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A suburban jungle

The last go-round here at the blog, I shared my parent's front yard, and some of the native plants that reside there. Well, the backyard - which doesn't have to conform so strongly to the curb appeal  suburban dress code - is an even cooler place. Off we go...

This is how a yard should look! If I dare wander out there on one of my visits with macro lens in tow, I'll likely be gone a long time. There are so many interesting insects that are atracted to the plants, and birds galore. The yard list is well over 100 species and includes notables such as Connecticut Warbler. Keep in mind, this is a typically sized suburban lot, somewhere between a third and a half acre. If everyone had a yard like this, there'd be a lot more wildlife around.

There are still plenty of non-native traditional garden plants, such as these orange day lilies, Hemerocallis fulva.

But the day lilies share space with lots of indigenous flora such as this butterfly-weed, Asclepias tuberosa. Butterfly-weed is a tried and true butterfly magnet, and it also attracts many other interesting pollinators.

Gardeners can't be begrudged their old school fare, such as this European bellflower, Campanula rapunculoides. I've got nothing against such plants. They're beautiful and add a dash of panache, but certainly don't spawn the ecological ladders that the natives do.

Nestled in near those bellflowers is this narrow-leaved mountain mint, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium, another nice native. In artificial urban/suburban environments, this is probably a good way to go - traditional not necessarily native garden plants intertwined with high-production natives that host many insects. After all, that's what one is essentially doing when going native in the garden - growing insects. That runs counter to many a gardener's philosophy, which is complete and utter eradication of bugs. Do that, and you'll have a pretty quiet patch, and less birds and other wildlife.

Even the fencerow is a pleasing mixture of native versus non. The vines scaling the fence near the foreground is one of our coolest natives...

Trumpet honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens. True, it barely reaches southern Ohio as part of its natural range - this yard is in Columbus - but who cares. If we split hairs to that degree, we'll just confuse people and create discouragement. This is an astonishingly good looking species, and as a major bonus Ruby-throated Hummingbirds love the stuff. In fact, hummers are frequent at this plant, and in recent years have nested nearby.

The back of the backyard. Growth back here has gotten so dense that Gray Catbirds, which are dependent upon thick cover, have begun nesting here. Overshadowing trees include a large black walnut, Juglans nigra, a tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, and sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua. The foliage of a redbud, Cercis canadensis, can be seen in the top left of the photo.

I find this very cool. This yard, like so many others, began life as a blank slate, its original growth scrubbed clean by the developer. It's no coincidence that the lightning bugs put on a show on summer eves, and scads of cool moths enliven the night - they aren't getting sprayed to death with chemicals, and they've got plants to host upon.

Shows what one can do with a bit of time and effort.


On my list for the weekend was to identify the wildflower growing on the edge of our woods. I took some good photos. I'm so happy to see it, Narrow-leaved mountain mint, growing in your parent's yard. Now I know. I like that back yard. The more stuff, the better. just give me a path to get through it. Nice article.
Cheryl said…
Your parents' yard inspires me to continue what I started over three years ago - replacing the prior owners' perfectly manicured flowerbeds into native plots. The time and effort is finally starting to match the vision I had. I make new discoveries each day among the native plantings. Thanks for sharing the pictures and info!
Gorgeous! An inspiration. What more needs to be said?
Auralee said…
You said the magic word when you mentioned the large black walnut. We have a beauty, but a lot of plants won't grow near it because of the juglone its roots exude. Methinks I now have a list of plants I can try. I've been to the various extension websites, of course, but you can't tell what's native from them without additional research. Thanks as always for the informative post!
Jim McCormac said…
Glad you guys like the yard! Good observation on the walnut, Auralee. Theirs doesn't seem to impact a very braod zone around the tree, though, and the benefits of having such a large tree outweigh any juglone impacts. Plus, some very cool caterpillars - then moths - require its foliage! Also, the tree was there long before the yard, somehow spared the developers axe...
OpposableChums said…
I have to admit: as much as I LOVE wildflowers, the most beautiful thing to me in these pictures is the hammock.

Hammocks and I have a great relationship. We understand each other's needs, and have no need to speak. A perfect match,
Trendle Ellwood said…
That looks like my yard! No wonder you grew up to be who you are with such cool parents. Thanks for the walk through their back yard, now I know what that strange maroon honeysuckle is beneath my clothesline.

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