Flowering Natives on the Homestead

Hello all! Jen Blood here, on what will actually be my last post for a while. I haven’t been doing much in the way of writing this summer, between gardening and homesteading and a couple of health issues (poison ivy, brown-tail moth rash, sciatica… all the good ones) that have kept me from the computer. The writing that I have been doing seems to be leaning farther and farther from the land of crime and mystery, and more in the direction of romance. I have a paranormal/Gothic novel in the works now called The Haunting, which I’m hoping to complete in the next month or so.

Because I do feel so far from the writing world (and, particularly, the world of mystery) and have been so distracted lately, I’ve decided after much contemplation that it’s time for a break from the blogging world for a while. I’ve had such a wonderful time writing for Maine Crime Writers, and so treasure the friendships I’ve made here and the amazing people I’ve come to know.

As a farewell, it seemed only fitting to leave you with images of some of the blooms out here on the homestead, along with a little information about what they are and what they do for the landscape. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working on creating more habitat for wildlife on our single-acre lot. This endeavor has become more and more important to me of late, particularly after spending the spring fighting for the foxes and watching (and listening to) the lot next to ours be completely stripped of trees by new neighbors.

I’ve learned a lot about the importance of native plants in my reading, most notably the work of Dr. Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home and Nature’s Best Hope. In Nature’s Best Hope, Tallamy talks about the dangerous decline scientists are seeing in the number of songbirds and insects, and cites loss of habitat as a key reason for their demise. In that book, he proposes something he’s called Homegrown National Park – essentially, uniting all of us to re-wild our own back yards in an effort to recreate some of those lost spaces. This is an idea I love, and one I’ve become passionate about being a part of.

Native plants are key, because they have evolved in tandem with specific types of insects to provide key sustenance for those insects. For example, goldenrod supports one hundred and twenty-four species of lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) who use this as a caterpillar host plant… Meaning, butterflies and moths lay their eggs on the goldenrod plant, and those eggs then hatch into larvae known as caterpillars. The caterpillars munch on the plant, unless of course they are eaten by birds or other wildlife… Which is key. Did you know that caterpillars are an essential food source for breeding birds? You may put out bird seed, and that’s great, but ultimately what nestlings need to survive is protein. According to Tallamy, chickadees must find between 6,000 – 9,000 caterpillars to raise a single clutch of young.

Non-native plants don’t have the same evolutionary history, which means insects are unable to feast on them. Historically, we’ve viewed this as a good thing – no insects munching on our plants means we get to enjoy them longer, right? Sure, but this explosion of what are known as “non-native ornamental” plants – Japanese honeysuckle, barberry, and Norway maple, for example – are a primary reason for the alarming decline in numbers of insects and, consequently, songbirds.

Soooo…. I’m encouraging the growth of native plants here on our little acre. I’ve also stopped weeding the flower garden to a large extent, since denser ground cover provides a more hospitable space for those aforementioned caterpillars to grow and, ultimately, play their role in the circle of life.

If you want to learn more about the plants in your yard and which are natives (and which natives are most beneficial), I highly recommend the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder. It’s a free tool you can use online, and it helps you log which native plants are on your property, and tells you how many (and which) types of insects it supports. I like it because it identifies the most beneficial plants, but be warned that there are many, many helpful natives that it doesn’t list on there. I also recommend PictureThis and PictureInsect, two incredible plant and insect identification apps you can download to your smartphone. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned from these two apps over the past few months, and can’t say enough good things about them.

ANYWAY… Onto the flowers here on the homestead.

Bee balm

Butterfly milkweed

Tiger lilies



Marji, among the bugleweed in our overgrown yard. Our bumblebees have been very, very happy this year!

Okay, friends… That’s it for me for now. Thank you to all of you who have read, commented, and enjoyed my posts. I’m certain that I’ll be back here and there, and will definitely let folks know when the next publishing project has been completed. In the meantime, you can find me at http://www.jenblood.com for updates on the world of Jen. Be well!!

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3 Responses to Flowering Natives on the Homestead

  1. Brenda Buchanan says:

    I will miss your posts, Jen! Thanks for the garden photos and best of luck with the new direction you’re taking with your writing.

  2. Alice says:

    thank you!

  3. itslorrie says:

    Enjoy your break and thanks for the photos and the link to the native plant finder. Sorry about the trees being cut down.

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