GOING WILD WITH NATIVES: Urban Gardens as Wildlife Refuges


The Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans) is a frequent and beneficial visitor to gardens, feeding on a variety of insects.

By Linda Jones.


Elton John sang eloquently about the "Circle of Life" but I think it was a limited circle focused on generations. To an ecologist, the circle of life is much broader, and includes all the species of living organisms: plants, insects, birds, reptiles, mammals and people.


To an ecologist, the circle of life is much broader, and includes all the species of living organisms: plants, insects, birds, reptiles, mammals and people.

In the last week, I have read messages from dozens of neighbors on the Nextdoor app cheerfully promoting their favorite pesticide company, who come quarterly to chemically spray away all those inconvenient pests in the urban yards. At the same time, I am reading the book, “Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants" by Douglas W. Tallamy published by Timber Press. (He also has a newer book out "Nature's Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard", Timber Press, February 2020, which promotes making an urban garden into an ecological wildlife refuge that is the true "circle of life".)


You can sustain wildlife with native plants.

There are millions of gardens just in our area of which, you, the members of the San Diego Horticultural Society, are part of a select group that actually grows some of our native plants. I think about what it would mean to restore even a portion of the native habitat in each garden. Maybe insect populations would stop crashing, ditto other wildlife if we could restore the circle of life in a meaningful, and more ecological, way. Restore OUR native habitat not a European or tropical version of habitat that our animals are not adapted to and many never will be.


Another visitor to a native garden is the predatory Green lynx spider, here with her egg case near the top of a Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis ssp consanguinea. Photo credit: Linda Jones.



We have one of the most biodiverse counties in the country. The native garden is a way to keep that biodiversity living. How do we help people understand the beauty and importance of at least including native plants in their gardens?


Think about what it would mean to restore even a portion of the native habitat in each garden!

The nursery trade promotes beautiful gardens full of blooming color using plants that are carefully bred from non-native plants that even beginning gardeners can successfully grow. It is hard to argue with easy success and relearn how to garden with native plants.

Water is probably one of the biggest issues for Southern California and many areas around the country. The climate change scientists assure us that this will become worse with increased temperatures, less frequent but more intense rainfall, more wildfires.


Mike Evans, in the Tree of Life Newsletter February 2020, suggests telling your neighbors to plants natives so they can stop watering so much. And help rid your area of snails. Worth a try?


Linda Jones is a Master Gardener, and an ecologist with a love of native ecosystems and all their living parts.

  

Our Mission  To inspire and educate the people of San Diego County to grow and enjoy plants, and to create beautiful, environmentally responsible gardens and landscapes.

 

Our Vision   To champion regionally appropriate horticulture in San Diego County.

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