The other day Susan and I were in the canyard and we noted the growth of a new group of Asclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed.
The conversation immediately moved to the Monarch Migration currently at work. In reference to that butterfly I reminded her, “You know it’s a gateway bug.” And she responded, “Yes, but to what pathway.”
Background: There has been much discussion in gardening talk and print over the last few years about the decline in two prominent insects: the European Honey Bee and the Monarch Butterfly.
We all have read how we should be adding certain plants to and removing certain pesticides from our gardens to enhance the environment for these two bugs.
And as with all movements in human culture, we tend to simplify changes down to one elemental component that gets the lead and that we can wrap our collective heads around. It seems to be the most effective way for us to learn. With that method we are given, “Help Monarchs, plant Milkweed.”
Now within our Louisiana native plant circles, one of the outstanding leaders has named the Monarch as a “Gateway Bug”, one that can be that inducement to get traditional gardeners and landscape professionals to plant natives. It is that pathway to lead us into creating habitat and beauty in our living environments with native plants and with natural design.
All well and good to make it easy for us to get started, except that it is just a start.
Whenever I have presented to the industry or to gardeners with information on natives, I always include a slide or two on how to effect the way we plant, on how to select species to include and especially how to think of our spaces as being diverse, seasonal and as habitat. Here is the text to one slide:
Plan first and then add the “t” at the end.
Think of the garden, as a forest, in layers.
Buy books on woodlands and prairies and read them.
Study your site and surrounding similar stable sites and their specimens.
Seek out site specific species.
Remember to select species as to habitat.
Plant selections that are happiest here.
Ask yourself if the five “F’s” of seasonality: Flowers, Form, Foragers, Fruit and Fall color, are important to you.
Create woodlands and thickets and get rid of lawn except for small areas that mimic water.
So the pathway we would be led down is not one that is as easy as “Just plant Milkweed.” It is one that asks us to adapt our garden styles from concept to completion, to adjust our goals to enhance nature.
Thus we will create low-maintenance, seasonal and diverse landscapes where all lives matter, including Monarchs.
And as I will always close: