pollinators' garden / the gardens

Lamb’s Ear

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It keeps spreading! The bumblebees love it so I don’t mind. What started as one salvaged plant from the old house, has now become a bed of fuzzy, silver leaves. As a keeper of European honeybees and chickens, I’m clearly not a purist. Those two species originally came from Asia. The Europeans are clearly not purists either.

Many native plant aficionados hate Lamb’s Ear and Althea (Rose of Sharon). I get it. These are invasive plants. The butterflies, hummingbirds, and bumblebees don’t get it. Above all else in my garden, these two plants feed countless bumblebees. I keep these plants close to my house, where I can pull up unwanted strays.  My native plants have the privilege of reaching out everywhere.

I understand the need for native plant preservation and invasive plant controls. I eradicate Japanese honeysuckle whenever I find it and plant the native variety in its place. My daughters can’t pop the native blossoms for a taste of the nectar but the vines burst with red or pink. Hummingbirds visit at dusk. The scent fills our chicken yard every night. It’s a good trade.

Years ago, when struggling to decide whether or not to rip out my Althea bushes, I found research that saved them. This study described how native birds and insects have benefitted from invasive plants growing in developed spaces. Invasive plants can be an important food source when the landscape has been developed. I thought of the bumblebees and left the shrubs alone.

I try to find balance. The Japanese honeysuckle feeds many a bird. However, it also smothers out native food sources at high rates. These must go. Our native insects and birds have a hard enough time surviving in our ever-increasing sprawl of hygienic, HOA grass plots. Plant native but don’t lose sleep over the bumblebee’s favorite invasive.

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