Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day June 2014

Last year I was able to convince my parent's to let me take over some lawn and start a native plant garden for wildlife. This is only the second and first season for many of these plants, but they've filled in nicely already.

These first pictures were taken earlier in the spring. Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) has such unusual leaves, flowers and seed pods. They have a tendency to seed all over the place, but are good early season color, often lasting for months. If you have a difficult spot in your garden, most likely columbine will grow there. Columbines flower just in time for migrating ruby throated hummingbirds to make their return to North America, and are one of their top ten favorite native plants.

Blue flag iris (Iris versicolor) is another adaptive plant. It prefers full sun and moisture, but tolerates considerable variation in conditions. It serves as the larval host for 17 lepidopterous species (butterflies, moths and skippers) and is one of the best native plants for for filtering out pollutants from soils.

The garden in it's second season. It's already beefed up considerably. This spring, the dense foliage served as cover for a mother rabbit to give birth to a baby bunny. Deep inside, there are tons of insects and arthropods living small, private lives.

I really like back-lit foliage, okay?

Later in the spring; this shows the seed heads of the wild columbine.

Non-native hybrid tea rose. I think it's "Peace"...It's been here for over a decade.

It already has black spot though. I'd get rid of the hybrid teas if I could. They don't add much to wildlife value and they always look so moldy and sketch by the end of our mid-Atlantic summers.

Mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) is without a doubt THE best pollinator plant I've ever seen. Plants in the mint family are usually good for attracting pollinators but the sheer quantity and variation in insects it draws in is incredible, many of which I had never seen before.

The leaves are sort of evergreen and smell like Vicks VapoRub.

This was taken today, June 15. Already things have shot up. It always amazes me how fast plants grow and how full of life everything is once the summer begins. The seed heads of river oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) have started to form. They creak and rattle when the wind blows. It also seeds super aggressively and has tough roots, which makes it a great plant for shoreline stabilization.

The ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) in the back is as tall as the light post. It can be cut back shorter, but I wanted to see how tall it can get on it's own. It hosts 19 lepidopterous species, which are the main food source of most songbirds. This is especially important at this time of the year when so many songbirds are nesting and raising young. Later in the year, arthropods will burrow into the stems to overwinter.

My favorite color is yellow, so I wanted lots of Black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia hirta). These plants are present throughout most of North America, which goes to show how adaptable they are. They host 17 lepidopterous species and produce tons of pollen and nectar. Later in the year, Goldfinches eat the seeds. I should mention that these plants are all ahead of schedule because I grew them from seed in a greenhouse over the winter. They would normally be blooming later in the summer. Growing plants from seed ensures maximum genetic variation, which is always beneficial to the continued survival and adaptability of a species.

I planted them with anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), another plant in the mint family. The leaves smell like licorice which deters mammalian herbivores and the flowers produce tons of nectar. Goldfinches go  crazy for the seeds of these guys too. The rudbeckias tend to attract a number of smaller flies and bees, while the hyssop brings in larger bumblebees and skippers.

I could watch pollinators for hours.

The mailbox bed has more of the same.

A Skipper of some sort.

Small pollinators on a mutant rudbeckia.

The adage is "If you build it, they will come" and this is certainly true with native plants.  Their presence is the difference between life and death, for they serve as the foundation for all food webs. I am only one very small person, but I have the power to change my environment for the better of other organisms around me. Collectively, if we all included native plants in our landscapes, we could repair so much of the destruction our species has wrought on this planet.

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