The common garden spider, Argiope aurantia, is a striking and welcome addition to the garden. This beneficial eats lots of insects. Females build large webs and will bite if harassed. The venom is harmless, but the bite may be painful. Learn more about this beautiful arachnid at the following link. Argiope aurantia
Global climate change has become entangled with the problem of invasive species. A warmer climate could allow some invaders to spread farther, while causing native organisms to go extinct in their traditional habitats and making room for invaders. – Richard Preston
According to the USDA ( United States Department of Agriculture), an invasive species is,
“an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health” as per Executive Order 13112: Section1. Definitions. There are many invaders on the Gulf Coast, among them, Lygodium japonicum, Japanese climbing fern. At every opportunity, remove this invader from the local landscape.
Learn more about this unwelcome visitor at the following websites.
Why do we send valuable items like aluminium and food waste to landfill when we can turn them into new cans and renewable energy? Why use more resources than we need to in manufacturing? We must now work together to build a zero waste nation – where we reduce the resources we use, reuse and recycle all that we can and only landfill things that have absolutely no other use
While our ancestors were familiar with the “waste not, want not” ethic, the concept of zero waste is something that current generations must learn how to put into practice. “Dirt under the fingernails” gardeners are already at the head of the class – reuse and recycle are part of the daily gardening routine, with composting, keeping the weeds at bay with cardboard and layers of newspaper, and reusing all sorts of containers for seeds and cuttings common examples. Quirky and creative green thumbs rise to the challenge of putting odd containers to use. The above picture demonstrates how a can of spray paint and a graceful skirt provided by an asparagus fern and volunteer sweet potato vine can transform a leaky swimming pool sand filter into a handsome garden urn.
The United States makes up only 5% of the world’s population, but produces 30% of the world’s waste. Refer to the following sites to learn more about personal ways to build a zero waste nation. Some day, your grandchildren will appreciate your efforts.
The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing something better than they have ever done before ~ Vita Sackville-West, 1892 – 1962
Baccharis halimifolia, known as saltbush, groundsel, or sea myrtle is a common sight along salt marshes and wetlands in Mobile. A long-lived, salt tolerant perennial, this native woody shrub grows in full sun to light shade, reaching heights of 7-15 feet and widths 5 to 7 feet. Plants produce clouds of creamy white flowers in the fall, providing nectar for migrating Monarch butterflies. While not a commonly planted species, specimens can be used to form screens and buffers, and can be pruned to suitable heights. Learn more about this member of the daisy family at the following links.
“Like it or not, we humans are bound up with our fellows, and with the other plants and animals all over the world.
Our lives are intertwined.”
― Carl Sagan, Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium
Wax myrtle, Myrica cerifera, another evergreen, native species that can be used in the landscape, is also known as southern bayberry and southern wax myrtle. Growing to a height of 20 feet and width of 10-15 feet, this native prefers acid soils in full sun or partial shade. Early settlers boiled the berries, extracting the wax to make bayberry candles. Learn more about this fast growing native at the following links.
The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.
Meeting nature halfway is easy to do if one chooses to incorporate native plant species in the landscape. Native species, adapted to the local environment, are climate hardy and resistant to pests. Native to the eastern U.S., winged sumac, Rhus copallinum, offers graceful compound leaves, beautiful fall foliage, and fruit for songbirds. In addition to being a host plant for the Red-Banded Hairstreak butterfly, the plant’s red berries can be used to make jelly and “Indian” lemonade. Due to high tannin content, fiber enthusiasts use the leaves for dyeing wool and cotton fibers. While winged sumac is adapted to many soil types, it doesn’t like “wet feet”. So landscapes with well drained soil and full sun to partial shade would be suitable locations for this deciduous native plant. For more information, refer to the following sites. North Carolina Extension Garden Plant Box
Doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it, your neighbors are going to talk about you anyway. – Felder Rushing
Natural areas in the landscape can be made more pleasing to neighboring eyes by adding amendments reflecting purposeful planning. Horticulturist, author, and originator of the Master Gardeners program, Felder Rushing, suggests adding benches, pathways, fences and objects signifying thoughtful processes that set aside habitat for wildlife. Wildlife may include pollinators such as native ground nesting bees. Rethinking the need for the highly manicured monoculture called a lawn, will have a positive effect upon the environment. Fertilizers, pesticides and a myriad of other chemicals used on thousands of lawns, find their toxic way into storm drains through runoff. Whatever goes into storm drains goes into Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Natural areas with networks of roots and an abundance of organic matter prevent runoff. As Felder says, your neighbors are going to talk about you anyway, so do the environment a favor – adopt the natural landscape idea.
The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.
— Michael Pollan
Hamelia patens, a native of Florida, is known by several names including Mexican Firebush, Scarlet Bush, Hummingbird Bush and Firecracker Shrub. A hardy, long lived perennial, this drought tolerant, pollinator plant can grow to more than 10′ tall, can be propagated by seed, and prefers full sun to partial shade. The orange-red, yellow tipped tubular flowers are perfect nectar sources for hummingbirds and butterflies. So plan and plant this delightful woody shrub in the landscape. The hummingbirds, butterflies and migratory birds will thank you. Learn more about Hamelia patens at the links below.
I’ve always felt that having a garden is like having a good and loyal friend. C. Z. Guest
Hyphoetes phyllostachya, a native of Madagascar, is planted for its colorful foliage. Available in a variety of colors, the polka dot plant does well in shade, can get leggy and may require pruning. Cuttings of this perennial are easily rooted to brighten even more shady, well drained areas of the landscape. The Splash series include pink, white, and red specimens. Learn more about these bright little garden additions at the following links.
“Beyond the harm to local wildlife, any chemicals we used in our garden might end up polluting our well, or run off the property. In a heavy rainstorm, this runoff may end up in nearby Beaver Creek, a tributary to the Brandywine Creek, which runs into the Delaware River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. These kinds of direct connections with the outside world exist in every garden, which is why I think we should always aim, in our gardening practices, to do the least harm and the greatest good.”
― David L. Culp, The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage
Planting native species in the landscape is a win for the homeowner and a win for the environment. Native species, logical choices in avoiding the use of pesticides, are adapted to local climate conditions and require less watering. Illicium floridanum, a broadleaf evergreen shrub, native to the lower southeastern states, requires a shady, moist landscape and rewards the gardener with a rich, spicy fragrance. Learn more about this native at the following sites.