Monday, April 2, 2012

Why Do We Garden?

Bay Area perennial Blue eyed Grass blooming 

I am curious "why do we garden?"  Each of you?  Me?  I am working on an article on the evolution of MuRefuge and her garden which all began in 1993.  What had I brought to the table so to speak? What did the land offer? What resources were available? . . . in the beginning.  And now almost 20 years later I ask the same questions.  The evolution here is now more focused on a living ecosystem or whole ecology.  The plants have changed.  The visitors (insects, birds, mammals, etc.) are more varied and abundant.  My focus (on gardening) has expanded immensely from the Midwestern monocropping childhood experience.

So I am curious about others' answer to the question?  Please, if leaving a comment does not work for you, just email me.

And here's a copy of an editorial I have submitted to the Sonoma West Times and News in response to an article on the front page of The Living section of our weekly newspaper.  Your thoughts on this perspective would be welcome as well!  And of course, feel free to express your own perspective on habitat gardening.

I want to provide another perspective from the one presented in “Bringing Pollinators to the Garden: Plantings  that create habitat” (March 29) which primarily focused on nonnatives plants and visiting pollinators.  Creating a habitat for winged BEings, from my viewpoint, is about whole ecology, aka living ecosystem, in other words providing what insects and hummingbirds have evolved with.  While nonnative plants may provide nectar for butterflies, they do not provide choice vegetation for hibernation nor food, particularly in the case of caterpillars.  Food plants are butterfly specific: monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed, and since our Western monarchs migrate within California, the desired milkweed is local native varieties; the Pipevine Swallowtail lays her eggs on the California Pipevine which is the food plant for the hatched caterpillar; the Anise Swallowtail prefers the native Coastal Angelica and Yampah but has adapted to its cousins, culinary parsley, both culinary and wild fennel; and on goes the list.
While it is true butterflies like flower “pads” , a gardener in the know does not have to plant the Butterfly Bush which is an exotic originating in China.  It is a “weedy colonizer” and invasive weed causing serious problems for the migrating salmon here on the West Coast.  The beautiful local Buckeye tree provides nectar during its blooming cycle as do the numerous varieties of California wild lilacs(Ceantothus).  Native sunflowers, buckwheat, elderberry, gum plants (Grindelia) and asters as well all provide nectar throughout the butterflies’ short life.
And did you know that the California native bunch grasses are food plants for certain butterflies?
Tidy Tips, a California native annual (start from seed purchased from Larner Seeds), blooming amidst
recently planted Red Fescue which was started from seed gathered here at MuRefuge 
Toxic sprays, including but not limited to Roundup, do (not “can”) kill caterpillars and without caterpillars, no butterflies.  Good old fashioned weeding is the best way to rid your garden of 
undesired plants.
Now hummingbirds with their long bills, they like different kind of flowers.  We have a year round resident, Anna’s Hummingbird, for which manzanita varieties provide nectar during the Winter.  With just a bit of sunshine during and after the rains, the Fushsia flowering Gooseberry bursts with tubular red flowers to which the Anna’s flock.  Native penstamons and columbines provide nectar during the Summer months.   In the last week or so the Allen’s Hummingbirds have returned to our West Sonoma County site, so other species will soon follow just in time to enjoy the blossoms of the Twinberry (a native honeysuckle shrub) and a bit later the wild honeysuckle vine.  And an added later bonus is berries available for birds!
And I must say, before I removed 4 varieties of Camellias from my garden, no native bees visited
the flowers.  Camellia flowers occur mostly in the Winter when our native bees are mostly resting.
As I visit and drive through/around Sebastopol I see very few native plants.  New buildings go up, old buildings are rehabbed AND it seems to me little or no thought is given to life forms other than human.  It further seems to me that the humans are attracted to what looks pretty and/or is familiar rather than what feeds the local ecology, and this attitude is slowly driving other life forms to extinction.
Mostly Natives Nursery in Tomales has great lists (both in paper form you may pick up at the nursery or on line) for Plants to attract butterflies, Beyond butterflies and more.  Nancy Bauer has written a lovely little book: The Habitat Garden Book: Wildlife Landscaping for the San  Francisco Bay Region which is helpful for starting a garden that is a living ecosystem.  And anyone interested in viewing one of these dynamic gardens can visit MuRefuge in rural residential Sonoma County.  Talk/Tours are offered monthly during Spring, Summer and Fall.  Find out more from Cathie Haynes, over 25 years as a registered nurse and nearly 25 years as a habitat restorationist.  

1 comment:

  1. Honestly, I don't garden. On our acre of land things have to want to live here... so by default it is primarily local natives - star lilies, milkmaids, redwoods, calypso orchids, tan oaks...

    Since we are in rural Gualala the cement creep is a bit more removed... thankfully.

    I have tried to eradicate the scotch broom and pampass grass on our land but I have to be honest, pulling weeds gives me the willies. If I think about it I feel like I am playing "God". I cannot help but think white man/woman is the most "non-native invasive" species there is.

    That said, I have many friends who garden and thoroughly enjoy what they are able to co-create. Thanks for all you do!!!