May 14, 2015 By Garden Media Group
May 14, 2015, Kennett Square, PA – Gardeners can have it all. In addition to beautiful spaces for play, meals and entertaining, landscapes can be alive with wildlife, offering food and shelter for birds, bees, insects and other wildlife.
To learn more about living landscapes, Garden Media Group invited Douglas W. Tallamy, award-winning author and biodiversity expert, to speak at the firm’s monthly “Lunch with a Pro” series.
His message: everyone has the responsibility to be a good steward of the land, whether it is in their own yard or the park down the street.
Tallamy explained that too many people choose plants for their beauty alone without considering their function. Most of these beautiful plants are “alien.” They come from all over the world and do not support native wildlife within local ecosystems as well as native plants.
“Landscapes need to be more than just pretty, “ Tallamy says. “By planting productive native species, we can create life. Everybody has a responsibility to nurture as much life in our outdoor surroundings as possible to maintain a stable and functional ecosystem.”
Tallamy, a professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware, is the author of Bringing Nature Home, The Living Landscape and an op-ed contributor for the New York Times. He has dedicated his professional career to understanding how the relationship between insects and plants determines the diversity of animal communities.
According to Tallamy, there are over 3,000 species of alien plants that have escaped cultivation in North America. Many of these species are selected by gardeners for their beauty and because they’re pest-free or resistant to local diseases.
However, they can also out-compete native vegetation but don’t contribute to the health of the local ecosystems.
He explained that being a good land steward means incorporating native plants and animals into gardens. Diversity is the key to maintaining the ecosystems that support human life.
In his latest piece for the New York Times, “The Chickadee’s Guide to Gardening,” Tallamy challenged anyone with land to plant species that support life within local ecosystems.
“Your little piece of the world can be an important piece of conservation,” he said. “We don’t live on every acre, but we do affect nearly every acre. We’re changing ecosystems faster than the plants and animals within them can adapt to those changes.”
Tallamy told the staff that ecologists estimate that less than five per cent of the lower 48 states is relatively pristine habitat for plants and animals. According to the USDA, farmland now covers more than half of the country. Most of the rest is taken up by urban and suburban sprawl, including more than 40 million acres of lawns.
The most important change a gardener can make, according to Tallamy, is reduce the amount of lawn and replace it with more woody plants. His favorites include white oaks, alternate-leafed dogwoods, black-eyed Susans, cardinal flowers, Virginia creeper, coral honeysuckle and goldenrod.
“A landscape with all grass and a few alien shrubs is a dead zone, supporting almost no wildlife at all,” he says. “Our yards and gardens need to be planted with trees, shrubs, flowers and plants for ecosystem diversity, providing food and shelter for hundreds of insect, bird and animal species.”
For more information about Tallamy and his research, visit www.bringingnaturehome.net.
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