ESCANABA – As the snow melts and warmer temperatures make us think about planting, Wild Ones is pleased to announce the release of seven 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, St. Louis, and Tallahassee. An eighth design for Boston is coming soon. Designs can be downloaded from the Wild Ones new website nativegardendesigns.wildones.org.
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 on reserves and parks; places we are going to visit, separated from our daily life. Tallamy stresses that we can no longer leave conservation to conservationists alone. Native plant gardens in our own backyards are our best hope for saving our environment.
Laurie Johnson, president of the Wild Ones Upper Central Peninsula local chapter, says the Minneapolis Garden showcases the plants best suited to the Upper Peninsula. The site provides practical and educational information on native landscaping, developed specifically for first-time native plant gardeners looking for help getting started. Each garden design includes a variety of beautiful, area-specific native plants that can be downloaded and easily printed out for quick reference when selecting plants at a local nursery. The website also features a list of nationwide nurseries that are great sources for obtaining native plants. The designs were created with the premise that using native plants in landscaping can be beautiful, promote wildlife, and be achievable for gardeners of all skills and budgets.
You don’t need to have a huge garden to use the designs. Gardens are designed to be built gradually, so you can add new areas and plants to suit your space, time, and funds. A patch of land around the base of a tree or around the corner can be a good place to start. Gardens also favor long, staggered flowering species, 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 high peninsula, it’s easy to think that we already have a lot of natural spaces. And compared to other areas, this may be true. However, have you noticed an abundance of monarch butterflies floating around last August and September? Indeed, our region, and the tip of the Stonington Peninsula in particular, is an important staging area for thousands of monarchs as they gather to begin their 2,000 mile journey to Mexico each fall. And locally, we can help them prepare for their long trip!
Johnson emphasizes the importance of providing flowering plants in late summer and fall to fuel the monarch’s journey south. Wildflowers such as ironweed, goldenrod, aster, flaming 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 life cycle – it is the only plant that the monarch caterpillars (larvae) feed on. Milkweed provides all the food the monarch needs to turn a monarch caterpillar into an adult butterfly. But milkweed is rapidly disappearing, due to habitat loss resulting from land use planning and widespread weedkiller spraying on the fields where it lives. It is easy to grow your own milkweed and there are many varieties available, some that thrive in full sun, humid conditions, and even very dry conditions.
In addition to native garden designs, Wild Ones also recently released a “Guide to the design of native gardens” both in print and digital format, full of useful planting information to help new native gardeners get started. To get a free copy of this beautiful booklet, contact Laurie Johnson at cu[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 inspire, encourage and motivate individuals across the United States on 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. “