Wild Gardens – working with native plants

September 25, 2017 / The Farm

 

Guest Contributor: Karen Plá,

Boyds Maryland, September 23, 2017

Two years ago, I retired from federal service.  I wanted to volunteer my time in a meaningful way and had to look no farther than my own backyard which is the Black Hill Regional Park (BHRP) in Boyds, MD.  I visited the www.montgomeryparks.org website and found they were looking for volunteers to assist with gardening.  Since I have always enjoyed being outdoors and playing in the dirt, I recently began volunteering at Soleado Lavender Farm which allows me to channel my “inner farm girl”.

 

At the start of 2016, I began volunteering in the BHRP greenhouse, planting seeds, transferring them to larger pots, watering the seedlings and marveling at nature as the plants grew.  In late April, after a lot of tender loving care, the Friends of the Black Hill Nature Programs held its annual native plant sale and that’s when I discovered the importance of attracting pollinators to my garden and planting a habitat to support the pollinators.  I learned local wildlife often only eat native plants and berries they’ve eaten since the beginning of time.

 

Native plants occur naturally in a region where they evolved.  They adapt to local environmental conditions and require less water, time and money.  I have lived in Montgomery County for more than 20 years, and in Maryland much of my life, and never knew that many important pollinators are in decline due primarily to the loss of habitat.  I also learned there is an abundance of plants native to our area that provide food and shelter for bees, butterflies, birds, and other wildlife.

 

Since I had grown pretty tired of trying unsuccessfully to grow grass in my extremely hot and sunny front yard, and I wanted to attract birds and other wildlife to my yard, I decided to grow plants native to the Maryland region.  In the years since I bid farewell to my lawnmower, I’ve enjoyed having a garden that is host to nature’s “3Bs” – bees, butterflies, and birds.  I cannot stress strongly enough the ease of this type of gardening!  Traditional plants reward you with blooms for a couple of weeks per year and require a lot of watering, harmful weed killers and fertilizers.  Native plants grow in abundance, require zero care and provide a splash of color and focal interest year round.  They are adapted to our soil and climate so they often perform better than cultivated and hybrid varieties.  Gardening with locally native flowering plants has been immensely rewarding and fun.  It’s the best gardening you can choose to benefit your local pollinators.  I’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of bees, butterflies, dragonflies and hummingbirds, and it’s been a joy to watch them from my kitchen window.  If you want to give back to your community, plant a native species and create a habitat lost to new housing development and increased road construction.

 

Soleado Lavender Farm has set aside land and planted a wildflower area to serve as a pollinator habitat.  For those able to walk amongst the flowers growing wild in the meadow and around the pond, it’s exciting to hear the sound of bees, beetles and crickets and to see nature’s pollinators enjoying the nectar of the host plants.  The value of growing a variety of native flowering trees, shrubs, and wildflowers is that they bloom successively throughout the seasons, which allows the pollinators to forage for most of the year.  In particular, it ensures the farm’s honey bees, along with the native pollinators, have a source of food outside of the short lavender bloom season.  The wildlife benefits us all because of the invaluable ecosystem services they provide to the environment, and to our farms, forests, and gardens.

 

Visit Soleado Lavender Farm.  Come for the lavender and enjoy the wildflowers!  Experience the amazing natural habitat that we share with pollinators and flowering plants.

 

Photo Credit:  Karen Plá

Photo 1 – Thistle

Photo 2 – Black-Eyed Susan

Photo 3 – Horse Nettle

Photo 4 – Goldenrod

Photo 5 – Aromatic Aster

Photo 6 – Spotted Jewelweed/Touch-Me-Not

Photo 7 – Peppermint

Photo 8 – Purple Sneezeweed

Photo 9 – Queen Anne’s Lace

Photo 10 – New York Ironweed

Photo 11 – Goldenrod

Photo 12 – Blue Mistflower

Photo 13 – Dragonfly

Photo 14 – White Wood Aster

Photo 16 – Boneset

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