Our country home

Gardening for the future

Native plants bring back birds and pollinators


What lies ahead feels unstoppable. New evidence about the damage climate change will do constantly unfolds, and each choice that’s made has repercussions. It feels too big for small individual actions to make a difference.

But that’s not true. You can start with something as simple as a garden.

“As gardeners, we have an immense opportunity to make the world a better place,” Carolyn Summers, the landscape designer behind Flying Trillium Gardens and Preserve in Sullivan County, wrote in an email.

Sustainable gardens, according to the National Garden Clubs, work with natural surroundings “to contribute to a thriving ecosystem. Not only does maintaining a sustainable garden support long-term ecological balance,” it is fun, and the rewards are countless.

Sustainable gardens can be simple and traditional, something any of us can create.

The National Garden Clubs list what you need to consider:

  • Plant choice
  • Mindful design
  • Compost
  • Water conservation
  • Sustainable maintenance choices, including decisions on how to deal with waste and fertilizer

 “To garden sustainably is to forego the use of pesticides, lawn fertilizers and other harmful additives that kill wildlife, pollute waters and contribute to climate change,” Summers said.  “Sustainable practices promote harmony with nature.  Such practices include reducing lawn areas in favor of native trees, perennials and shrubs to provide food and shelter for wildlife.”

Her book, “Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East,” covers this in detail.

We can turn over some soil, add compost and drop in seeds. We can make gardens, even if our space is as small as a sunny window and a terra cotta pot.

In this issue of Our Country Home, we’ll start with plant choice.

That means native plants. Native plants are those that grew in a region before others were introduced. They were here first. “They are the ecological basis upon which life depends, including birds and people,” writes the New York Audubon Society in their article “Plants for Birds” (www.bit.ly/OCHplantsforbirds).

“Why native [plants]?” asks Summers.  “It is because we must rebuild food webs from the plants on up, from the smallest insects to our birds and other wildlife.” She cites entomologist Douglas Tallamy on the importance of native plants. “He believes that through individual actions, we can mitigate the damage we have done and restore healthy populations of wildlife.”

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