with compound trifoliate oval leaflets in each leaf. Leaflets are 2-3” long with hairy lower surfaces. Villosa means covered with soft hairs and when you look closely you can see the hairs on flower buds. 

click on photo to enlarge to see hairs

Thermopsis villosa  grows happily from Maine to Georgia and west to Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama. Plants are indigenous to the Appalachian Mountains of Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina, but have been introduced into other states. In the wild you'll find it in woodland clearings, open meadows, prairies, road banks and disturbed fields. (source) It is adaptable to rich garden soils throughout the eastern United States. Although, it's described as drought tolerant, that  doesn't apply to our extended southern droughty months, you will probably need to water it.

 


Bumblebees are the primary visitors to Carolina lupine in my garden. The bees are visiting for the nectar and pollen and while there they do a great job of pollinating the plants. I always have a good seed crop should I want to try growing it, but, I refer to leave the seedheads standing. This morning I noticed the Goldfinches were already gathering on the stems, not sure if they are using it for support or if they're early to get seeds.

 


I haven't seen butterflies nectaring on it, but then, I don't usually see a lot of butterflies this early in my semi shady garden. It could also be cause we've had an incredibly rainy spring. Look for blooms in late spring, that's May in my middle Tennessee garden. It's not quite the end of the month and they've already started their journey to cool legume seedheads.

Seed pods are villous (having long, shaggy hairs) and some gardeners cut them back in hopes of a second bloom. I like the seedheads and since I garden for wildlife, I prefer to leave the seedhead standing for songbirds that visit or live here. The foliage is said to be good cover for critters should a predator fly over.

 What I like about Thermopsis villosa:

  • It makes a great statement in a garden
  • The sulphur yellow flowers bring on the bumbles
  • Drought-tolerant, not fussy about soil, and requires low maintenance
  • Unpalatable to deer
  • A good cut flower
  • The foliage is lovely
  • The yellow is stellar in an evening garden
  • Seeds feed Goldfinches and other songbirds


Propagation:

Propagation Material: Root Division, Seeds 

Description: Seeds can be sown outdoors upon collection or stored, treated and sown later. Mature plants may be divided in the fall but new divisions recover slowly. The problem with deep taproots is that they are nearly impossible to dig up without breaking off. I've no experience with this, but I have read that the roots are so thick one might need a hatchet to divide them. 

Seed Collection: The mature, brownish legume pod begins to split 5-6 weeks after the bloom period. Collect the pods and let them air-dry a few days before removing seeds. Store in sealed, refrigerated containers. 

Seed Treatment: Germination of stored seed is more uniform if the seeds are presoaked in boiling water and allowed to cool in the water for at least twelve hours before planting. Can take up to 3 years to establish itself.

Sowing: Nancy Ondra from Hayefield says this: "I recommend these seeds for experienced seed-starters only, because they can require a good bit of patience. One approach is to sow outdoors (about 1/4″ deep, in pots or a holding bed) in fall or winter, so the seeds can germinate when conditions are right in spring.

The Fabaceae family is pretty darn cool and includes, trees, shrubs and herbacious perennials and annuals. It's the third largest plant family in the world, only surpassed by the Orchid and Composite/Daisy families. If you see a plant with legume fruit you will know it's a Fabaceae. Legume plants often form symbiotic relationships with nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria. An easy family to id if you remember these key words~ "banner, wings, and keel" and pea-like pods, often with pinnate leaves.

source

THE PARTICULARS

Botanical name: Thermopsis villosa

Common name: Carolina lupine, Carolina bushpea, Aaron's rod, False lupine, Blue-ridge buck bean

Family: Fabaceae: is the the third largest plant family.  An easy family to id if you remember these key words "banner, wings, and keel" and pea-like pods, often with pinnate leave.

Life Cycle: Perennial 

Recommended Propagation Strategy: Root Cutting and seed 

Native Distribution: Mountains of GA, AL, TN, NC, & WV: the southern Appalachians. note: Discrepancy between sources about range of the plant, with some saying it occurs only in the southern Appalachians and others extending the range much farther north. (source)

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b

Flower Color: Sulphur yellow. Cream/tan seedheads.

Flower Inflorescence: Raceme/Spike. A showy and excellent cut flower.

