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“Even native species can be cultivated and hybridized to the point that they don’t provide as much food,” Beckman said.
Looky and bee-friendly
Plants bought at a garden center also carry the potential of having been exposed to pesticides, including systemic neonicotinoids, which are especially insidious, according to Evans.
“They get into the tissue of the plant, and it ends up in the pollen and nectar.” People buy pesticide-laced plants and take them home, without realizing they’re introducing something that will kill, not nourish, bees. “You have to be aware of where your plants are coming from and how they were treated,” Evans said.
Numerous local growers specialize in native plants (for a list, visit www.saintpaulaudubon.org/events/2012/06/landscape-revival, under “Market Participants”). But they tend to be located on the far outskirts of the metro area, a 25-mile drive for many Twin Citians, Beckman said. “That’s the benefit of having them come to us” at the Expo.
And don’t be concerned that a bee-friendly landscape will make you unpopular in your neighborhood. There’s no reason a native-plant garden needs to look shaggy or unkempt, even compared with the manicured lawns around it.
“The fact is, native plants come in varying heights,” said Beckman. “There are low-growing grasses. There are mounded plants. You can still have a neat, planned look.”
If want to go “wild and woolly,” your neighbors are likely to be much more accepting than they were a decade ago.
“I’ve been doing this work for 12 years, and the aesthetic has changed,” Beckman said. “There used to be more emphasis on a highly groomed lawn, but now people are more amenable to a natural look.”
When she moved to Minneapolis, she was the first in her neighborhood to plant the boulevard, she said. But since then, her neighbors on either side have followed suit. “You can see the influence growing.”
Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784