Melanie Palmer, Curator of Durango Botanic Gardens (DBG), recently attended the Colorado Home and Garden Show, February 28, 2020 AND the Colorado Native Plant Society Conference: Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants, February 29, in Denver. The Colorado Garden Foundation uses funds raised at the Home and Garden Show for grants to various projects around the state. The Durango Botanic Gardens has been the recipient of three such grants in the past. Following is Melanie’s observations on both events…
The Colorado Home and Garden Show had many themed garden displays, but the highlight was the educational display by Colorado Master Gardeners, specifically Arapahoe County Master Gardeners, with papier mâché displays of beneficial and harmful insects. (Shown in the photos)
CONPS Landscaping with Natives Conference
This is the fifth straight year that this conference has sold out. There were at least 425 attendees. The presentations will be uploaded to the CONPS.org site. All registrants received ONE of their 5 regional planting guides. All of these guides are available on their website.
The keynote speaker was Scott Hoffman Black of the Xerces Society, named after the first butterfly genus to go extinct in the US, and dedicated to invertebrate conservation. Xerces.org has many downloadable resources. Many important takeaways from Dr. Black's presentation and four other presentations:
- Alarming decreases in invertebrates all over the planet: (99% decline of Western monarch butterflies, 70% decrease in invertebrate biomass in Germany over the last 20 years studied, 28% of bumble bee species in North America are threatened, aquatic stoneflies, crabs and snails threatened)
- 95% of songbirds rear young on invertebrates
- 85% of flowering plants require insect pollination
Threats are coming from:
- Habitat loss
- Habitat degradation (grazing, mowing, fires)
- Pesticide use
- Diseases (esp in bumblebees)
- Climate change
- Escaped biocontrols
Some ideas for helping: (Includes many ideas from several of the other presenters)
- DO NOT USE PESTICIDES
- Think about the needs of individual animals and their life history, the animals at the bottom of the food chain. WRT butterfly gardens, plants like lantanas, zinnas, butterfly bush, cosmos, and the like may attract ADULT butterflies, but do NOTHING for critical butterfly egg laying, larvae production etc. Cater to the CATERPILLARS more than the adult butterflies. Learn to distinguish between desirable and harmful (CSU Fact Sheets)
- Restoration is good, but preservation of existing habitat is better—even simple things like changing highway mowing practices.
- Maximize the diversity of native flora by managing vegetation in natural areas.
- Plant bee lawns (low-growing flowers with some bare space for ground nesting bees)
- 70% of plant biomass in your yard should be native in order to support birds—birds need soft-bodied insects to feed their young, NOT bird feeders, although birdfeeders in winter are very helpful
- Non-native plants do not support the bottom of the food chain as well; alien ornamentals support 29X less biodiversity than natives.
- Curb carbon footprint
- Educate people on the beauty of native plants
- Provide water for birds
- Provide a variety of structure: Trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses. Group plants that bloom at one time together and have something in bloom for as long as possible. Don’t tidy your gardens in fall (except for removal of diseased plants)
- Build pollinator meadows for business campuses instead of lawns.
- MAKE NATIVE PLANTS MORE AVAILABLE TO THE AVERAGE PERSON, AND EASY TO GROW
- Start small – convert 10% of your lawn
- Educate people about the possibilities that rooftop gardens and rain gardens can have on heat islands
- Use multiple strategies
Locally native vs. native CULTIVARS: no conclusive research except for some butterflies and caterpillars. Natives are superior to cultivars, BUT AVILABILITY IS A BIG ISSUE.
There are many free resources available on what to plant, especially at the conps.org website, and many resources on the garden design process at extension.colostate.edu