If you read the post Saving Grace, you know that my friend Henry Holt is a pretty special guy doing pretty amazing things to impact his neck of the woods…and what an inspiration, huh? Well, I agree, not everyone can build his or her own prairie. But I’m pretty sure that everyone I know would love to be part of a more sustainable planet.
In the face of Climate Change, rampant corporate greed and a tax system stacked against the average small farmer, things really look pretty bleak a lot of the time, right? Well, pretty bleak, maybe, but is it really hopeless? Think about these words from Henry’s muse the conservationist Aldo Leopold: “That the situation appears hopeless should not prevent us from doing our best.” There is always something we can do, even if it is merely the act choosing to buy local food instead of food from miles away. Maybe our best won’t be acres of prairie, like Henry’s. Maybe it will be an hour or two of volunteering or a donation to a local conservation group. Maybe it will be as easy and enjoyable as planting a little garden that also supports the environmental community we share. As long as we do our best, it’s going to make a positive difference.
One way I have tried to contribute locally is to become a member of Heartlands Conservancy (HC), a nonprofit environmental organization, whose mission is to “provide leadership and solutions to sustain and enrich the diverse environmental resources of Southwestern Illinois.” The work of HC includes land conservation and acquisition, preserving archeological and historic treasures such as Cahokia Mounds, and providing community projects that build an appreciation of Nature and help maintain access to clean water and air.
At the moment, I’m enouraging anyone who will listen to support an HC campaign to save one of the rare pieces of land near my home —a real wilderness spot called Bohm Woods, which sits precariously close to a civilization that could destroy it simply through close proximity. New development is threatening the health of the flora and fauna on the forest floor and in the branches of its ancient canopy. So HC has started a drive to Save Bohm Woods. I hope you take a look both at the mission of Heartlands Conservancy and other environmental groups in your “neck of the woods,” so to speak. Then consider a donation of time or money.
Here’s another easy way to make a huge difference–plant a flower, or two or three. My daughter Heather is a professional gardener and works in landscaping. She’s been my little inspiration to take my yard and turn it, bit by bit, into a haven for pollinators—kind of like Henry but in miniature. If you’d like to do that, too, but don’t have a professional gardener to help you, no worries!
Delicious living Magazine (DL) is on it! Their author Lisa M. Truesdale has some great tips for creating your own prairie–even if it’s only a few feet wide—with easy-to-find starter plants. The only advice I can add is that you will want to be sure you are buying safe plants that have not been treated with pesticides. So also check out Pollinator Partnership before you head out to a local nursery or farmer’s market.
Many of Truesdale’s suggestions below are for spring plantings, but any gardener will tell you that planning your new garden months ahead of planting it is very wise. You’ll have time to talk to experts, plot your garden space, select appropriate plants and be set for next year! Or perhaps you’ll “bee” set for next year. (Couldn’t resist it.) Here are Truesdale’s easy-to-find picks:
Aster’s starry flower heads bloom in pleasing colors, such as blue, white, pink and purple. Plant this perennial in spring to enjoy flowers in late summer and fall. Aster plants love full sun or partial shade.
Pollinators love this yellow-plumed perennial, which also helps keep bad bugs away from your vegetable garden. There are more than 100 varieties of goldenrod, with several for every type of climate. It’s also easy to care for and drought-tolerant.
This native perennial blooms midsummer to fall, and it’s relatively drought-tolerant. Plant in spring; it likes full sun to light shade.
Bees like herbs with single-petaled flowers, such as basil, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Hummingbirds like tubular blossoms, such as those on lavender, hyssop and rosemary. Butterflies prefer chives, thyme, mint, and parsley.
Sunflowers are easy to grow, even in very dry areas, during times of drought and in clay soils. Pollinators love the large, colorful flowers, and you’ll also attract birds that like to eat the seeds.
Choose the planting location carefully—some varieties can reach up to 15 feet tall!
Always remember those words of Aldo Leopold, and do your best. The Earth and its inhabitants will be much better off… and so will you.
Featured photo of a purple coneflower courtesy of Henry Holt.