"It is now within the power of individual gardeners to do something that we all dream of doing: to make a difference." This quote by Douglas Tallamy, in his book "Bringing Nature Home," speaks to the growing problem of habitat loss. He verifies that all gardeners have an opportunity to help with the current concern: dwindling populations of monarch butterflies. These amazing insects carry on a great migration each year, resting at "way stations" along the way to feed.
The problem is way stations of native plant communities are growing fewer and farther between. The loss of prairie, replacement of open space with housing developments and invasion of exotic plants are some causes of this decline.
What if every suburban homesite became a way station? Would the butterflies begin to follow patterns of development, flying from neighborhood to neighborhood and feeding all along the way? It's an encouraging thought.
This is the theme of an important grower of native plants dedicated to creating habitat for back-yard gardeners. Prairie Moon Nursery of Winona, Minn., offers a catalog full of the most beautiful native perennials and grasses to re-establish habitat. Their approach to planting is not based on the gardening model, but one developed for revegetating damaged sites. This process used by ecologists, botanists and wildlife biologists blends large numbers of individual plants overseeded with grasses and other ground covering species. The system can also include native trees and shrubs, which naturalize just as well to survive on rainfall and eliminate the need for irrigation. This system is equally suited to smaller spaces in yards as monarch way stations that support dozens of other wildlife species.
Prairie Moon's catalog now is focusing on natives that naturally reside beneath the shade of tree canopies. This is a super problem solver for old, shaded neighborhoods or rural sites in coniferous or hardwood forest ecosystems where a sustainable ground treatment solves many different problems.
Plant communities naturally adapted to live beneath our nation's woodlands are composed of understory species. These can be smaller trees like dogwood, plus a host of ferns, perennial wildflowers such as bleeding hearts and grasslike sedges. The young plants sold by Prairie Moon are bare root, which means you can buy many more for less money than container-grown plants of the same species. Bare root also allows the plants to immediately root deeply into native soils in order to maximize early drought resistance.
The seed mixes are collections of native plants that can be hand sown or hydroseeded where tree roots crowd the surface soil and sun penetrates only enough to dapple the earth. Prairie Moon offers a catalog and the informative magazine Native Gardener's Companion. Request yours by visiting PrairieMoon.com.