If you believe that our planet deserves more respect these days, one way to turn your thoughts into action is to plant things in your garden that are supposed to be there.
So the birds and the bees and many, many other native species can maintain their food sources, their habitats and their protection the way nature intended.
It's a simple prospect. If you plant stuff that has thrived in the Midwest since time began, keep planting that stuff because there's a reason it's been here forever. Find a trusted source who will tell you the truth about what native plants to plant so that mother nature has a fighting chance.
If you want to do good, turn your garden into a place where symbiosis, ecology and the circle of life can be sustained. Don't plant stuff from Asia and Europe that looks pretty if those plants take over and squeeze out the stuff that keeps our midwest animal, bird and insect life from humming the way it should. There are alternatives that are just as pretty and won't harm our native landscape and animal life.
In their first book, my friend Charlotte Adelman and her husband, Bernie Schwartz (both retired attorneys) wrote an exhaustive guide to the prairies of North America, one of which surrounds their home in Wilmette. They have also cultivated prairie gardens in prominent spots near their home.
Their second book was about how to cultivate a midwestern native garden of your own full of plants and flowers that belong in the midwest. Because those plants have always been in the midwest. And are part of our bio-system in the midwest.
Their latest book is all about native trees and shrubs: Midwestern Native Shrubs and Trees.
The couple have a simple way of educating home (and other) gardeners by pointing out what you are probably already planting--things that are familiar to consumers who frequent big box stores or small boutique gardening centers. Those stores don't tell you what's what. But the authors give you a list of healthy, native alternatives to nonnative plants and flowers, trees and shrubs in their books. They also tell you where to get such plantings.
A nice touch in the latest book is explaining what trees and shrubs can give back within each season. What flowers in the spring and summer? What gives us beautiful leaf color in the fall? And what interesting bark, decorative shapes and evergreens can perk up your yard in the dead of winter?
But the lessons, as in the first book about flowers and plants, go something like this: You got a boxwood in your yard? (And a lot of people do.) You should have planted an inkberry. They look pretty much the same. And the latter will be at home. And so will the butterflies who make it their home.
So why wouldn't you plant that inkberry instead of a boxwood? If you know why it's important.
Pick any tree or shrub in your yard. You'll find out whether it's native or not if you look it up in their latest book. If not, there will be an alternative that is native. And an explanation as to what harm the nonnative might cause to midwestern nature and what good can come to our environment if you would be so kind as to consider the alternative.
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