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MASTER GARDENERS: No yard too small for native plants

Memories of first experiences with one's mother or dad are all the sweeter once our parents are gone; sometimes these early exposures form lasting interests. Mine are of Mom pointing out bright orange lilies along the railroad tracks, yellow cowslips near the slough in the pasture and smelling the sweet smell of Hoary puccoons. Now opportunities are available for us to observe wildflowers in local garden settings and create our own gardens with locally available native plants.

The Birds, Bees and Butterfly initiative of Beltrami County has again developed a list of 10 native wild plants good for attracting and supporting these creatures necessary for environmental health and for maintaining our food supply. Additionally, they are beautiful and fun to observe and can create memories for the next generation!

The 10 plants selected include at least one species that should grow in your yard. Right plant, right place is the key; select shady plants for shady sites, sunny ones for sunny ones, wetland plants for soggy sites. Putting prairie plants that need full sun in a shaded situation will never be successful no matter how much you want that plant.

Plants selected this year include these sunny flowering species: Penstemon grandiflorus (large beardtongue), Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly-weed), Liatris pycnostachya (prairie blazing star). Two other species, Sporobolus heterolepis (prairie dropseed), a grass, and Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea), a deciduous shrub, are also sun-loving selections.

For shade tolerant species some lovely flowering perennials have been chosen: Anemone acutiloba (sharp-leaved hepatica), Anemone canadensis (Canada anemone) and Symphyotrichum oolentangiense (sky-blue aster). Two other types of perennials have been included: a grass, Elymus hystrix (bottlebrush grass) and a shrub, Diervilla lonicera (bush honeysuckle).

By looking up the latin name online or checking in a wild plant book, you can learn more about these plants—their size, their bloom time, their stature, the soil they grow best in—clues to appearance and how they might fit your situation. I have grown many of them, having started them from seed and have enjoyed incorporating them into my perennial gardens. Now, with plants being available at three local sources, Ace Hardware, Nature's Edge and Hills Country Greenhouse, you can by-pass this sometimes challenging part of the growing process. A number of other colorful native plants will also be available.

Native plants are sometimes slower to establish but these plants are well worth the wait, for you and for the birds, bees and butterflies native to our area. Many insects and birds are on the decline or endangered; often the cause is a decline in available forage or shelter that fit their specific needs. No yard is too small to plant a few native plants.

You will see many gardens planted with native species that provide nectar, pollen, seeds, and habitat. Stop at the Watermark Art Center to see the ambitious planting done last fall. Schools are putting in pollinator gardens; the Beltrami County History Center will be converting their beds to native plantings with a workshop on June 19 at 9 a.m.; individuals are including native species in their landscaping. How many sites can you find? You will also observe colorful banners in the downtown area that show native wildflowers that support these creatures that are so important to the health and beauty of our northern Minnesota home.

Click on "Yard and Garden at the University of Minnesota Extension website, www.extension.umn.edu for gardening information. Local Master Gardeners will respond to questions via voicemail. Call (218) 444-7916, leaving your name, number and question.

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