By Mary Glazer
People tend to think of nature as separate from their own gardens, like a forest, a sandy beach, or wildflowers growing in a pasture. But there’s no reason not to take a clue from natural settings, adding diversity to our yards. A landscape plan using a variety of trees, shrubs and flowers creates an environment with many rewards.
When I first got hooked on plants, it wasn’t long before I realized I had made some new friends. At first it was the two-legged variety: Neighbors who had been strangers would stop and talk with me while I was puttering in the yard, asking questions about my colorful flowers. Before long I also noticed a surge in butterflies, birds and bees, along with a lot of cool-looking insects. Then I noticed more lizards and frogs.
Over the years I decided winter had not officially yielded to spring, despite the calendar proclamation, until the first garter snake of the season appeared. As plants and wildlife evolved with each other, Mother Nature developed her own system of checks and balances, namely the food chain.
Without realizing it I had planted woody shrubs and small trees, which provide shelter and a place for birds to nest. Birdbaths or any containers on the ground afford necessary water. The bees come for the flower nectar and stay to pollinate. Beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings and parasitic wasps (natural enemies to aphids), keep unwanted insects in check. Larval (caterpillar) host plants, including milkweed (Asclepias), attract female monarch butterflies to lay their eggs in my yard.
When you think about the variety of plants growing in natural areas, it’s easy to see the value of diversity in our own landscapes. I almost never use pesticides or herbicides; I don’t need to. Mother Nature seems to have a better plan.