Why not let the flowers in the Native Plant Garden for Pollinators at Greenburgh Nature Center be your inspiration? Here are close-ups of native plants selected for their ability to attract butterflies and bees, that are blooming now, and that will come back year after year.
Cathy Ludden, designer of the Pollinator Garden, points out the benefits of natives like Agastache foeniculum (anise hyssop),
What are ‘native’ plants and why are they important? Cathy asks those questions in the introduction to her booklet, “Plant This, Not That.” “Native plants are the species that were here before European settlers arrived,” she writes. “They are critically important because they are the first link in the food chain. Insects native to our region co-evolved over millions of years with native plants. They cannot eat non-native plants. Monarch butterflies are a good example. They must lay their eggs on native milkweed plants or the larvae will die. In recent generations, as gardeners have favored non-native plants, insects have struggled to find food. Our native birds depend almost entirely on insects to feed their young. Songbird populations in our area are crashing and many species are disappearing. Loss of insect populations is one of the primary reasons.
“Increasing the number of native plants in our gardens increases food sources for insects and enables songbirds to feed their young. There’s another problem with non-native plants. Because our insects can’t eat them, these plants have no natural controls. As a result, they may become invasive and overwhelm native plant populations. As you drive along our highways and see trees smothered by vines, you witness the result. The same thing is happening in our woods, parks, and neighborhoods.”
This post introduces outstanding natives that are now blooming in the Native Garden for Pollinators at Greenburgh Nature Center in Scarsdale. These plants may be purchased in local and online nurseries and are easily incorporated into your garden. “Substituting natives for non-natives—or just adding more native species to existing plantings—will increase food sources for the insects necessary to sustain our native bird populations,” Cathy writes. “In addition, you may find yourself using less water, less fertilizer, and maybe even less labor to enjoy a beautiful garden.”
A mix of native meadow grasses and flowers like this will add a wow factor to any garden.
Ruellia humilis (wild petunia)
This plant can be a wonderful addition to anyone’s garden, even shade gardens. It blooms in the heat of summer if given a little extra water and it reseeds readily. And it provides food for the Buckeye and several other butterfly species.
Coreopsis verticillata Zagreb (threadleaf tickseed)
You probably already know coreopsis. This showy threadleaf variety is a full-sun perennial that’s easily grown in dry to medium, well-drained soil, but it’s known for thriving in poor, sandy, and rocky soils. And the plants can be sheared in mid- to late summer to promote a fall rebloom of gorgeous yellow.
Penstemon digitalis (beardtongue) growing above Zizia aurea (golden Alexander)
Penstemon digitalis has white to pink tubular flowers and may reach 3′ in height. It prefers medium to dry medium soils and can adapt to many light conditions: full sun to part shade. It is very easy to grow from seed. Its flowers attract long-tongued bees, including honeybees, bumblebees, Miner bees, Mason bees, and hummingbirds.
Zizia aurea a native that could find its place in almost every garden. It is fairly easy to grow and, although short-lived, will self-seed and persist in many sun/soil situations. It’s an important plant to a number of short-tongued insects that are able to easily reach the nectar in the small yellow flowers. Caterpillars feed on its leaves. Golden Alexanders have a long bloom time, giving the garden/prairie some well-deserved early color for several weeks in late spring to early summer when many other plants have not yet flowered. Also called Golden Zizia, Golden Alexanders will tolerate a lot of shade but prefer full sun or light shade.
Penstemon digitalis and Panicum vergatum (switchgrass)
Switchgrass was an important component of the prairies which once covered large areas of the country, especially the Midwest. It will grow in both wet and dry soils and can be found in prairies, open woods, stream banks, and along railroad tracks. Yet its interesting columnar form that reaches 3′ tall, 6′ tall when in bloom could be an interesting addition to your garden, especially in midsummer when it’s topped by finely-textured, pink-tinged, branched flower panicles that hover over the foliage like an airy cloud. The seeds are a food source for birds in winter.
Asclepius tuberosa (butterfly weed)
Aptly named, this bushy perennial, which can be grown from seed or root cuttings, attracts Monarch and Queen butterflies. It’s also prized for its large clusters of showy flowers, ranging from yellow-orange to bright orange. The dark green foliage provides backdrop for the flower heads.
Anemone virginiana (thimbleweed)
Wow. Just about ready to bloom, this perennial’s erect, multiple stems, which rise 2 to 3 feet, will soon be topped by beautiful greenish-white flowers with a center that resembles a sewing thimble. Anemone virginiana grow in full sun to part shade, even in dry, rocky soil, can be easily divided, don’t require much water, are poisonous to deer, and tolerate drought and deep shade. What else could you ask from a plant?
The Garden Club member who took these photos and researched the captions is now inspired to pull out half of her hostas and plant Anemone virginiana and the other plants featured in this post.
How about you?
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Greenburgh Nature Center is located at 99 Dromore Road, Scarsdale, NY 10583, just off Central Avenue above Ashford Avenue.