Bloom Time: Spring into summer depending upon where you garden.

Dimensions: Height: 3 ft.- 5 ft. Width: 1 ft. to 3 ft.

Habit/Form: Clumping and erect  with taproot.

Light: Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day) Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours) 

Soil Texture: Clay, High Organic Matter, Loam (Silt), Sand 

Soil pH: Acid (<6.0) Soil 

Drainage: Good Drainage  

Wildlife Value: 7+ species of Lepidoptera, including several species of Sulphur butterflies, Duskywing butterfly and skipper butterflies. A very good pollinator plant – provides pollen and nectar to bees and nectar to butterflies. Provides seeds for songbirds, hollow stems for bee nesting and foliage provides shelter for birds and small mammals.

Deer resistance: I've never had any problems with critters eating the blooms, which makes me very thankful because the deer treat this garden like it's a smorgasborg dropping in when ever they feel like it.

 Comments: Good in garden bed, native garden, naturalized garden, meadow. Cut the foliage back about a month after flowering and it may bloom again in fall, but you will get no seeds. Plant with with Aster, Echinacea, Oenothera, Penstemon, Rudbeckia and prairie grasses.


 Welcome to Clay and Limestone and Wildflower Wednesday.  This day is about sharing wildflowers and other native plants no matter where one gardens~the UK, tropical Florida, Europe, Australia, Africa, South America, India or the coldest reaches of Canada. It doesn't matter if we sometimes share the same plants. How they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most.

 

Please leave your links in comments.

xoxogail

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

First Wednesday Challenge: Invite bugs into your garden

Embrace imperfection.

 

 What does that mean?

  • We must be okay with the damage that bugs will do to our garden plants.
  • We don't run for the pesticides or herbicides the first time we see chewed up foliage and petals.
  • We need to redefine what we think of as perfection and beauty in our gardens.
  • We invite beneficial insects into the garden when we plant the right plants and create the right conditions.
  • We celebrate that imperfection means our gardens are teeming with all kinds of wildlife, not just pretty flower faces.

That's what I've done in my own garden.  

Our gardens will not be magazine perfect, but, pollinators and other critters don't care if flower petals are chewed on. They need pollen and nectar producing flowers. They need host plants for their offspring. They need water. They need bare earth to nest in. They need trees. They need woodpiles to hide in. They need a pesticide free environment.

 


 

When we create an insect friendly garden it will be teeming with life. All kinds of critter life. Spiders will build webs; the beneficial insects will keep critters in check; pollinators will pollinate; and, birds, small reptiles and even mammals will hunt the insects. When we eliminate pesticides, ground beetles, hoverflies, lacewings, lady beetles, minute pirate bugs, parasitoid wasps, social wasps, solitary wasps,   syrphid flies and preying mantis will be able to do what they do well, keep our garden pests in check. Yes, they do also eat the "good bugs",  but, the trade off is worth it.


 

 It will be a beautiful imperfect garden, just as it's supposed to be.



 Clay and Limestone has been pesticide free for several decades. I decided to embrace imperfection when I realized that native bees, butterflies, wasps, spiders, and lots of other critters were (and still are) adversely affected by them. The use of neonicotinoids and other pesticides and herbicides (by the agriculture/horticulture industry and home owners) and the introduction of non-native species are known causes of both wide-scale losses in biological diversity and pollinator declines.
Assassin bug waiting on a coreopsis

Here's some information from Penn State Insect Biodiversity Center to back me up!

"Insects comprise over 80% of terrestrial species on Earth, and include bees, ants, butterflies, grasshoppers, and beetles, among many others. Insects drive the production of essential seeds, fruits, and vegetables via pollination, and are necessary decomposers of organic matter. Further, insects are keystone species that provide invaluable ecosystem services that extend beyond pollination, by providing biological control of pests, and acting as bio-indicators of healthy streams and soils. Insects form the base of complex ecological food webs in agricultural, natural, and urban areas, shaping the appearance, beauty and complexity of these diverse landscapes." Source

Insects are too important for us to be wiping them out with pesticides that we can purchase at most big box stores. "Insect pollinators (e.g. bees, flower-flies, and butterflies) pollinate over 85% of wild flowering plants and over 75% of agricultural crop species. The loss of partial or whole insect communities can have disastrous effects for food webs and reduce an area’s ability to recover after disturbances. "(Source

