Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Plant List

Why is there Snow in my October!

Being cooped up in the house is no good for a gardener. Though I do have a few indoor plants and am combating the mold gnats, I still can't help but think about how my garden's doing. I walk outside and see most everything is dying away, with the exception of our Garlic which is green and growing in cold temperatures. I walk through the garden now and see all the leaves are falling, the tomatoes have rotted, and the goldenrod has fallen over. Soon I will cut everything back to the ground, compost the old growth and think of next year.

As it so happens today I compiled a list of plants to boost the various things I love to look for out in the garden. You may think it funny that I actually promote insects in my yard but that's the best way to get birds in my opinion. It's one thing to have a bird feeder feeding them seeds but quite another to provide caterpillars which are vital to a young bird's growth.

Prunus (Black Cherry Tree)
One of the best trees for the job, so I have read, is the Black Cherry Tree. This is targeted 448 species of Moth and Butterfly as a host plant, including a number of tent caterpillars. Of all the plants in this genus I've narrowed it down to either Prunus virginiana (Choke cherry) or Prunus pensylvanica (Pin cherry) and it's probably going to come down to whichever one I can find sold. Certain native plants are often hard to find anywhere. The berries to both can be mashed up into homemade jam or left for the birds to eat. These trees are often called June Berry because they're one of the first to ripen in the year, if not, the first. Both only grow 15' or so. Despite being skeletainized on a bimonthly basis I'm told trees are hearty enough expect this and quickly rebound.

Fennel, Parsley, and Dutchman's Pipe
I'm growing these specifically as butterfly host plants. The larger yellow and black swallowtail butterflies use these and other plants as hosts. Fennel and Parsley can also be used as herbs and I look forward to tasting them (maybe I'll become a butterfly too, LOL). Dutchman's Pipe, Aristolochia durior, is a native vine for where I'm at. Normally I hate vines for their efforts to choke trees to death. It's also somewhat carniverous I think which is another negative, but if it can swallow some of the moiscitos I'll be happy.

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
This is another host plant that produces berries as well. It's host to the Spicebush Butterfly, which is another large black swallowtale. I need to do more research on this one though becasue this plant has genders and berries only occur on females.

Ceanothus, specifically New Jersey Tea
I forget exactly why this one's on my list. It's a native Lilac, and if I recall right has a butterfly or two that go with it.

For Ants I'm looking into planting a few native wildflowers. Ants are where my hobbies in nature all began and in my opinion are one of the most overlooked signs of a healthy echosystem. Some 12,000 species are known and the more types you have in an area the better it is. I'll talk more on this at a later date perhaps.

These are a wonderful flower, but somewhat rare today. They're a simple 1' to 2' tall plant usually with a single flower per plant. After blooming in the spring it produces a berry that is filled with seeds. The seeds are coated with a "brown sugar" like substance that ants go nuts for. They actually take the seeds home and eat the good stuff, while planting the seed in the process.

Birds Foot Violet, Viola pedata
This is another one that ants will happily plant for you.

I think part of the reason why more Trilliums and native Violets aren't around today is becuase of the overuse of pestacide. With both of these plants you find isolated populations with very limited genetic diversity. The only time this changes up is when an ant from another group of these plants happens to find a seed from another group of these plants. In a way these are natural ant garden and I look forward to watching them spread here in the yard.

Concord Grapes
I actually already have a vine of these going, as do my neighbors. But mine has yet to flower and produce any fruit. It's something I look forward to. In a recent news artical I read one of the foods people who live to be 100 eat is Purple foods. Blueberries, Red Wine, and Concord Grapes all gain their color thanks to specific chemical which has been found to have antiaging properties.

That's the list so far and I'll probably add more to it later on. Now the trick is fitting it all in the yard.