Flower Gardening for Earth Renewal
Attracting adult butterflies with popular annuals such as zinnias and Tithonia can be very fun. But if you want to actually support butterflies and other critters, provide food for their babies as well. Only native plants can do that, so adding them to your flower bed will not only bring color but will contribute significantly to the local ecosystem
A yellow cultivar of Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed) tucked in among the original ornamental plants
Connect your garden to the rest of the living world using three basic principles
1. Add native plants. A truly sustainable garden requires native plants, which are the basis of the entire ecosystem and which support the beneficial insects you need for a healthy environment.
2. Grow your soil. Soil is a dynamic thing, full of life and structure. Chemical additives disrupt the balance that allows soil to support your crops as well as other life. Use compost instead, and be aware that native plants do just fine in the native soil, if it was not stripped away during construction. Tilling is not generally recommended as it stirs up weed seeds and breaks down the soil structure.
3. Coexist. Embrace the invertebrate and vertebrate world alike. You can grow gorgeous flowers while minimizing the impact on the intricate interrelationships that are needed for the survival of us all. Spraying insecticides will defeat the purpose.
- Install the whole package to create an instant tableau.
For average garden soil:
Deer resistant sunny border - Baptisia australis, Coreopsis verticillata, Asclepias tuberosa
Sunny spring color - Phlox subulata, Aguilegia canadensis, Sisyrinchium angustifolium
Sunny summer butterflies - Coreopsis verticillata, Liatris spicata, Monarda didyma
Sunny fall color - Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, Solidago rugosum ‘Fireworks’, Rudbeckia fulgida
Shady border - Mertensia virginica, Aruncus dioicus, Actaea racemosa
Deer resistant shade garden - Polistichum acrosticoides, Dicentra eximia, Heuchera americana
Ornamental grasses (deer-resistant) - Schizachyrium scoparium, Panicum virgatum, Muhlenbergia capillaris
For wet areas:
Sunny and wet - Asclepia incarnata, Hibiscus moscheutos, Iris virginica
Shady and wet - Lobelia cardinalis, Monarda punctata, Phlox maculata
Healthy garden practices
Remove diseased plant material but otherwise leave plant stems and fallen leaves in place until April, then if desired cut the thicker stems back to 18 inches to provide homes for native bees. If you do need to cut back earlier, leave the cut stems in an out of the way spot so that overwintering beneficial insects survive until spring. Fallen leaves can stay in the garden bed - they provide homes for the larvae of butterflies and other insects and make a natural mulch. You can smother weeds in garden beds by placing newspaper down first and then layers of mulch on top. Cut seed heads off of weeds before they are dispersed by birds or wind.
Areas that have run-off issues can be gardened as vegetated swales. Instead of fighting against the path water/run-off as it mows through areas of your yard, follow the natural course of water and facilitate its flow with a vegetated swale that helps slow and percolate water as it travels.
Closeup of that same garden - Fritillary butterflies!
Normally Butterfly Weed is orange - a very showy and unusual color in the flower garden!
The gardens of the future!
As temperatures rise, we are increasingly likely to seek shelter in cool, green shade gardens. Contrasting foliage is the backbone of shade gardens, but there are plenty of native plants that can add other colors as well. See our page on shade gardens.