 

 the soft bodied aphids used to creep me out

Did you know, that if you want birds to live in your garden, you absolutely must have a garden that is hospitable to bugs! I love feeding the birds and keep a feeder up all year long. The birds are entertaining to watch and I feel like I am giving the smaller birds a fighting chance to survive during a cold winter. But, when nesting time arrives, seed is not enough. They need insects to feed their young! According to Doug Tallamy, entomology and wildlife ecology professor at the University of Delaware, a single pair of breeding chickadees must find as many as 6000 caterpillars to rear one clutch of young.

That's a lot of bugs and that's just for one bird family in a garden.



 

  When you let go of pesticides and embrace imperfection you become the change our world needs.


  • You can help create a paradigm shift that redefines garden beauty to include imperfection.
  • You can refuse to be shamed or swayed by the judgement of perfection worshipers.
  • You can say no to pesticides that kill our important garden visitors.
  • You can let nursery managers know that you don't need or expect them to offer "perfect plants", plants that have been pretreated with insecticides.

 

We have to do it. 

Hoverfly

 

xoxoGail



Want to Take the Taking Care of Wildlife In Our Gardens Challenge?

The first part of this challenge is to do something, even lots of things, each month that support the critters living in our gardens. Gardening with native wildflowers, shrubs and trees that make sense for our ecoregion is a good place to start or continue (as the case may be). Plants and their pollinators are a classic example of mutualism: they have coevolved through evolutionary time in a reciprocal beneficial relationship. This is also true for other critters that visit and live in our gardens. 

Activities that increase our knowledge of the natural world are equally as valuable. Helping others learn about nature is included. Golly gee whiz, there are so many things you can do. 

The second part of the challenge is to post about it somewhere: Your blog, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or even your neighborhood listserve. Wouldn't an article in the local paper be a coup for nature! Why post it? Because positive publicity is needed to educate our friends, neighbors and communities about how important even the smallest changes we make as gardeners can be for pollinators, birds, insects and mammals, including humans, that live all around us. 

Why now? My neighborhood is changing. Yours might be, too. Every day an older home along with many (if not all) of the mature oak, hickory, maple, Eastern cedar and hackberry trees are cut down. Insects, birds, even mammals lose their home site and food supplies when we lose trees. During construction soil is compacted by bulldozers, trucks and piles of debris cause runoff; surface runoff that can carry pollution to streams and rivers. It's important that our neighbors and our community have information about how important trees are to our ecosystem. Trees contribute to their environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, climate amelioration, conserving water, preserving soil, and supporting wildlife.

In place of the "bee lawns" composed of Claytonia, Salvia lyrata, Ruellia humilis, fleabane, Western Daisy, Violets, self-heal, clovers, native grasses (in my neighborhood it's poverty oat grass) and sedges, they're being sodded with non-native grasses. These monoculture turf lawns contribute nothing environmentally. Here's what we lose when our diverse lawns are replaced with pristine turf grass:

  • Gone are the lightening bugs.
  • Gone are the ground dwelling/nesting native bees.
  • Gone is the habitat for insects, spiders and other critters. 
  • Gone is plant diversity. 
  • Gone are trees that provided for hundreds of moths, butterflies and other insects.
  • Gone are the nesting sites for woodpeckers, hummingbirds, Chickadees and other birds. 
  • Gone is a healthy foodweb.

 It breaks my heart. 

We can't stop the progmess, but, maybe we can make a lot of educational noise and help our new neighbors see the value in providing for critters and ultimately helping the environment.

A gardener can hope! 

xoxoGail



Here's an incomplete list of things you might consider doing or changing in your garden, and things you can do for and/or in your community. But don't limit yourself to my list, make your own list or check out the internet for ideas.

 

Looking for ways to get involved go here for a list of environmental advocacy groups.

Buy the best wildflower, butterfly and bird id books for your state.

Read nature books to your children and grandchildren. Buy them nature books.

Get in the garden with your children and grandchildren.

Give nature books as baby shower gifts (Nature books for infants and toddlers)

Shrink your lawn and make your planting beds larger.

