Native plants may be best suited to environmental conditions and provide critical support to wildlife. Some categories of natives may fulfill these functions better than others. An important consideration in selecting native plants is whether to purchase so-called “straight species,” the forms that are found naturally in the wild, or cultivars, plants that have been produced by horticulturists through selective breeding for certain ornamental traits.
Summer is waning or fall just beginning and our gardens are awash in the bright and muted colors of asters, goldenrods, lobelias, pink muhly, sages, turtleheads, and zinnias, and with due diligence, relatively free of creeping weeds. But then you return home from a weekend getaway and find some stout, green, budded stems of notable height rising above the flowers in your perennial bed or butterfly garden.
Studies have shown that the particular selections gardeners make can have a tremendous impact on the diversity of life in our yards. Years of observations and research by University of Delaware entomologist Dr. Douglas Tallamy and his assistants have revealed that certain species of native plants, which he terms “keystone plants,” are especially supportive of a garden’s food web.
Arlington Regional Master Naturalists joined Extension Master Gardeners and community volunteers on July 17th in an ongoing effort to revitalize the pollinator garden next to the Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center in Alexandria.