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

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Wildflower Wednesday: June Blooms and Their Pollinator Visitors


  I appreciate all the pollinators at Clay and Limestone, but, my favorite has always been Bumbles.

We moved into this house in early fall 3 dozen years ago. The yard was a mess and there were no real garden beds, but the Summer Phlox and blue wood aster were still blooming. I was captivated by the Bumbles who were actively working the flowers as much as I was by the flowers. Those bumbles stole my heart. Over the years I noticed how hard they worked in the garden. They were the first pollinators up and about each morning and the last to leave each night. I found them sleeping on flowers on cool mornings and watched them nectaring and gathering pollen on the last of the latest blooming ex-asters in November. They were a joy to watch and I wanted to learn all about them. (from earlier post) 

Many years later and Bumbles still make me smile, but, so do a dozen other pollinators. To celebrate June Wildflower Wednesday and Pollinator Week here are more wildflowers and their pollinator visitors.

Phlox paniculata and a Carpenter bee

 


 Although, Bumbles are hard workers, they are not the only active garden visitors. When the Bumbles are slow to arrive Eastern Carpenter bees are out and about visiting some of the earlier flowers.  They are generalist foragers and are known to pollinate garden crops and garden plants. Who could not love these giant beauties. The menacing/dive bombing carpenter bee you encounter is only protecting a nest. It's a male drone and he's all buzz and no sting! In the photo above you can see them "nectar robbing" Phlox.

The first Phloxes in this garden were here when I arrived. They were the offspring of whatever the previous gardeners might have planted 30+ years ago and were all wonderful magenta flowered beauties. They are still here, well, the offspring of the offspring are still here and after years of letting species and cultivars go to seed, real treasures have been produced in the crossings of the crossings.

 Butterflies, moths (including Hummingbird and Sphinx moths) and skippers are the primary pollinators of phlox. Their proboscis are long enough to reach the nectar at the base of the narrow phlox corolla and pollen is carried to the next flower. In fact, Phlox has all the characteristics of a classic butterfly nectar flower.

  • clustered flowers with a landing platform
  • brightly colored
  • open during the day
  • ample nectar producer 
  • nectar deeply hidden in corolla

 Silvery Checkerspot on Gloriosa Daisy. 



 

The Gloriosas have most of the characteristics of their Rudbeckia hirta parent, except the flowers are three times as large and their colors are mixtures of pure yellow or bicolored, many with dark mahogany red splotches at the base of the petals. Yes, I do love the many colorful varieties and  the big flowers, but I also love that they're all rough and tumble flowers that can take the heat and humidity of our Middle South summers and continue to bloom until frost (deadhead them).  Gloriosa Daisies do very well.  

Butterflies, bees of all sizes, wasps, beetles and even little loper caterpillars rely on the many Susans for food, and shelter.  Plant them in your garden and sit back and watch the pollinators. I've already seen small Carpenter Bees, Green Metallic bees, Bumbles and skippers visiting the flowers to feed and/or gather pollen.  Above photo: Silvery checkerspots which can be seen in meadows and forest openings.

  Partridge Pea  and Bumbles


First, cool thing: Those cool flowers, that the bumbles make a mad dash for every morning, have no nectar, only pollen. The bees are attracted to the food pollen on the purple anthers, and get dusted with the reproductive pollen from the yellow anthers. Nature is amazing and plant reproduction is so cool. Second, cool thing: Partridge Peas are not nectarless. Nectar is produced at the base of the leaf in tiny, reddish-orange glands called nectares. Ants visit them regularly. Third cool thing: These are annuals and they will always be in your garden because they seed about so beautifully. Fourth cool thing: They're the larval host for  Cloudless giant sulphur, Orange sulphur, Sleepy orange butterflies. See photo of Sulphur on Coneflower later in post.

 Mountain Mint and a fly


 The flowers of Pycnanthemum muticum might be small, but they are mighty!

The researchers at Penn State's The Pollinator Trial  found that Clustered Mountain Mint was the best plant for flowering longevity; for pollinator visitor diversity; for sheer number of insect visitors (78); and, for sheer number of bee and syrphid visitors. 

...and yes, it's a mint so be prepared for it to move across your garden!

 

Ruellia strepens and a butterfly

 


Much to my sorrow, I have never, ever seen pollinators on a blooming flower, but, I've read that long tongued bees, miner bees, carpenter bees and parasitic bees are its primary pollinators. Apparently, fertilization has been very successful in my garden, because the progeny is all over. Maybe, the pollinators are sneaking visits when I am inside. But, it's more likely as Researchers at a college in Missouri, discovered: flowers of R strepens open during the early morning dark hours, allowing pollination by moth species. That's good to know. According to another source the lavender-blue trumpets attract hummingbirds and butterflies, too. Here's a link to a site with a bee foraging on the flower! Let me tell you, I was thrilled to find it!

