Once hooked on wildlife gardening with native plants, it can be a real challenge to find native plants. Yes a few have been mainstreamed, and the nursery down the street may carry them. But beware of cultivars of native plants. Cultivars are plants created or selected for specific characteristics such as early blooming or color, often at the expense of nectar, berries (the plants may be sterile), and sometimes even the leaf chemistry is changed so the plant can no longer be used as a caterpillar plant. We (wildlife gardeners) want the nectar, the berries, and we want the leaf chemistry intact so our butterflies can create the next generation!
Be careful too that your plants are Neonicotinoid free. Neonicotinoids are systemic (get into every part of the plant, including pollen, nectar, even dew) pesticides that are applied to many commercially-available nursery plants and are harmful to bees, caterpillars, moths, and butterflies.
Educate yourself about Neonics by reading the following:
‘A car “splatometer” study finds huge insect die-off’
Nov. 13, 2019, by Damian Carrington, Environmental Editor, The Guardian
Measuring how many bugs fly into car windshields might sound silly. But to scientists predicting an “insect apocalypse,” the numbers are deadly serious.
“Birds are Vanishing from North America”
The number of birds in the United States and Canada has declined by 2.9 billion, or 29 percent, over the past 50 years (1970-2019), scientists find (Science, 2019).
WHAT WE CAN DO
Here are just a few of the things that each and every one of us can do:
Leave fallen leaves on the ground: they are full of insect life, they protect tree and shrub and perennial roots, they break down and naturally nourish your soil, and they prevent erosion
DO NOT USE Pesticides (including Organic) or Herbicides or synthetic Fertilizers
Turn outdoor lights OFF at night (use motion sensor lights instead)
Remove as many invasive plants as possible on your property
Share some of your native “Chocolate Cake” perennial divisions (that are also Keystone Species: Asters and Goldenrods, for example) with others to help get them hooked
Read and give Doug Tallamy’s books (Bringing Nature Home and Nature’s Best Hope) to family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors
Share all this with your neighbors, friends, co-workers, family
The Meadow Project (“Urban and Suburban Meadows” and “Hometown Habitat” by Catherine Zimmerman) shares an excellent state-by-state “Find Native Plants” link, with many additional sources of native plants.
Be sure to also check with your state’s Native Plant Society to see if they have a list of nurseries that carry native plants. The Native Plant Society of NJ’s Native Plant Nurseries list includes the percentage of natives that each nursery carries, so you can readily see which nurseries you can let your guard down in and which you need to pay sharp attention.
To help people find the top ranked plants in their county Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, is working with National Wildlife Federation on their Native Plant Finder website. In browsing this site, there are many, many plants for my own area (Cape May County, NJ) that I have been promoting for years and know to be TOP ranked plants that are not yet included . . . so keep checking back and realize that this is a work in progress.
Chris Clemenson of Clemenson Farms Native Nursery shared this exciting news:
“For years those of us who are part of the Native Plant Society of NJ have been trying to encourage retailers to recognize the need to offer native plants for the public. Please pass on the word to all your native plant friends that several of the ACE hardware stores in southern NJ will offer native plants for sale and at very reasonable pricing during a Memorial Day Weekend sale (and afterwards as long as supplies last).”
“Joe and Cindy Smith own the ACE hardware stores in Vineland, Egg Harbor Township, Northfield, Brigantine, and Galloway. Cindy is a bird enthusiast and has been offering lots of bird related products for years. Cindy attended one of Pat Sutton’s lectures and really got turned on to the idea of natives (she has been installing natives to transform her yard into a native bird habitat ever since). She’s passionate about getting the word out on the need to plant natives.”
“Please encourage folks to go and buy plants at these stores this weekend (and as long as supplies last) AND to be sure to thank the store manager for offering native plants!”
For their Ace Hardware 2015 Memorial Weekend Sale the following stores will have 3 different milkweeds (Butterfly Weed, Common Milkweed, and Swamp Milkweed), Wild Blue Indigo, and Coral Honeysuckle (grown by Clemenson Farms Native Nursery, so we know these plants are safe and neonicitinoids free) for the amazing price of $4.99. One other grower is supplying natives for this sale (not sure of their plant line up). In June these stores will host a Father’s Day Sale including more of Clemenson Farms Native Nursery plants including Seaside Goldenrod, New England Aster, Joe Pye Weed, Little Bluestem, Red Bee Balm, and Spotted Horsemint.
Here are the 5 ACE Hardware Stores in southern NJ where these native plants will be for sale during their 2015 Memorial Day Weekend Sale (and afterwards as long as supplies last):
My copy arrived earlier this week and I’m enjoying the book immensely. The authors walk us through and help us understand the layered landscape, something that so many gardeners don’t address, consider, or even know to think about.
I was guilty of it for years and am trying to rectify the situation by making some changes:
incorporate layers under the Tulip Tree that shades our house with understory shrubs and shade-loving wildflowers
incorporate shrub layers in my back side yard where previously lawn had reigned
and my biggest project has been our reclaimed woodland where previously Multiflora Rose grew so thick that there was no understory except for this non-native rose. The woods have given me immense pleasure as I experiment with new understory trees, shrubs, wildflowers, ferns, and grasses. I continue to be amazed by all the native plants that come up on their own (either planted by wildlife or from seeds in the soil that couldn’t survive previously because of the Multiflora Rose). For example, friends gave me 2 baby Willow Oaks and since then I’ve found 5 more that came up on their own.
If you’re intrigued,be sure to get Tallamy & Darke’s new book and digest it. It’s a gem!
Black Cherry, Prunus serotina, is one of THE most important trees for wildlife. I’ve watched 53 different species of birds feed on the fruits, including Black-throated Blue Warblers.
Learn why Black Cherry is a far better tree to plant than Bradford Pear by reading my latest column on the Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens website (where over 20 of us contribute educational and informative columns to guide and encourage wildlife gardeners, so they don’t make the same mistakes we did).
In southern New Jersey my favorite evergreen is Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana, for about a zillion reasons. I’ve watched 32 different species of birds feed on the fruits, including big flocks of Cedar Waxwings (so named because they favor Red Cedar fruits).