The Joys of a Native Garden

By SVT Director of Land Protection Christa Collins
Just this morning I received a newsletter from the Ecological Landscaping Association, which contained a link to a new set of guidelines published by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, called Conserving Bumblebees: Guidelines for Creating and Managing Habitat for America’s Declining Pollinators. It reminded me of a conversation I’d had earlier this summer with a friend in Vermont, who was telling me about an ongoing effort to survey bumblebees, which are believed to be in sharp decline across the state.
Though not native to North America, bumblebees are efficient pollinators, and as for many of our native species, habitat destruction and pesticides are taking a toll on their populations. I can start to get pretty down when I think about these things, but it only takes stepping out the front door of SVT’s office to start feeling a little better.
At this time of year, the Joe-Pye weed in our entry garden is about six feet tall and alive with pollinators – a few species of bee, Monarch butterflies, and several other flying things I couldn’t begin to identify. One of my favorite visitors to our gardens is the hummingbird moth, though I haven’t seen as many this summer.  In addition to the Joe-Pye weed, we have some other beautiful native plant such as Bee balm (Monarda) Black-eyed Susan, (Rudbeckia) and Wild Hyssop (Agastache).
Throughout this season of drought, our native garden has thrived with little more input from us than some mulch to keep the weeds down and the moisture in the soil. Compared to my vegetable garden at home, which has seen every pest and affliction under the sun this summer, it’s extremely gratifying to arrive at work to see a relatively low-maintenance, thriving landscape bursting with color throughout the summer.
There are so many native plants available at our local nurseries these days, there’s no excuse for not trying some out in the landscape. Even for non-gardeners, planting a few native shrubs or perennials around the yard can provide sustenance for pollinators, without whom we wouldn’t have much to eat!  Thank a bumblebee next time you see one.