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Garden as if life depended on it

Waxwings are hard wired to dine on berries from native plants. (C) Gimmestock.com

Waxwings are hard wired to dine on berries from native plants. (C) Gimmestock.com

When we hear about sustainable landscapes, just what does that mean? Besides reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides, sustainable landscaping includes appropriate plant selections and placement.

The idea, of course, is to pick plants that will do well in your particular site, such as a sunny or shady spot, or soil that is wet, dry, heavy clay or sand.

And we want a diversity of plants, especially those that play a critical role in our local ecology. These are the native plants that provide food and shelter for birds, butterflies, mammals, amphibians and insects.

“For the first time in its history, gardening has taken on a role that transcends the needs of the gardener. Like it or not, gardeners have become important players in the management of our nation’s wildlife,” wrote Douglas W. Tallamy, an entomologist and ecology professor at the University of Delaware, in his award-winning 2008 book, Bringing Nature Home (Timber Press, 2009, $17.95). The newly revised version has expanded resource sections, including region-specific recommendations for native plants.

bringing nature home coverThis urgent message is the focus of Gardening for Life: An Evening with Doug Tallamy, a free talk next month at Clowes Memorial Hall (see below for details). A professor at the University of Delaware, his vivid discussion on the relationship among native plants, our gardens and the overall health of our environment is an inspiration. (See earlier review of book.)

One of the fascinating peeks he offers is which wildlife depends on which species. For instance, the 80 native species of oak (Quercus) trees in the United States support at least 534 species of wildlife, from birds and caterpillars to stag beetles and walking sticks.

“It is now within the power of individual gardeners to do something that we all dream of doing: to make a difference. In this case, the difference will be to the future of biodiversity, to the native plants and animals of North America and the ecosystems that sustain them,” he said.

Sustainabilty means we garden for today and tomorrow as if our life depended on it.

Info box

What: Gardening for Life: An Evening with Doug Tallamy

When: 7:30 p.m., Nov. 3, Clowes Memorial Hall, Butler University

Admission: Free, no ticket needed. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Sponsors: Butler University’s Center for Urban Ecology and Friesner Herbarium, Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society, Indianapolis Museum of Art Horticultural Society, Indiana Wildlife Federation and Marion County Soil & Water Conservation District

For more info: Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society

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