Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gardening for Life

From the bean of Green Bean.

I took a break from planting runner beans to watch a painted lady butterfly cartwheel across the phacelia.  White cabbage butterflies performed acrobatics over the wild radish and bumblebees launched themselves into the California poppies.  A squirrel stretched to pluck seeds from the borage while a lizard tiptoed over the gravel pathway.

A squirrel balancing on a small hawthorne branch to eat spring buds.
From the tall trees on either side, the birds' songs were a cacophony - chittering of titmice (admonishing their new babies), squeaks of chickadees and the screech of the scrub jay.  A hummingbird hovered in mid-air, a ballerina in search of nectar.  After years of gardening for beauty and food, I now find that I am gardening for life.

A painted lady butterfly suns itself on a borage leaf.
Oh sure, I still have raised beds overflowing with tomatoes and herbs.  Peppers peep out from behind peas while pumpkins and cucumbers wait off-stage, in the greenhouse, for their entrance to the summer garden.  Of course, I also still garden for the sheer beauty of it, but now, I ask for much more from my garden.

Lady bug on native Clarkia.
Pretty is not enough.  Before I put something non-edible in the ground, I want to know what sort of life it will support.  Will this bring pollinators to the garden?  Will it provide nesting material or winter berries for birds?  Will butterflies lay their eggs here?

Skipper on a California poppy.
Our native wildlife are increasingly squeezed out by habitat loss, pollution, drought, and extreme weather events.  In the last 40 years, wildlife on earth has decreased by 50%.  Closer to home, kids today see 35% fewer butterflies than their parents did 40 years ago.  By gardening for life, I can push back against those statistics.  

Native bee on wild radish.
By seeking out the less flashy butterfly host plants and accepting leaf damage, I can help increase the local butterfly population.


By letting leaves decompose instead of blowing the beds free of debris, I can increase the insect population and thereby the bird population.

A Varied Thrush overwintered in our garden for the first time, and spent most of his or her time
digging in the leaf litter looking for bugs. 
By eschewing pesticides and planting natives, I can ensure that bird parents have enough insects to feed their babies - which are almost exclusively feed insects, not seeds.

A titmouse bringing food to a birdhouse full of babies.
I do all of these things and more so that tomorrow brings more birds, more butterflies, more bees, more life.  I garden for life.  Will you?

A goldfinch waits while its mate gathers nesting materials nearby.
This post is part of the Tuesday Garden PartyMaple Hill Hop and Green Thumb Thursday.

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