ESCANABA — As the days get longer and warmer temperatures turn our thoughts to planting, Wild Ones announces the release of nine professionally designed native garden plans free to the public. The designs are specific to different ecoregions across the country, including Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Toledo, Chattanooga, Boston, St. Louis, Denver, and Tallahassee. Designs can be downloaded from the Wild Ones’ new nativegardendesigns.wildones.org website.
Why, you might ask, are native plants and gardens important? That’s an excellent question. According to Doug Tallamy, author of “Nature’s Best Hope” and Honorary Director of Wild Ones, one of the biggest mistakes in our approach to conservation is the idea that “nature” is something set aside in reserves and parks; places that we are going to visit, separated from our daily lives. Tallamy points out that we can no longer leave conservation solely to environmentalists. Native plant gardens in our own backyards are our best hope for saving our environment.
Laurie Johnson, president of the Wild Ones Central Upper Peninsula Local, says the gardens in Minneapolis and Milwaukee feature the plants best suited to the Upper Peninsula. The site provides practical and educational information on native landscaping, developed specifically for beginning native plant gardeners looking for help getting started. Each garden design includes a variety of beautiful, region-specific native plants that can be downloaded and easily printed for quick reference when selecting plants from a local nursery. The website also features a list of national nurseries that are excellent sources for obtaining native plants. The designs were created on the premise that using native plants in landscaping can be beautiful, promote wildlife, and be feasible for gardeners of all skills and budgets.
You don’t need to have a huge garden space to use the grounds. Gardens are designed to be built incrementally, so you can add new areas and plants as your space, time, and funds allow. A patch of land around the base of a tree or a street corner can be a good place to start. Gardens also favor species with long, staggered blooms, not only to enhance the beauty of the garden, but also to provide pollen and nectar throughout the growing season.
Here in the heavily forested and relatively sparsely populated Upper Peninsula, it’s easy to think that we already have plenty of natural areas. And compared to other areas, that may be true. However, did you notice an abundance of monarch butterflies last August and September? Indeed, our region, and the tip of the Stonington Peninsula in particular, is an important staging area for thousands of monarch butterflies that gather to begin their 2,000 mile journey to Mexico each fall. And locally, we can help them prepare for their long trip!
Johnson stresses the importance of providing late summer and fall flowering plants to fuel the monarch’s journey south. Wildflowers such as ironweed, goldenrod, aster, blazing star, sunflowers and Joe Pye Weed are some of the best native fall nectar flowers for monarchs. And milkweed is also an important plant in the monarch’s life cycle – it’s the only plant that monarch caterpillars (larvae) feed on. The milkweed plant provides all the food the monarch needs to grow the monarch caterpillar into an adult butterfly. But milkweed is rapidly disappearing, due to habitat loss resulting from land development and widespread weed spraying of the fields where it lives. Growing your own milkweed is easy and there are many varieties, some that thrive in full sun, moist conditions, and even very dry conditions.
In addition to native garden designs, Wild Ones also recently published a “Native Garden Design Guide” both in print and digital format, full of useful planting information to help beginner native gardeners get started. For a free copy of the booklet, contact Laurie Johnson at [email protected] or 906-428-4358 and you will receive a copy in the mail.
Wild Ones executive director Jen Ainsworth explained “We hope these resources will inspire, encourage, and motivate individuals across the United States in their journeys to native gardens. Indigenous gardening not only provides beauty and respite in our personal spaces, but is an essential part of restoring natural landscapes and wildlife habitats.
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Wild Ones is a non-profit organization that promotes environmentally responsible landscaping practices to preserve biodiversity through the preservation, restoration and establishment of native plant communities. The Central Upper Peninsula Chapter of Wild Ones plans local action and educational activities to achieve these goals. For more information or to join the Wild Ones CUP Chapter, contact Laurie Johnson at [email protected] or 906-428-4358. Wild Ones does not receive government funding. It depends on membership fees, donations and donations from individuals to carry out its mission of healing the earth, one meter at a time.