Embracing Biodiversity

Definition of biodiversity: The number and variety of organisms found within a specified geographic region.

My Backyard Friends in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

It’s all about my backyard friends! (photo: Kathy Diemer)

I’ve been an animal lover for as long as I can remember; both wild and domestic.  There is something equally mesmerizing when viewing a wild bird feeding her young or a domestic mama cow nursing her newborn calf.  Animals are everywhere and as a society we need to understand how to better interact with them to promote a healthier, happier world.  And there are many enjoyable ways to incorporate nature into our lives, while creating an environment to support our local wildlife as well.

Bumblebees feasting on Eupatorium in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Bumblebees feasting on Eupatorium (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Supporting biodiversity in our own back yards is as simple as planting some native plants and trees while withholding harmful chemicals and pesticides.  Since I’ve always had pets on my property, chemical fertilizers and bug sprays were considered too dangerous to use.  Having a stream that runs the entire length only compounded my concerns about soil and water contamination.  Although I quickly grasped the reasons for avoiding chemicals, I didn’t realize the important role of native plants in supporting our local ecosystem.

Swallowtail Enjoying Buttonbush in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Swallowtail enjoying Buttonbush (photo: Kathy Diemer)

During the earlier years, my gardening mentor and friend, Kathleen Nelson, was instrumental in inspiring me with the beauty and ease of native plants and shrubs in the landscape. Later, friend and author of Bringing Nature Home, Doug Tallamy, (visit: plantanative.com) was influential to the addition of hundreds of other native shrubs and trees to my landscape. Thanks to these passionate gardeners, their research and teachings, I soon discovered how each of us can responsibly care for our yards while helping local fauna at the same time.  And it all starts with the smallest critters, some that we really aren’t all that fond of: insects (invertebrates).  You see, insects are at the helm of the ecosystem.  They feed on the foliage of our native plants, shrubs and trees, in turn providing food for many other critters, from a wide range of birds to frogs and other small mammals.  Without native plants to sustain the local insects, our world as we know it would quickly vanish.

Native Border along Stream in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Native Border along Stream (photo: Kathy Diemer)

To find out more about local native plants for your area, try locating a nursery that specializes in them (visit: www.projectnative.org, www.grownativemass.org, or nativelandscaping.net).  Quite often these nurseries will have planted areas where you can observe the characteristics and beauty of a wide variety of native specimens while understanding the best growing conditions for them.  In my case, I wanted lots of natives to plant along my stream to create an inviting habitat for birds and other animals.  I chose plants such as goldenrod (solidago), ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) and mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum),

Honeybee on Mountain Mint in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Honeybee on Mountain Mint (photo: Kathy Diemer)

and shrubs including shadblow (amelanchier sp.), chokeberry (aronia sp.), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), cranberry viburnum (Viburnum trilobum), silky dogwood (Cornus amomum), pussy willow (Salix discolor), spice bush (Lindera benzoin); many that offer lovely spring flowers, bright fall foliage and berries to sustain our feathered friends through winter.  And for butterfly lovers, many of our native plants such as honeysuckle (lonicera), cone flower (echinacea), milkweed (asclepias), black-eyed Susan (rudbeckia), Joe pie weed (eupatorium), and shrubs such as button bush and summersweet (clethra) will attract our colorfully winged friends from miles away, and provide them with the nourishment needed to migrate south.  And here’s a list of **native trees that support the most lepidoptera (moth & butterfly) species from Doug’s book: Alder, ash, beech, birch, blueberry, cherry, chestnut, crabapple, cranberry, elm, hawthorn, hazelnut, hickory, linden, maple, oak, pine, plum, poplar, spruce, walnut and willow (**check your state’s listing to see which cultivars are native there).

Garden Spider on Native Itea virginica in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Garden spider on native Itea virginica (photo: Kathy Diemer)

In a nutshell, by adding native plants and losing the grip on poisonous sprays, we allow nature to tend to and thrive in our gardens.  Yes, there are a few holes in some leaves and some spider webs dangling from limb to limb, but what a small price to pay when hummingbirds hover overhead and bumblebees fly from flower to flower, their legs heavily laden with pollen.  It’s the cost of inviting nature into our lives (priceless); embracing it, appreciating it, ultimately growing to love it as I have.

*A final thought for those in close-knit neighborhoods: Consider cohesive garden plantings that join one property to another, which will create even more habitats and food sources for a wider variety of native fauna-right in your own back yard!


  1. Pretty impressive, I never even thought of how important our ecosystem is….

    • That’s just it, most people don’t realize how important native plants are when it comes to sustaining natural habitats. The good news is that more and more nurseries are offering native plants and advising clients to incorporate them into their landscape. The benefit of this change will result in more areas for our native fauna to thrive. Thanks for writing and spread the word!~

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