 

Asclepias speciosa bumble and Eastern Tiger swallowtail


  "Common milkweed is Nature's mega food market for insects. Over 450 insects are known to feed on some portion of the plant. Numerous insects are attracted to the nectar-laden flowers and it is not at all uncommon to see flies, beetles, ants, bees, wasps, and butterflies on the flowers at the same time. Occasionally hummingbirds will try, unsuccessfully, to extract nectar. Its sap, leaves and flowers also provide food. In the northeast and midwest, it is among the most important food plants for monarch caterpillars (Danaus plexippus). Other common feeders are the colorful (red with black dots) red milkweed beetle (Tetraopes tetraophthalmus), the milkweed tussock caterpillar (Euchaetes egle) and the large (Oncopeltus fasciatus) and the small (Lygaeus kalmia) red and black milkweed bugs. The latter two are particularly destructive as both the adults and nymphs are seed predators. They can destroy 80 to 90 percent of a colony's seed crop. The red (or orange-red) and black coloration of most of these insects is known as aposematic coloration; that is, the colors advertise the fact that the organism is not good to eat." Source

...and yes, this is an aggressive plant, so plant it where it can move around all it wants/can.

 

Spiderwort  and a bumble


 

I love my garden in the early morning. Once the sun has made it past the trees, it begins to spot light the shadier garden nooks. Tradescantia look their best in that cool morning sun. The sun light makes those feathery violet hairs glow. Later in the day they're washed out by the hot, bright light, but that is the case for many delicate flowers. Spiderworts are pollinated by bumbles and that makes me really happy. Beautiful and unique flowers that are not terribly temperamental about soil. They come in a kaleidoscopic palette of sumptuous colors. If tamed with a cutting back the plants can bush out and possibly rebloom.

...and yes, some can be aggressive. I don't care, I adore them.


 Hydrangea arborescens and a bumble


 I love watching the Bumbles work a Hydrangea arborescens flower. They move so fast it's nearly impossible to get a good photo.  Hydrangea arborescens, commonly known as smooth hydrangea or wild hydrangea, is a gangly limbed deciduous shrub with large, opposite, toothed leaves and grayish stems. The dome shaped flower head is composed of sterile and fertile flowers that begin to bloom in June in my garden. It's native to woodland slopes, hillsides and stream banks in the Eastern US. I adore it.

Most of you know I garden for wildlife, so the wildlife value of plants I bring into the garden are important. Wild hydrangeas have pretty good wildlife value: they're pollinated by many species of native bees and beetles and it's a host plant for two moths, Darapsa versicolor/Hydrangea Sphinx Moth and Olethreutes ferriferana/Hydrangea leaf-tier moth. I love that little carpenter bees (Ceratina spp.), Halictid bees, masked bees (Hylaeus spp.), miscellaneous wasps, mosquitoes, Syrphid flies, thick-headed flies, Muscid flies, dance flies (Empis spp.), tumbling flower beetles, and long-horned beetles (source) visit the flowers, but, watching a bumble bee race back and forth is fabulous.

Echinacea purpurea: Imperfection doesn't stop a pollinator

Not one of these critters is bothered by the imperfect chewed on petals.
The Cloudless Sulphur butterfly still sips nectar and bumbles collect pollen even on damaged flowers.

We've been convinced by advertising that a garden should be perfect and that insects are harmful and must be eliminated or they will damage our flowering plants and make them ugly. I encourage everyone to reconsider beauty and to begin to appreciate the insect damaged plant as providing food for a critter that may in turn be food for a spider, another insect or a song bird. 

 A friend told me she use to pull the caterpillars off her fennel before she knew they were Swallowtail butterfly cats. I told her what they were! New gardeners need to make sure ugly bugs aren't beneficial insects before you pluck them off or squish them. Some of the "good bugs" include lacewings, lady beetles, minute pirate bug, soldier bugs, assassin bugs, braconid wasps, tachinid flies, flower flies and aphid mites. Their larva aren't always attractive!

So embrace imperfection in your garden!


  • 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 poison flowers and kill our important garden visitors.
  • You can let nursery managers know that you don't need or expect them to offer "perfect plants" that have pre-treated with insecticides (often neonicotinoids).
  • You just have to do it!

