Going Native

A mailing from the Garden Club of East Hampton with pretty painted images of plants native to this area arrived this week and piqued our interest. There, arrayed on a folding card announcing the club’s upcoming annual sale, were milkweed and arrowwood, viburnum, columbine, eastern shadbush, cardinal flower, New England aster, and bearberry — which hungry deer avoid and are in their own ways important parts of the ecosystem, enjoyed by bird and bug alike. 

’Tis the season. A day later, flipping through the most recent Audubon magazine, we read a statistic that a native oak tree can support at least 557 species of butterflies and moths — and myriad birds for which the butterflies and moths may be lunch. By comparison, a non-native ginkgo tree sustains just five butterflies and moths.

A nifty tool on Audubon’s website provided more information. The red-blossomed cardinal flower on the Garden Club’s mailing is like candy to hummingbirds, and it pleases wrens, grosbeaks, chickadees, and thrushes, among others. Sparrows like yarrows, and jays will gorge among the goldenrod. Enter your ZIP code and you can download a shopping list of sorts to take to local nurseries to turn your garden into an insect and bird-welcome zone. The Garden Club’s May 27 sale is, of course, another fine source.

In Riverhead, an organization will welcome volunteers this weekend and through next month to help germinate seeds and tend to young plants. This is in advance of the Long Island Native Plant Initiative’s sale days in early June at Suffolk Community College. Into the flats will go joe-pye weed, boneset, and germander; out to new sites will go the plants to attract insects and birds. 

If you are planning a garden this year or hope to do a good deed, consider going native. Hardy blooms and the creatures that thrive among them will thank you.