And that’s when the light bulb went off. Of course they prefer the pale violet blooms of the native because that is what they have been programmed to seek out for who knows how many hundreds of years – if not thousands. Yes, they sip from Monarda cultivars throughout our garden but this was an eye opener.
And so my goal this year is to revisit what we began some 20 years ago: planting native plants, such as prairie wildflowers — leadwort, pasque flower, meadow anemone, and shooting stars, for example -- and native shrubs, such as chokeberry, elderberry, and viburnum.
Early on, most of those plants were decimated by large herds of deer that stroll through our one-acre garden. As a result, I began adding ornamental plants that they wouldn’t touch — things like Japanese tree lilacs, caryopteris, and non-native ornamental grasses.
After reading Doug Tallamy’s fascinating book, “Bringing Nature Home: How you can sustain wildlife with native plants,” I’m pondering how I can transform our current garden so that at least half of the plants are natives that originally grew in northeastern Illinois.
Why is that important? Because, as Mr. Tallamy states, our native insects rely on those plants for food, shelter, and a place to grow their offspring. “When native plants disappear, the insects disappear, impoverishing the food source for birds and other animals,” he says.