 Your garden will not be magazine perfect, but, pollinators don't care if your flower petals are chewed on.  They need flowers bursting with pollen and nectar. Your garden will be teeming with life. Spiders will build webs; the beneficial insects will keep aphids in check; pollinators will pollinate; and, birds will hunt the insects.

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

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

 

I am so glad you stopped by. xoxogail

 

 

Want pollinators?~~Here's what we can do:

  • Plant many different flowers that bloom over the entire growing season to encourage different native bees to move into your garden.
  • Plant flowers in drifts....It increases pollinator efficiency and looks prettier!
  • Plant the pollinator power house wildflowers for your neck of the woods.
  • Plant night blooming and fragrant flowers.
  • Make peace with weedy lawn natives.
  • Let our gardens be a little messy, so that there are nesting places and shelter.
  • If you want to encourage a diversity of pollinators~~ you will need to provide open areas (e.g. bare earth, large stones) where butterflies, may bask, and moist soil from which they may get needed minerals. 
  • Accept that not all pollinators are pretty and not all are well behaved; Wasps! Beneficial insect larva.
  • Accept that when we invite pollinators into the garden, plants will get eaten and look ratty for awhile.
  • Remember birds and bats! Leave the insects alone.
  • Provide a water source with easy access for pollinators.
  • Plant oaks and other trees that support a lot of pollinators.
  • NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER USE PESTICIDES. I MEAN NEVER!
Welcome to Wildflower Wednesday. It's the fourth Wednesday of each month and time to celebrate wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. I am always glad when you stop by and I so appreciate when you make a comment.

 

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 25, 2022

Wildflower Wednesday: Amorpha fruticosa, Another Fabulous Fabaceae

I purchased bare rooted False Indigo on a whim last fall. I bought three because three is the number that is stuck in my head when buying plants! I had no idea where in the garden I would plant them, so I soaked the roots and planted them in quart sized containers and let them over winter.

I completely forgot them until the classic pinnately compounded leaflets that screamed "I am a member of the Pea family" emerged. Then I began imagining all the different fab Fabaceaes I might be growing.

 

more identifying  clues emerged

It wasn't too long after the plants had fully leafed out before the narrow racemes developed. A few weeks later the blooms began opening from the bottom up (acropetal development). I knew by then that it was Amorpha fruticosa and I was thrilled.


I don't know about you, but I think they have the most incredible blooms. The racemes have dense clusters of deep purple flowers with gold stamens. But don't expect a classic pea flower from this Fabaceae. False indigo's flower has a single petal, other members of the pea family have the distinctive banner, wings and keel. 

 It was easy to see why I bought them in the first place. I hoped they would find a place in my garden and attract even more pollinators.

love the blue at the top

The blooms lasted for about 2 weeks and I saw little sweat bees visiting it. I am convinced the shrub would bloom more and last longer if they were happily in the ground. But, I still didn't know where in my garden they would go.

Photo Karin Hicks-Southern Meadows

I did know that they needed more room for their thick roots and rhizomes, so I planted them in a giant container with good clay soil and mulch to keep it moist and pondered their future.


 

False Indigo is a 6-10 ft., loose, airy deciduous native shrub in the Fabaceae (pea/bean) which often forms dense thickets. It is typically found growing in moist open woodlands, roadsides, canyons, floodplains, gravel bars, stream and pond banks, and along swamp edges.  Dear Reader, please note that this is not at all what Clay and Limestone is like making placement in my garden even more difficult.  Further reading revealed that because it's tolerance of a large range of soil types one can plant it in full sun to partial shade in moist to dry soil. Partial shade is especially needed if garden soil is on the dry side.  One grower says it's a tough plant for a tough place. So, maybe, it could be happy here?

We will have to see. I am still pondering where to plant it and it's already way too hot to plant out in my middle Tennessee garden.

 The Particulars

Botanical name: Amorpha fruticosa 

Common names: Bastard Indigo, False Indigo, Indigo Bush, 

Phonetic Spelling:  ah-MOR-fah froo-tih-KOH-sah

Family: Fabaceae

Habit: Deciduous shrub with thick roots and rhizomes.  

Description: Stems - Ascending, woody, to 2 m, branched, multiple, glabrous, or young branches pubescent.  Leaves - Alternate, odd-pinnately compound, with petiole to 3 cm. Leaflets typically oblong, to 40 mm long, entire, mucronate, opposite, glabrous above, pubescent underneath. Inflorescence - Terminal and axillary racemes to 18 cm long. Pedicels 1-2 mm long (source)

 

 

Flowers: Calyces 5-lobed, the tube 2.0-2.4 mm long, the lobes 0.2-1.0 mm long, the lowermost lobe conspicuously longer than the other 4 lobes. Corollas not papilionaceous, the single petal 4-5 mm long, 2.5-3.0 mm wide, obovate, arched, folded around the stamens and pistil, dark bluish purple to dark purplish blue. Stamens 10, exserted, with the free portion of the filaments 3-4 mm long, the anthers yellowish orange to orange. Ovary superior, 1-2 mm long, usually glabrous, the style 4-5 mm long, exserted, glabrous or more commonly with ascending hairs. (source)

Flowering: Depends upon where you garden. In middle Tennessee they bloomed in April and early May, zones 6 and cooler much later.

