Whether your artistic interest leans to music, dance or painting, you can count on Nature to fill your garden with art — IF you work with her.
Her abundant native flowers and vibrant leaves provide spectacular color. Her orchestra delights us with bird song and celebration, including night concerts of the mockingbird. Frogs and toads add to the chorus. Her dance team presents flittering butterflies in day and luminous fireflies at night.
When considering the colorful plants for your garden, choose natives that wildlife has known from generations. An example: hummingbirds return when blooms (and nectar) appear on the wild red/yellow native columbine, Aquilegia canadensis, not the later blooming blue/pink hybrid.
Birds eat fruits and seeds from many native trees and shrubs generally not found in garden centers. For instance, hackberry, Celtis occidentalis, which has small berries in fall, is appreciated by songbirds, including the bluebird, cedar waxwing, yellow-bellied sapsucker, mockingbird and robin. Hackberry leaves are also the essential food for the caterpillars of the friendly Tawny Emperor and Hackberry butterflies, and are also eaten by the peculiar looking Snout butterfly and the beautiful Mourning Cloak. What will happen to Nature’s artistic performers if we stop planting their needed foods?
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is also not favored by landscapers, but its small red fruits, called drupes, are highly valued by songbirds. I planted a wood’s edge grouping of spicebush to attract the most interesting of caterpillars, the Spicebush butterfly. For several years I observed the shrubs, finally celebrating after discovering munched leaves! Sure enough I found the lime green big-eyed caterpillars peeking out from their secure tents of rolled leaves. Pure joy.
This spring I watch the egg-laying dance of the Pipevine Swallowtail, as two butterflies flittered around my nondescript Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolocia durior). These butterflies are entirely dependent on the Pipevine for their larval food source. Although it can be found in nurseries, it’s often overlooked for the showier Clematis, which does not offer comparable wildlife beauty.
Choose wisely for wildlife, and let Nature add art, music and dance to your garden.