There are many kinds of gardens but ones that feature native plants do more than just provide serene enjoyment. Dan Gluesenkamp has this Perspective.
I love to walk. Heck, I live to walk! After 90 minutes without one I get a little crazy. So this spring, when I was told to stay off my broken ankle for 90 days, my friends and family feared the worst. Instead, I said adios to spring wildflower hikes and hello to my garden.
For three months my native plant garden fed my hunger to experience diverse wild communities. Ankle elevated and head swiveling, I’ve counted pollinators, tracked butterflies, and refereed the territorial struggles of Xylocopa bees fighting over Phacelia flowers. I’ve sat on the front steps soaking up sunshine, glorying in bird song, chatting with neighbors strolling past. It’s filled my heart with gratitude for my many blessings, especially my wild and thrilling native plant habitat garden.
All gardens are special, but gardens that include local plants are extra special: they are habitat gardens. Before us, this land was home to thousands of wild species. When you plant native plants, you are rebuilding a wild ecosystem. Their flowers attract pollinators, which support critters further up the food chain, ultimately sustaining nesting songbirds --and recovering biologists like myself. Native plants are the foundational “platform” that feeds, nurtures, and supports all the other organisms in our wonderful world.
As every gardener knows, change and diversity make gardens special. In our gardens and our society, we nurture diversity and value inclusion, and so enjoy systems that are dynamic, resilient, and more beautiful.
Last year, visiting family sneezed at fluff from one of my plants; this year, the flowers were colonized by caterpillars and now release cute moths instead. Facing climate change and other challenges, we need a diversity of voices to find answers. I am grateful to belong to a society of gardeners that in its most fundamental principles values diversity, welcomes change, and believes that everyone has a right to enjoy and a role to play in saving and celebrating the California we all share.
With a Perspective, I’m Dan Gluesenkamp.
Dan Gluesenkamp is a scientist with the Sacramento‐based California Native Plant Society. He lives and gardens with his family in Berkeley.