Today's New York Times features a great opinion article by Marielle Anzelone, the executive director of NYC Wildflower Week. It discusses the necessity of planting native wildflowers in urban settings.
The article lays a little guilt on us urbanites for our tendency to fail to consider what kinds of plantings make for a healthy, sustainable ecosystem. She's right to insinuate that in my dream world, the backyard would be full of chicken coops and tomato plants that could survive in all four seasons - and in that dream world there would be little left for the bees and butterflies to eat.
I'm not a 100% native gardener, and I love the addition of the vegetable garden to Flutter By 8th, but Anzelone is right. When we plan our gardens, we have to design them for the pollinators as well as for ourselves. If we plant a (non-native) camellia because it's pretty and a zucchini because it's delicious, we have to balance them out with reliable food sources for the bees and butterflies. Not all those pollinator food sources are going to be as stunning, fragrant, or tidy-looking as our favorite hybrids and cultivars, but they have their own charms that we can learn to appreciate. To me, it's a "one for me, one for you" attitude towards sharing our space with little critters.
Gardeners always have a mental wish list of plants they want and I'm no exception. I've been dying to plant a big clump of lanceleaf coreopsis, but I haven't been able to find the straight native variety anywhere in Brooklyn. (I suspect I could find it at the wildflower sale in Suffolk County today, but I don't have a car...)
Anzelone's article was a tipping point for me - it motivated me to track down the natives I've wanted so badly, and put in an order for them. There's a terrific native nursery in Florida (Mail Order Natives) that had them in stock and I ended up getting two coreopsis plants, one dwarf black-eyed susan, and a spicebush. Coreopsis and black-eyed susan are both summer nectar sources, while the spicebush is a host-plant for the spicebush swallowtail butterfly.
I have to admit, I was tempted to fill the gaping hole in the back of my shade bed with a second camellia, but Anzelone motivated me to go for the spicebush in its place. And it's a more logical choice anyway! I find native shrubs to be hardier and easier to care for than most hybrids & inbred cultivars, plus the spicebush will give me some cute yellow flowers to enjoy in early spring.
One for me, one for you!