Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Native Pollinator Garden Update - A Garden in Winter

This morning I stopped at the Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum to check on the state of their Native Pollinator Garden.  This garden was planted in 2013 and is currently experiencing its second winter.

Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum (20 JAN 2015)

Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum (20 JAN 2015)

To many gardeners this winter garden might look sloppy or messy.  Common advice is to trim perennial plants back to the ground before the onset of winter, with the possible exception of grasses which are often left to leave a little pop of color and structure to the winter garden.

I prefer to leave gardens as is until spring.  The seedheads that are left in the garden provide food for birds.  The seeds that the birds do not consume have the potential to grow another plant if they drop to the ground and germinate.  Many of the stems and bunches of grass are also used an hibernacula by insects.  A hibernaculum (hibernacula is the plural form) is a place where an animal hibernates - it is has its roots in the Latin word hibernus which mean "wintry" or "of winter".  If the stems and seedheads had been removed,  many of the insects that call the garden home would have been removed with them.

Stiff Goldenrod seedheads

Little Bluestem Grass

Sand Coreopsis

Common Milkweed

Skyblue Aster (?)

Rattlesnake Master
So even though the garden may not be as beautiful now as it is during the summer, leaving the plants like this for the winter is beneficial to the long-term health of the garden.

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