Plant your favorite native perennials and shrubs. Leave them standing after they've gone to seed to continue to provide for wildlife. What you plant in your yard makes a difference to wildlife. I garden for wildlife so every tree, shrub and plant is chosen with wildlife in mind.


 

Plant more natives and then consider planting even more. "A typical suburban landscape contains only 20-30% native plant species. Try reversing that trend in your own landscape by using 70-80% native species." (source

Plant for bloom from late spring to early winter. Bees are most active from February to November (longer in mild climates) late winter blooming Hamamelis vernalis and the earliest spring ephemerals (like the toothworts, hepaticas, spring beauties, and False rue-anemeone) are perfect plants for a variety of pollinators.

Commit to never, ever, ever, ever using pesticides in the garden.

Stay away from native plant hybrids and cultivars that are double flowered. They are sterile and have no pollen or nectar for insects and no seeds for the birds. If possible plant “true open-pollinated native wildflowers”

If you want to garden for wildlife and pollinators, don't let lack of space stop you! Plant your favorite wildflowers in large containers. You just might have the prairie or woodland garden you've always wanted...in a pot!
 
Create a water feature. Provide water year round that is accessible to birds, bees and other critters.

Make a rain garden in low spots to collect and mitigate runoff.

Show some soil! Our native ground nesting bees nest in bare soil, so don't mulch every square inch of your garden. 

Get rid of the plastic weed barriers in your garden, it's not good for anything.

Invite bugs into your garden. Plant annuals that attract beneficial bugs.

 


Learn to tolerate damaged plants. Imperfection is the new perfect.

Don't be in a rush to clean up the fall garden. Leave plant stalks and seed heads standing all winter. Leave those fallen leaves or as many as you can tolerate! Insects over winter in the fallen and decaying leaves. Leave a layer of leaves as a soft landing material under trees for moths and butterflies to over winter. Many caterpillars drop to the ground from the trees in the fall and need a soft landing site and a place to live over the winter.

Allow a fallen tree to remain in the garden. Limbs on the ground are a perfect shelter for small animals such as rabbits, chipmunks and squirrels and a habitat for beetles, termites and other insects.


Make a brush pile. Stack fallen brush, cut tree limbs, broken pots for ground beetles. Ground beetles are excellent at eating "bad bugs". Bugs are also good bird, toad and small critter food. 

Rethink what you consider a pest. Lots of good bugs eat aphids. Spiders are important predators and they're great bird food!

Add nesting boxes for birds. 

Turn off your yard up-lighting, eave lights and porch lights after 11pm. This is important for nocturnal critters including mammals, snakes, insects, bats, birds (especially during migration). (Birdcast suggestions)

Plant shrubs and small trees that provide berries and nuts.

Keep a nature journal: You can observe visitors to your water feature, make note of when they visit. Notice which flowers attract the most pollinators and which ones are just pretty faces. 

Join your state native plant society (Tennessee Native Plant Society)

Join WildOnes even if there's no local group you can join the national organization.  (Middle Tennessee WildOnes)

Support your local native plant sellers. (GroWild in middle Tennessee, Overhill Gardens in east Tennessee,  Resource Guide TN Native Plant Society)

Encourage your local garden clubs to offer native plant talks.

If your garden club has a plant sale encourage them to sell more native plants.

Get trained as a naturalist (Tennessee Naturalist Program. Almost every state has their own Master Naturalist training program

Take an online course on tree, fungi and wildflower id. 

Take an online course on designing with native plants.

Take a walk in your neighborhood and observe nature. To quote Joanna Brichetto in Sidewalk Nature "Look Around. Nature is here, is us, our driveways, our baseboards, parks, and parking lots."

Read! There are hundreds of books on gardening for wildlife, the environment, and rewilding our world. There are delightful blogs with wonderful and informative articles.

If you are already gardening with wildlife in mind then add a few signs that help educate your neighbors. (Xerces Society, Pollinator Partnership)

Join the Xerces Society.

Set up an information station where neighbors can pick up brochures about your garden and other info. 

Get certified (National Wildlife Federation, check to see what your state offers)

Support trees by joining the effort to make sure developers don't remove more trees than are necessary for their project. Work to make sure there are tree removal permits and that they are actually enforced in your community.

 

 

 

 

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.