Birds and Butterflies

Birds and Butterflies

Last week Suzanne Hauselt (our resident bird expert) and I were privileged to have dinner with Doug Tallamy before he gave his talk at the CT Horticultural Society. He was so humble, so knowledgeable, so fascinating. The talk was packed, hundreds of people turned out from all over the state. He rocked our world with his message.
Now I will tell you I have seen Doug Tallamy (author of Bringing Nature Home and co-author with Rick Darke of The Living Landscape) at least four other times. But this talk was new and different. And it really hit me. The next day, I completely rewrote our native plants handout. Click here to read it. 
This weekend, please come to our talk 
Grow a Happy Habitat for Birds. 
What was his message? Insects are the basis of a healthy ecosystem. Insects EAT PLANTS. As gardeners, we think that is a bad thing. Actually, that is their job. According to Dr. Tallamy, “Plants are supposed to pass the energy that they capture from the sun up the food chain. Insects transfer energy from plants to other animals that cannot eat plants directly. A plant that has fed

nothing has not done its job.”  Wow! Talk about a paradigm shift. It turns out that birds are here to eat insects. Tons of them. They eat insects to feed their young. It isn’t until later in the summer that they start eating berries and seeds. And our insects are disappearing. FAST. This is due to so many factors, but you can imagine that the use of toxic insecticides is one of them.

Another factor is that our native insects co-evolved with our native plants. Thus the call to plant more natives. Dr. Tallamy said that 70% of your property should be planted with natives. If every yard did this, the birds would have enough to eat. Hmmm. We have a lot of native plants. It can’t be that hard to try to do what he said…
Native milkweed (Asclepia syriaca) in the organic demonstration gardens at Natureworks. We will have a lot of hungry monarch caterpillars to feed as the summer unfolds. Last year we almost ran out! Do you have enough native plants to feed the insects in YOUR yard?
I woke up Friday morning and couldn’t get that idea out of my mind. I started going around my yard, taking stock. I am a total plant geek. I don’t just grow natives. I grow what fascinates me. Yet, I know the importance of natives and have been planting them in my yard for 15 years. But 70%? Thus, I took home a car load of native plants on Saturday afternoon when I left for my weekend. An Aronia (chokeberry). A Monarda punctata (lavender bee balm).  And a whole lot more. I am now on a mission.
Ratibida  (Mexican Hat) is a very fun native perennial. The birds will eat the seeds produced from these cones. Our pollinators adore these funky flowers right now. 
This Saturday, we are having a very important workshop. Suzanne Hauselt, equally inspired by Doug Tallamy’s words, is giving a talk in our Teaching Tent at 10 am. Originally considered a talk on attracting birds to your garden, she is completely revising her talk to pass on to you our new knowledge and passion for what Dr. Tallamy taught us. She is calling it Grow a Happy Habitat for BirdsClick here to register. All students will then get a 10% discount on plants following the talk. 
On Sunday, we are having a workshop on another important topic: feeding the butterflies. We have already begun raising monarchs here at Natureworks (we have released 9 so far!), but there is so much to learn about protecting and providing the right habitat for ALL butterflies. Sunday’s 

workshop is a hands on planting session where you will Plant a Butterfly Magnet Pot.  Click here to register. 

With summer here, we are seeing a transition to many new perennials and shrubs coming into bloom. The gardens are suffering from the many rainy days we keep having. Soon, heat and humidity will add to the challenge of keeping your plants healthy. There are many things you can do in your garden at this point. I have written a brief article (see below) on what is on the top of my list this week. 
Also, my second article is on the wide diversity of unusual plants that we have in stock right now, perhaps to give you renewed inspiration to KEEP ON PLANTING. Natives and non-natives overflow our benches. Think Plants with a Purpose, whether it be to feed the pollinators, provide cut or dried flowers, provide nectar for hummingbirds, fill your yard with fragrance, keep you supplied with fresh fruit, veggies and herbs, or provide shelter for the many creatures that share your world. 

With the arrival of summer, please be sure to make note that we will be changing our hours starting July 1st. New this year, we will be CLOSED on Mondays and Tuesdays and open Wednesday thru Sunday. This starts on Monday and we want to make sure you know about this change so you can plan accordingly. 

Visiting Natureworks in the summer is pretty magical. Right now, the poppies are in glorious bloom. The gardens are exploding with color. There is so much life here, from birds feeding their young, to bees and pollinators buzzing around, to butterflies flying about. That is the way a property should be. Full of life. A complex ecosystem. It doesn’t matter if you are on an acre or a tiny lot. We are on a really busy road, yet life thrives here. We pull in and nibble sugar snap peas from Veggie Island. We make our lunches and add herbs and greens from our raised beds. Sometimes I just stand on the deck outside my office and stare, soaking it all in. Every yard can be like this. Every single yard, every single piece of property matters.
Join us this weekend at one of our workshops, come and visit and learn how you can be a part of the solution. 
See you soon…


Baptisias are on sale for 2 weeks. Roses too!
P.S.  ALL roses and Baptisias are on sale for the next two weeks, thru July 10th, at 20% off. Baptisias are called false indigo and are a native plant pollinated by bumblebees. In the summer, their leaves are perfect. Being a legume, they fix nitrogen from the air and feed themselves. In June, they make a lovely cut flower.