The Greenbelt “Less Lawn” tour that I organized finally happened on Sunday and it was, by all accounts, a raging success. But before assessing its impact on the town, it actually had one on my very own garden.
After all the sprucing up for the tour I concluded that the five Apricot Drift roses in my sunny front garden had not earned their real estate in their second season, and had to go. I was holding onto the excuse that this particular Drift was the dog of the whole family (according to a couple of Drift salesmen I met at a trade show) until I saw Apricot Drifts in another tour garden looking much better. That gardener was willing to give them the extra love they needed, and I just wasn’t. I think my heart just isn’t in landscape roses anymore, now that I have so little space.
Anyway, I have designs on their space – plants that will attract more of the bird and bees and that love to watch: pollinators of all kinds, hummers that fight in the air, birds in all seasons – you know, wildlife. Not that I’m going to lecture you about all that. I’m being totally selfish here.
Visions of interesting critters swarming in this tiny space had crossed my mind when I woke up exhausted the day after the crazy-busy garden tour and decided to treat myself to a shopping spree at my favorite nursery – for pollinator-friendly plants. There I consulted with my pal Karen in the perennials department, who watches plant-animal interaction all day long, so knows what attracts what. (Earlier this season she was the first to alert everyone to a nest of duck eggs among the ornamental grasses.)
So here’s what I brought home, all sure-fire pollinator-attractors: Nepeta ‘Junior Walker,’ Agastache ‘Purple Haze,’ Calamint ‘Blue Cloud,’ Coreopsis ‘Gold Nugget,’ Monarda ‘Coral Reef,’ Lobelia cardinalis and lobelia vedrariensis (with purple flowers) and one Mountain Mint, which Karen says wins the prize for attracting a greater diversity of pollinators than any other plant on the lot. She also tells me that purple Lobelias gather hummingbirds just as well as the red ones; they just love the shape of those flowers.
Yes, Karen warned me that Mountain Mint is a vigorous spreader by runner, and my garden is tiny, so I’ll be planting it in a pot. I’ll also hack it back once or twice before the end of June to keep it from getting too tall (the mint is the tallest plant on the cart in the photo above).
Today’s purchases will join these other plants that have been attracting critters I like to watch from my little patio all season long: Anise Hyssop, Black-eyed Susans, Goldenrod, dill and annual Salvias that I fill in with, as needed.
The Wildlife Garden
So here are my totally amateur thoughts on how to include some of the weedier-looking plants that are great for wildlife (e.g. mountain mint, milkweed) and maintain a gardeny look. You know, tended. A seating area, made of stone, pavers or even wood chips, and plenty of evergreens like the azaleas, boxwoods and arborvitaes surrounding the perennials and annuals here. Oh, and paths. No mistaking all this for an unkempt patch, right?
I don’t know. What do YOU think makes it these elements work together in a small or medium-sized garden?