The Importance of Garden Mentors

Native Wildlife | A Garden for All by Kathy Diemer

Native Wildlife (Photo Credit: Kathy Diemer)

If I were asked what helped most to shape my way of gardening, mentors would be on the top of my list. Especially for the beginner-novice, being taken under the wing of a more experienced gardener could mean the difference of a successful garden or series of flops. Not to say you won’t have flops, even with guidance, but they should be a bit less. And you will also have someone to celebrate your wins with.

The person that helped me appreciate natives and how unusual, beautiful and easy to care for they are, would be my friend and neighbor Kathleen Nelson. Lucky for me, when I moved to Sherman, Kathleen was only minutes away and welcomed my visits at times most nurseries were long closed. She would happily walk me through her gardens and patiently answer my many questions. As a result, her influence is on display throughout my many gardens as they shimmer through the hottest, driest summers while providing inviting hang outs for the native insects and fauna. Kathleen helped me to become a responsible mature steward of the land and I will always appreciate all that she has done for me. I would strongly encourage you to find a local owner operated nursery because even if the plant material is a bit more than Home Depot, I guarantee the knowledge you gain will be priceless.

The most inspirational garden writer I’ve ever read is-hands down-Tovah Martin. Tovah is one of the nicest, most unpretentious people you ever want to meet (not to mention a great dance partner) and when you read her articles or books, you can’t help but want to buy or visit whatever-wherever she is writing about. Tovah can visit any garden and find wonder and joy around every corner to share with her readers. Let me put it another way, she could go to a junk yard and find beauty and intrigue to write about most eloquently. Tovah has written numerous books, is affiliated with many gardening magazines and speaks publicly all over the country. Don’t wait another moment to read something she’s written or hear her speak: Tovahmartin.com

I was introduced to Delaware professor Doug Tallamy when he spoke for a symposium I coordinated for the Mad Gardeners in 2008. In order to best promote him as our speaker, I read his then recently published book: Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens plantanative.com. Let me tell you, I was already planting natives, mindful of the benefits, but this book put me on a mission to quadruple my efforts! Doug takes you through all the steps explaining in simple but effective ways that as our native plants go, so do the insects that live in them and then the birds and other animals that feed on the insects follow. We all love butterflies, birds, frogs, bats-these and more are directly affected by what we do as gardeners. Please read this book and help create more biodiversity in your small part of the world. It will make a difference!

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