Gardening season is upon us in northern New England. After another weird winter characterized by a series of freezes and thaws, and then a late winter rally of cold and snow in March, spring seems like it is finally here to stay. When considering perennials to enrich our landscape, the array of species at our fingertips is staggering. A trip to the local nursery will expose us to an impressive array of glossy-leaved, long flowering, insect-resistant plants from all over the world. Some of the most popular perennials are genetic anomalies, having double flowers, or leaves and/or flowers that are a different color than the original plant. In the case of double flowers, the pistils and stamen, the nectar and pollen producing parts, are replaced with showy petals. This renders the plant useless to pollinators like bees and butterflies. Right now your local nursery may be selling a sterile double-flowered bloodroot, a sumac with purple leaves, or an Echinacea with lime-colored flower petals. These are indeed flashy, but from an ecological standpoint, most of these plants are dead weight in the garden, as they contribute very little to the ecosystem.
Bumblebees and butterflies love Liatris pynostachya (Prairie Blazing Star)!
Despite all the eye candy available to us, many gardeners are starting to think more broadly when we plan our gardens and landscapes, beyond just aesthetics. Alongside our personal needs for food, medicine and beauty, the plants we grow can also serve the creatures that share this earth with us. The plants can provide food and shelter for pollinators, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds! Essentially our built […]