Habitat: Moist ground, gravel bars. Also cultivated. 

Fruits: Modified legumes to 7 mm long, glabrous or sparsely pubescent, strongly exserted beyond persistent calyx, prominently pustular gland-dotted, 1-seeded. Seeds 3.5-4.0 mm long, 1.4-1.6 mm wide, tan to reddish brown. (source)

Distribution: AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WI, WV, WY. origin is southeastern states



Wildlife Value: Flowers attract butterflies, nectar-bees, and other pollinator insects. It is a larval host for the California & southern dogfaces, Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus), Gray hairstreak, Hoary edge skipper. Foliage browsed by small mammals. Photo below is of a White Marked Tussock Moth. Thanks Karin Hicks for this photo and your others.
 
Photo Karin Hicks-Southern Meadows

Comments: It is great for erosion control, windbreaks, and screens. It is usually found in areas near water, such as margins of ponds and sloughs.  The plant does well in gardens; however it is considered an invasive exotic in parts of New England and the Northwest, where it is not native. It is not native in Washington and much of the Pacific Northwest, Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. It is a prohibited species in Maine and Connecticut and is considered an invasive species in Connecticut and Washington.  It can propagate clonally from vegetative fragments, such as roots and stems, deposited in flooding events. Think carefully where you plant it.



Don't forget our Wildflower Wednesday monthly challenge!  The first part of this challenge is to do something every month during 2022 that supports native wildflowers, pollinators, and the critters that visit and rely on our gardens. The second part of the challenge is to post about it somewhere: Your blog, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or even your neighborhood listserve. 

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 that live all around us. 

An incomplete list of things you might consider doing or changing in your garden

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

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.

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

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.

Make a brush pile. Stack fallen brush, cut tree limbs, broken pots for ground beetles. Ground beetles are excellent at eating "bad bugs'. They're 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 bird food!

Add nesting boxes for birds.

Plant shrubs and small trees that provide berries and nuts.

Keep a nature journal: Observe visitors to the 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.

Join WildOnes even if there's no local group.

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

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."

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

Read nature books to your children and grandchildren. 

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 live in Nashville join the Facebook ReWild Nashville Group!

 


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,  I am not using Mr Linky.

Keep gardening and keep positive,

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, April 27, 2022

Wildflower Wednesday: Nothoscordum bivalve


 Like a few of my favorite wildflowers, this one was first spotted in my way back backyard many moons ago! It was growing in full sun (before the trees leafed out) where the soil is wet in the winters and dry in the summers. I knew immediately that it was something special with its fresh white flowers. It looked like a wild Allium, but the scent was not at all like an onion or garlic; it was sweet and worth crawling on my hands and knees to get a good sniff. Of course, I looked it up in my wildflower guide. Turns out this wild garlic looking plant is Nothoscordum bivalve a native member of the Amaryllidaceae (Amaryllis or Narcissus family). Once upon a time it was in the Lily family.

The word Nothoscordum is derived from the Greek word Nothos meaning “false” and Scordum, meaning garlic. Individual plants are about a foot high with a single smooth hollow stem/scape that emerges from an underground bulb. Each plant also has several long, grass-like leaves that emerge from the base of the plant. Mature clumps can reach up to 16" tall and spread to fill an 8" area. The scapes can reach up to 16" tall and are topped with an umbel of 4-8 small, upward-facing flowers in spring. The 0.5" wide flowers are made up of six white tepals with yellow tinged bases. MOBOT

 

hollow stem, grass like leaves and umbel flowers

 

It is native to the eastern United States from Texas to Florida up to Nebraska and Ohio, as well as Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, northeastern Argentina and central Chile where it grows in open woods, savannas, glades, barrens, and prairies. 

I've seen it in yards all over our neighborhood, but only where they never fertilize, just mow.  It is common in thin dry soils (my yard) and can be found blooming in early spring in cedar glades in middle Tennessee. In an open field about a mile from my house Nothoscordum bivalve is growing near Lime stonecrop (Sedum pulchellum), Glade sandwort (Arenaria patula) and Glade-Cress (Leavenworthia).*

So what does Nothoscordum bivalve offer? 

