Creating a plan to incorporate native plants as well as pollinator and wildlife-friendly habitats into your own landscape just got a bit easier, thanks to the Wild Ones' Monarch Waystation Garden Tour on July 11.
Wild Ones (Wildones.org) is a national organization that promotes the use of native plants for sustainable and eco-friendly landscapes.
Ten locations, both private and public, will be open on the Lexington tour. They include a variety of ideas for replacing turf grass lawns with urban prairie makeovers, establishing pollinator sanctuaries, and developing efficient, environmentally healthy water management techniques.
Beate Popkin, president of the local Wild Ones chapter, says, "Unlike other garden tours, this one is more about the plants."
Sustainability and diversity of native species, both of the plants and the wildlife they support, is key. Even more so than with traditional perennial beds, there is an art to controlling the garden's growth patterns from year to year, which can be observed at the various tour locations.
"It's a balancing act between letting nature take its course and managing your garden," Popkin says.
All of the tour gardens are registered in the Monarch Waystation program developed by Monarch Watch (Monarchwatch.org). Among other requirements, a waystation must contain at least 10 milkweed plants, on which monarch butterflies exclusively lay their eggs and caterpillars feed; and also four or more nectar-producing flower species that support monarchs and other pollinators as nutrient sources, to get certified.
Concerned by declining numbers of migrating monarch butterflies each year, many gardeners have promoted the establishment of waystations. Wild Ones, in conjunction with the Garden Club of Kentucky, has been encouraging not only individuals but civic institutions, parks, libraries and businesses to establish waystations. Linda Porter, who has spoken to many Kentucky groups about the program, says that in 2013, there were 36 registered waystations in Kentucky; currently there are about 250.
Tour garden highlights
The tour gardens reflect this awakening of interest in habitat restoration. At Wellington Park last year, Wild Ones volunteers transformed a grassy traffic island beside the parking area into a wildflower wonderland, using drifts of native plants known to be particularly attractive to pollinators including Echinacea, mountain mint, purple giant hyssop and milkweed. At the Klausing Group, which is a commercial landscaping business, a variety of environmentally beneficial ideas are showcased around the office building: vegetative roof plantings containing more than 40 native species; innovative storm water quality improvement drainage features; and rainwater collection systems can be seen.
There are a variety of residential settings. A bungalow on Richmond Avenue demonstrates how small spaces can have a big impact; other yards on the street echo a love of green space. In the Lansdowne area, Betty Hall's gardens are both a setting for her nature photography and a source of food for her butterfly- and moth-raising projects. You can follow her progress on her website, Bettyhallphotography.com. Some unusual Cecropia moth caterpillars, which feed on water maple leaves, will also be on display.
An upsurge of interest in conservation and restoration of native species has resulted in the formation of many "citizen scientist" programs. Just this May, the White House collaborated to develop the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. You can learn more and register your pollinator-oriented garden with the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge at Millionpollinatorgardens.org. Also, a diverse group of concerned organizations formed the Monarch Joint Venture (monarchjointventure.org) with an information-packed website. Finally, to track many migrations, a global site, Journey North (Journeynorth.org), allows users to register and observe sightings during migrations.