Friday, July 10, 2009
We started making the shift to native plants for the usual reasons: they are easier to grow if chosen properly, and thus require fewer resources. Less water, no special treatments (read sprays and fertilizers). They will happily use up all the compost you can produce, and they produce food for birds and bees.
What we did not really expect, or think much about, was how quickly even small, properly sited and fairly diverse gardens could, well, become part of something larger. And I don't just mean that the Eupatoriums are all huge and sturdy, or that the Hierochloe odorata fills in all of the spaces where weedy invasive species might attempt to set root.
No, I mean that our small gardens have pulled in diversity of their own. First it was the insects: a katydid, caterpillars, butterflies, flys, bees, leafhoppers, beetles, fireflys. Then the birds: finches, sparrows, hummingbirds, grosbeaks, cardinals, grackles, even an oriole late last summer.
But even the plants, themselves, seem to be multiplying in their diversity. Are the gardens attracting other plants that fit in their place? Today, in the Ontario meadow flower garden, I discovered a plant apparently called Carpenter's Square. A five-foot tall, perfectly formed and now in flower Scrophularia marilandica, also called Maryland Figwort. (It is the tall spires at the center of the photo behind the Asclepias.)
How did it get here? We'll never know, but by chance I stumbled upon another Carpenter's Square this evening along the river bank, about six asphalt, cement, and turf-covered blocks away. Is the one here one of its descendants? The one that appeared here found the right place, among the Asclepias syriaca, Monarda fistulosa, Veronicastrum virginicum and Eupatorium maculatum. (That is, Milkweed, Wild Bergamot, Culver's Root and Joe Pye Weed).
Next time, I'll introduce the progress on Gracie's Ontario Snake (and Chipmunk) Preserve.