Year after year, we are continually amazed at the living complexities that we observe in our retail and production
greenhouses. Once we pack them full of native plants in the spring, it is guaranteed that a rich assortment of animals will quickly show up in these unique and inviting environments. We don't use any sort of pesticides or insecticides, so it is definitely a safe, stable, and inviting environment. The saying "If you build it, they will come," can be loosely applied to ecological restoration as well as our native plant greenhouses.
Once we see flowering take place, a multitude of pollinators quickly take up residence in our opaque and very toasty hoop shelters. Bumblebees and butterflies constantly flutter around the natives, and put on quite a show. Although our plants will only be in the greenhouse for a short amount of time, pollinators waste no time visiting them.
Monarchs are often seen feeding on the pollen of flowering swamp milkweed or
butterfly weed. At times, their caterpillars may chew on our plants for food, but we are more than happy to share. Sometimes, our happy clients even may walk away with a milkweed plant and a hitchhiking monarch. What a bonus!
Our friendly bumblebees seem to be happy to feed on just about any flower that they can land on. However, we have noticed over the years they seem to be particularly fond of purple prairie clover, mountain mint, joe-pye weed, anise hyssop, and of course bergamot-also appropriately called "bee balm."
Pollinators are not the only creatures we see using our native plants before they are even planted in the ground. We are continually entertained by leaping frogs, slithering snakes, stealthy birds, friendly chipmunks, wary mice, and tiny voles that are looking for food and safe shelter. Certain animals will seek out certain plant species, even in the greenhouse. For example, we often notice many small
voles and mice seem to single out bebb's and fox sedge for nesting material. Who knows, this may have to do with the fine texture of the sedge leaves?
So you may not have a greenhouse, but you can introduce native plant communities to restore a
shoreline, wetland, prairie, woodland or other unique habitats. "Plant it and they will come." Choosing plants that have different bloom periods can be a very effective way to provide for pollinators throughout the growing season. This ensures they have a continual food source and you will have an amazing air show day after day. Planting emergent aquatic plants like bulrush and arrowhead is a magnet for fish, frogs, turtles, and wading birds. The possibilities on how you can create and improve native habitats are almost endless.