Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day Musings from Mother Nature

Today is Earth Day 2011, and it's time once again to give thanks to this planet that we call our home. Although Mother Nature speaks to us in many ways, I think we sometimes forget to listen. Awhile back I wrote a post on Mother Nature, and I think its message is especially appropriate today. I hope you will ponder these Earth Day musings from Mother Nature, and take to heart a few when making your choices everyday:

1. Please don't try to second guess me - if you took the age of every living thing on earth, and added them up, I would be millions of years older then the total. So, I think I might know a thing or two about how the earth is supposed to function and grow, and will teach you if you only stop and listen.

2. I live everywhere - from the tallest mountain to the lowest valley, from the hottest desert to the coldest oceans. Please be a nice guest in my house, or it could soon become inhospitable. I may have to ask you (not so politely) to leave.

3. I am happy to share my bounty with you, but I ask that you don't take advantage of my generosity. Rather, only take as much as you need, and leave some for the rest of the world and its offspring.

4. I love creepy crawlies, including snakes, spiders, beetles, and all of the other things that most people are afraid of. So the next time you think about squishing, poisoning, or otherwise getting rid of them please remember they are dear to my heart.

5. Although it is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, nothing artificial can compare to the magnificent sunsets, flowers, mountains, streams and animals that I have given you, so please treat them with care.

6. I am the original creator of diversity. Meadows, forests, oceans, and plains have thousands of inhabitants who all are part of a complex ecosystem working together. Monocultures have no place in my plans. You can learn a lot about diversity simply by studying them.

7. The soil of the earth is made up of trillions of living, breathing organisms. Pick up a handful of nice, crumbly soil, and you are holding billions of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes. Not to mention worms, centipedes, ants, beetles, and other scavengers of the soil. Do you really want to destroy all that just by tilling?

8. I am a peace lover. There is nothing as peaceful as the sound of the waves, the silence of the star filled night sky, the breath of the cool breeze, or the sight of a flower slowly opening.

9. I am quick to cause destruction. Volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, drought, wildfires all come quickly and many times without warning.

10. I am a lover of all living things. Please help all things live to their fullest potential. I will be forever thankful to you and reward you with beauty and bounty.

So there you have it, right from Mother Nature herself!

If you want to find Earth Day Events in your area, or to pledge your "Act of Green" go to Earth Day 2011's "A Billion Acts of Green" website and also check my "Acts of Green" post at Wildlife Garden.

For many more wonderful posts on what gardeners from around the globe are doing to help our planet earth, please visit Jan Huston Doble's website "Thanks for today" and see the Sustainable Living Project 2011

May your Earth Day (and year) be filled with the beauty and bounty of nature. Every Day should be Earth Day and every little bit we can do helps!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Journey to Native Plants

Finding this native beauty out in the wild 
makes you want to plant it in your yard.
But will it grow there, and is it beneficial to your area?

There's so much talk about native plants versus ornamentals these days. Which is better, why we should care, how do we plant them, where do we get them? These are all questions asked by gardeners all around the globe, and in many cases there are no easy answers. Sometimes, it's so overwhelming that the easiest way to deal with it is not to deal with it at all. But if we step back and think about all of the good reasons for natives, many of us will see that stepping into that new realm is well worth the journey. The trip doesn't have to happen overnight either, it can be a long, slow stroll from the ornamental "park" to the native "wilderness".  Once you get to the wilderness, you'll wonder why you took so long to get there.

This cactus is native to my area and grows nicely in my gardens.
It needs more care though than other non-native plants, 
and provides little for pollinators. It's also prickly and somewhat 
dangerous to work around. So, is it the best choice?

This bed of Creeping Phlox is also in my gardens. It's not native
to my area, but provides food for many types of pollinators, cover
for beetles, roly-poly bugs and other insects, shades the ground,
and conserves moisture. Should I remove it because it's not
a native? Good question, sure to bring on discussions!

There are many "tour guides" to help you on your journey. Books, societies, presentations, classes and websites all have enormous amounts of information to map out your route. Not to mention your neighbors, friends and family who already have done some of the legwork for you. I fall into several of these categories, and write with a wonderful group of nature loving, wildlife gardeners at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. We love natives, but at the same time recognize that it is in fact a journey, not a 100 yard dash to get there.

Taking a hike among native plants usually brings about a strong
reaction one way or another. It's helpful to remember to take away 
images of what you see, and then apply some of them to your garden

So what are some of the day trips to take before you make the long journey to native land? Many of them are easy and help you glimpse what's possible in your own yard:

  • Visit an open space near your house. This can be a formal open space with trails, signs and helpful maps, or simply a uninhabited area that's wild. When you get there, notice what grows where and how the different plants support pollinators, birds and animals. What types of soils do you see? How much sun is there? Does this resemble your yard?
  • Take a class. There are many classes available that give you an introduction to native plants and natural ecosystems. You don't need a formal education in horticulture or botany to enjoy learning about the basics. Who knows, you might enjoy it so much you want to learn more.
  • Visit a yard near you that has something other than lawn and ornamentals. Depending on where you live, this might take a bit of time to find, but you'll be surprised at how gracious most gardeners are when asked about their gardens. The most they can say is "no" and then you move on to the next one.
  • Get a group of your friends together and visit a park. Take lots of pictures and bring them back to have a discussion on what it would take to implement some of the wonders of nature in your yards. Group gardening makes tasks go quicker, you can purchase things in bulk, and bouncing ideas off others helps you with creativity. 
  • Most importantly, don't beat yourself up about not having native plants in your gardens. Just thinking about planting more of them is a start. Planting for pollinators, wildlife and nature doesn't mean an all or nothing commitment. I have many ornamentals in my gardens which happily thrive side-by-side with my natives. Both types are chosen for their positive contributions to pollinators, their non-aggressive nature, and their ability to grow in a sustainable gardening environment.
These rose hips come from a Morden Centennial Rose, not native but it
provides food for animals, flowers for pollinators, and beauty for me.
The clincher is that it's hardy to -30 degrees F, important at 7300'.

Now that I've given you a few ideas, I hope you will take the first steps on your journey into the land of native plants, and if you need a guide I would be honored to help you get there! Because just like you, my native plant journey is far from over. I just need to find more room in my gardens, or get rid of some ornamentals.

If you'd like to join in some discussions between native and non-native fans, please join my good friend Carole Browne over at Ecosystem Gardening.  She explains the plusses so much better than I ever could and I look to her expertise as much as I can.
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