Native plants, defined as those that grew here before European settlers ar rived, are the key to attracting birds, but terflies and native bees to your backyard.
Going native does not mean replacing existing plants. Mix natives in with what is already there, or create a separate bed strictly for natives and watch what hap pens.* * *
Deb Carman of Dover created a habitat that welcomes nature to her backyard. She did it by providing food, water, cover and places for them to raise their young.
“My neighbors say ‘all the birds are in your yard,'” Carman said. “We welcome all of the critters. I grew up on a farm, playing in the woods and, as a child, I learned the love of plants and wildlife, of birds and butterflies.”
When spring arrives, she is eager to get out and stir through the pile of leaves that fell last fall or under the woodpile to see who spent the winter there and might be raising their young nearby come warmer days.
“It is important to know what's in our backyard,” she said.
When it comes to learning about native plants, Carmen recommends the Penn State Master Gardeners program and MAEscapes, Mid-Atlantic Ecological Landscapes, which holds an annual native plant sale, Carman said.
In addition, as native plants increase in popularity, they are available at many local nurseries.* * *
Gardener Priscilla Waldman of Codor us Township suggests creating a certified pollinator-friendly garden.
“It is a self certification received through Penn State that requires following a few easy steps,” she said.
Bees are a key element in pollination, and both native and domestic bee popula tions are declining.
To qualify, the garden must provide food, water, shelter and safeguards.
Food would be native plants with pollen and nectar sources and a bird bath or a dripping bottle could be a source of water.
Dead wood, a bee nesting box or peren nials and grasses allowed to remain over winter provide shelter.
Safeguards would be reducing the use of pesticides and removing invasive plants from your garden.
Complete the applica tion and submit it along with a $10 fee and, if your garden qualifies, you re ceive a certificate saying your garden is pollinator- friendly, Waldman said.
More information is available at ento.psu.edu/pollinators.
Kelly Rentzel of York fills her urban garden with native plants that attract bees, butterflies, birds and the occasional deer.
After sugar-water feeders failed to at tract the hoped-for number of humming birds, she and daughter Marissa Scone, 18, turned to native plants.
“We plant lots of bee balm and trumpet vines and red salvia. They like lots of red and prefer tubular shaped flowers,” Rent zel said.
A hanging basket will attract butterf lies, but this mother-daughter team wel come them to a sunny area with rocks for resting and a variety of native plants in cluding milkweed, where the get a close- up look at the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly.
“It's not rocket science,' Rentzel said, when it comes to figuring out what to plant to attract wildlife.
Scone credits the Berries, Bees and Blossoms 4-H Club with sparking her inter est in plants and insects. Now a student at York College, she is in her final year of4-H.
“Gardening will be a part of my life for ever, and I want my children to be part of 4-H,” she said.* * *
“Most of us don't spend much time thinking about insects, but they are an es sential to sustain wildlife,” said Tina Alban, state nursery manager for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Some insects require specific plants in order to survive, the most common being the monarch butterfly, which can only sur vive by laying its eggs on milkweed plants.
She provided the following list for pol linator gardens:
· Perennials — garden phlox, blazing star, butterfly weed, columbine, cardinal flower, bee balm, mountain mint, swamp milkweed and Joe Pye weed.
· Shrubs — spicebush and sweet pep perbush.
Some suggested plants for a songbird habitat include red maple, flowering dog wood, eastern red cedar, fragrant sumac, white pine, winterberry, snowberry, low bush blueberry, highbush blueberry, sweet magnolia and oaks.
“When I think about food sources for mammals, I think about plants that pro duce lots of seeds. Anything in the above lists are also good for squirrels, chip munks, raccoons, rabbits and mice,” Alban said. “Think of how many baby owls, hawks and other raptors are reared on mice and voles. I leave small brush piles around my gardens to provide cover for many mammals and they are used all the time.”
Trees for mammals include red maple, sugar maple, oaks, shagbark hickory and musclewood.
“We often think of flowers as host plants for butterflies and moths, but trees are host plants for hundreds of species. For example, a white oak tree supports 517 species of Lepidoptera alone, cherry supports 448 species and birches 413,” she said. “An extensive list can be found in the book ‘Bringing Nature Home' by Doug Tal lamy.”
If you go
MAESCAPES' native plant fest and sale will be 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 19 at the York County Extension Office, 118 Pleasant Acres Road, Springettsbury Township.
Vendors include Harvey's Gardens, Heartwood Nursery, Keystone Wildflowers, Kollar Nursery, Meadowsweet Native Plant Farm, Spring Haven Nurseries, and Rain Tree Landscaping and Nursery. The Gardener of the Owl Valley will also offer garden-related gifts and products and Bob Holtzapple will have his garden trellises, bee houses and more. The Horn Farm Center will have heirloom vegetable seedlings will be available for purchase, and the Mason Dixon Unit of the Herb Society of America will be selling herb plants. Master Gardeners and MAEscapes experts will be on hand to answer questions and help with plant selection.
Free seminars being offered during the even include an 8:00 a.m. pre-sale lecture “Outstanding Plants from our Pollinator Research Trial,” as well as “Invasive Aquatics” at 9:30 a.m.; “Edible Native Garden” at 10:30 a.m.; and “Creating a Rain Garden” at 10:30 a.m. The Fest will be held rain or shine.
For details, visit www.maescapes.org.
KREUTZ CREEK VALLEY PRESERVATION'S native plant sale will be 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday at the Dietz farmstand, 5974 Lincoln Highway, Hellam Township.
The shrubs have been selected for their colorful foliage, habitat and food for birds and wildlife; most of the trees also provide a food source for people.
For details, call 717-252-4454.
INDIAN STEPS MUSEUM will host a gardening workshop 2 to 4 p.m. May 5 on the grounds of the museum, off Route 425 east of Airville.
Wendy Brister of Harvey's Gardens and Master Gardener Joy Howell, will lead the class on native perennials for sustainable landscapes.
For details, call 717-862-3948 or go online at indiansteps.org.
DIANE CUSUMANO from Meadowsweet Native Plant Farm in Spring Grove, will present a class on native plants and how to use them at 1 p.m. April 22, at Windy Hill Senior Center, 50 N. East St., Spring Grove.
Cost for the class is $5. For details, senior center at 717-225-0733.
FIND OUT MORE about native plants on the following websites:
· Pennsylvanoia Native Plant Society, www.panativeplantsociety.org
· Plant Native, www.plantnative.org/cs_patova.htm
· Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, www.dcnr.state.pa.us/ forestry/plants/nativeplants
MID-ATLANTIC ECOLOGICAL LANDSCAPES is a partnership between the Penn State Cooperative Extension and the York County Conservation District.
Members use native plants to illustrate and teach the importance of restoring and preserving Mid-Atlantic ecological landscapes to maintain the vital link be tween native plants and native wildlife.
“There is a vital link between native plant species and native wildlife. Native in sects cannot eat the non-native plants so commonly used in our yards,” said Deb Carman of Dover. “As development threat ens natural areas and the native plants that grow there, native insects disappear. Since insects are the main food supply for nesting birds as well as many other animals, when native plants disappear, so does much of our wildlife.”
Visit the MAEscapes demonstration gar dens at the York County Extension Office, 118 Pleasant Acres Road, Springettsbury Township.
More information is available at www.maescapes.org.