Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Amidst Our Political Posts- An Ecological One

Working in my yard yesterday, just prior to the rains that turned my yellowing yard a dark green, I observed one of my friendly hummers (female broad-tailed) drinking from my salvia lemmonii (lemmon sage for you amateurs). One thing I discovered was that there are various mojave and sonorra desert species, that time their blooms for the mexican monsoon, that are also surprisingly frost tolerant. Perhaps it is a leftover of the geologically and biologically recent ice age, but there are several desert species that bloom late in the year, and provide pollinators late season nectar. It helps hummers get the fuel to make the long flight south. It helps bumblebees, honeybees and other insect pollinators get a late season burst that ensure their survival through the winter.

I find it rewarding to see hummers I haven't seen all season, show up on their way south to refuel in my yard, which they seem to remember from year to year. Even rufouses and calliopes grace my yard, for they know that there will be blooms of salvia lemmonii, zauschneria latifolia, salvia pinguifolia and a few late blooms of the great hummer magnet, penstemon rostriflorus.

I have a real appreciation for pollinators, not only hummingbirds which I have a special love for. Bumblebees, hovering flies, and a whole score of different kinds of butterflies and hawkmoths grace my yard. Such biodiversity is a reminder, that pesticides may kill those pests we dislike, but kill the pollinators for which we have a symbiotic relationship with.

I have had neighbors complain that my yard attracts too many bees and other stinging critters. Surprisingly, I have been stung once. I have two older daughters, age 11 and 9, and only one of the two have been stung, once. But my daughters have shared an appreciation for nature as they've watched so many interesting creatures enter my yard.

We in Utah, seem to appreciate sterile, and well-manicured yards. This may come as a shock, but I don't ascribe to such conformity. I like the fact, that my yard is built to attract critters, not just home teachers (which still visit me curiously). I'm sure there are some who think I should "clean up my yard." The reality is, that I have designed my yard not to create the chemlawn ideal of pest-free sterile landscape. I have designed it to NOT conform to the rest of the neighborhood. I have tried to provide as many different species of plants as possible, because I learned early and often, that different plants attact different species. Here is a small sample of the plants in my yard.

Trees- Non-fruit
Abies concolor- white fir
Acer grandidentatum- bigtooth maple
Betula nigra- river birch
Cercocarpus ledifolius- curl-leap mahogany
Forestiera neomexicana- New Mexican privet
Fraxinus pennsylvanica- green ash
Picea glaucuns- Rocky Mtn Blue Spruce
Pinus aristata- bristlecone pine
Pinus edulis- Pinyon pine
Pinus ponderosa- Ponderosa pine (duh)
Quercus gambellii- gambel oak
Quercus macrocarpa- bur oak (because I like Bach and Handel- get it?)

Amelenchier alnifolia- serviceberry
Amelenchier utahensis- utah serviceberry
Buddleia daviddii- butterfly bush
Cornus sericea- red osier dogwood
Cowania stansburiana- stansbury cliffrose
Juniperus species- various
Salix exigua- coyote willow
Shepherdia argentea- silver buffalo-berry
Solidago canadensis- Canadian goldenrod

Achillea milleforium- yarrow
Acquilegia caerulea- rocky mtn columbine
Agastache cana- hummingbird mint
Agastache foeniculum- blue licorice mint
Agastache rupestris- licorice mint
Agastache urticifolia- coyote mint
Asclepias speciosa- Large obnoxious milkweed
Berlandiera lyrata- chocolate flower
Centranthus ruber- jupiter's beard
Crocuses- various
Echinacea purpurea- purple coneflower
Heuchera sanguinea- ?
Iris- bearded various
Lavandula- several species
Monarda fistulosa- Bee balm
Narcissus- Various Daffodils
Nepeta faasenii- Blue catmint
Penstemon angustifolius- ?
Penstemon augustifolius- Grand-leaf penstemon
Penstemon barbatus- Scarlet bugler
Penstemon cardinalis- Cardinal penstemon
Penstemon cyananthus- wasatch penstemon
Penstemon eatonii- Firecracker penstemon
Penstemon digitalis- husker red penstemon
Penstemon parryi- Parry's penstemon
Penstemon pinifolius- pine leaf penstemon
Penstemon pseudospecabilis- Desert penstemon
Penstemon rostriflorus- bridge's penstemon
Penstemon rydberghi- Rydbergh's penstemon
Penstemon strictus- rocky mountain penstemon
penstemon secundiflorus- ?
Penstemon virens- Blue-mist penstemon
Penstemon whippleanus- whipple's penstemon
Perovskia atriplicifolia- russian sage
Salvia lemmonii- lemmon's sage
Salvia pinguifolia- Desert sage
Salvia superba- Blue spire salvia
Stachys coccineas- ?
Ratibida columnifera- yellow coneflower
Leucanthemum superbum- shasta daisy
Tulipa- various tulips
Zauschneria latifolia- humminbird weed

I may have missed a few, but what I've tried to accomplish is a biodiversity within my yard. I hope others will do the same. Pollinators have an important symbiotic relationship with us. Providing them with nectar sources is more important than providing well manicured, yet sterile yards. If anyone wants any of the species I have identified, let me know, I just might grow you something.


bekkieann said...

I have many of the same plants, though you do have many more than I do. I particularly love my bee balm, though the bloom is relatively short, they are so lovely. And the agastache (hyssop) is a real hummingbird draw as are the new hummingbird trumpets I just put in this year -- low-growing and particularly good near hot pavement areas.

I am bookmarking this post for future reference and more ideas. Thanks for this post!

bekkieann said...

By the way, you probably already know this site and probably get their catalog, as I do, but this is my favorite place for window shopping online. Though I buy all of my plants locally.


Allie said...

I haven't planted flowers yet, but I have a whole stack of seeds for various perennials that are supposed to attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

So far I've only had wasps in my yard.

This fall I'm going to get the flowerbeds ready, plant bulbs, and cover with mulch. Next spring I'll start the perennials indoors and plant them when it warms up enough.