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Diggin' It

Native plants help sustain birds and beneficial insects

A growing movement in North America advocates planting more native plants that are needed by birds, bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects.

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Specializing in milkweed to feed on and lay eggs on when field after lawn after park is cleared of anything resembling a “weed” is proving disastrous for monarchs.

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Birds don’t feed their babes seeds …they feed them highly nutritious caterpillars that would be abundant if the moths and butterflies could lay their eggs on plants they could eat.

Our local and regional insects did not evolve with plants from across the globe – or even across the country. We buy millions of nectar-producing butterfly bushes because we love to see the beautiful creatures in our gardens – but they cannot lay their eggs on a butterfly bush because they cannot eat the leaves.

Doug Tallamy is shining a light on the ideas that limit sharing our land with other creatures that are part of the web supporting life on our planet.

We don’t need to change everything. By adding a good selection of native plants to our gardens, we can benefit -- and the birds and insects can benefit. Conversely, our beloved and extensive lawns support one insect -- Japanese beetle grubs.

A few beautiful native plants that could join the list above might include columbine, liatris, hardy geranium, amsonia, hibiscus, goldenrod, echinacea, phlox, aster, and bee balm. Together they will make a cheery and livelier garden.

[Editor's note: For more on this subject, see also: Native plants help birds and small wildlife.]

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Donna Williamson blogs regularly at Diggin' It. She's a master gardener, garden designer, and garden coach. She has taught gardening and design classes at the State Arboretum of Virginia, Oatlands in Leesburg, and Shenandoah University. She’s also the founder and editor of Grandiflora Mid-Atlantic Gardening magazine, and the author of “The Virginia Gardener’s Companion: An Insider’s Guide to Low Maintenance Gardening in Virginia.” She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. To read more by Donna, click here.

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