  • The flowers are an important early pollen and nectar source for bees, butterflies and other insect pollinators. 
  • beauty
  • a sweet scent 
  • second bloom is possible in the fall 
  • it requires no maintenance in a freedom lawn
  • it's part of a healthy ecosystem

in a freedom lawn

 

 The Particulars

Common Name: false garlic, crow poison

Type: Bulb 

Family: Amaryllidaceae 

Former name: Allium striatum  

Native Range: Eastern USA, Southern North America, South America 

Zone: 5 to 9 

Height: 0.75 to 1.25 feet 

Spread: 0.25 to 0.75 feet 

Bloom Time: March to May 

Bloom Description: White with yellow tinged bases 

Sun: Full sun to part shade 

Soil: Found on both acidic and calcareous substrates

Water: Dry to medium 

Maintenance: Low 

Comments: Will naturalize. Poisonous...do not eat. Will tolerate drought, dry, rocky and shallow soil

Wildlife value: It is a favorite nectar source for small butterflies such as the falcate orangetip. The nectar of the flowers attracts cuckoo bees (Nomada spp.), green metallic bees (Augochlorella spp.) and other Halictid bees, Andrenid bees (Andrena spp.), bee flies, and small to medium-sized butterflies. One of the Andrenid bees, Andrena nothoscordi, is a specialist pollinator (oligolege or monolege) of False Garlic (Nothoscordum bivalve). This bee and other small bees also collect pollen from the flowers. Syrphid flies may visit the flowers occasionally to feed on the pollen, but they are less effective at cross-pollination. White-tailed Deer have been observed to feed on the foliage of False Garlic in areas of south Texas with loam or clay-loam soil (Chamrad & Box, 1968), although some authors consider this plant to be poisonous (Pammel, 1911). There is also sophisticated archaeological evidence that prehistoric people, thousands of years ago, cooked the bulbs of this plant in rock ovens in east Texas (Short et al., 2015). (source)

 

Sally and Andy Wosowski

*Long time readers know that this garden has given me a wealth of small ephemeral and perennial wildflowers. Downy Woodmint, Blue-eyed grass, Western Daisy, Penstemon calycosus , Woodland Carex, Fleabanes, Ragwort, several Ruellias, Phacelias, Toothworts, Dutchman's breeches, Rue anemone and False rue anemone and Trilliums.  All these wildflowers point out what a rich woodland this neighborhood had once been. Neighbors who live on or near the ridges know exactly what I mean. In their yards you'll find Hydrangea arborescens, woodland Phlox, Trillium, Toad lilies, and many more wildflowers that are too often thought of as weeds, but, are valuable to the critters who live and visit our gardens. They mourn along with me the loss of habitat due to the new builds. Yes, there was habitat loss when these houses were built in the early and mid 50s, but, they left rich pockets of woodlands where wildflowers survived. Now entire acres of trees, understory shrubs and ephemerals are being bulldozed for giant starter castles with their monoculture lawns.

Many of us watch the destruction with dismay and continue to plant as many natives as we can. Our hope is that our yards will be teaching grounds for younger people moving in the neighborhood, as well as a refuge for the critters who are losing their woodlands. 

I started Wildflower Wednesday to introduce native wildflowers to others in the hope that they would appreciate their beauty and their wildlife value and be moved to plant them in their gardens and yards. 

Stories celebrating wildflowers are needed now more than ever. It is alarming to watch the full scale destruction of habitat in my city and all around the country. It seemed a good time for a challenge to my readers. A two part challenge! 

The first part of this challenge is to do something every month during 2022 that supports native wildflowers, pollinators, and the critters that visit and rely on our gardens. Activities that increase our knowledge of the natural world are equally as valuable. The second part of the challenge is to post about it somewhere: Your blog; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and especially, your neighborhood listserve. 

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 that live all around us. Perhaps we can inspire those new to the neighborhood to decrease the size of their lawns and add more gardens.

An incomplete list of things you might consider doing or changing in your garden

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

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.

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

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.

Make a brush pile. Stack fallen brush, cut tree limbs, broken pots for ground beetles. Ground beetles are excellent at eating "bad bugs'. They're 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 bird food!

Add nesting boxes for birds.

Plant shrubs and small trees that provide berries and nuts.

Keep a nature journal: Observe visitors to the 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.

Join WildOnes even if there's no local group.

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

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."

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

Read nature books to your children and grandchildren. 

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 live in Nashville join the Facebook ReWild Nashville Group!

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,  I am not using Mr Linky.

Keep gardening and keep positive,

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.