Herself's Houston Garden

Conservation through cultivation

Gardening for the birds and the bees in the Piney Woods




I attended a talk given by Greg Grant of the Piney Woods Nursery. This is a summery of what I heard. If it catches your imagination you should let him know and find out more about what he is hoping to do.

Texas is a unique state in that its size gives it a multitude of micro climates. Rainfall across the state ranges from 6″/year to 60″/year. We have desert, tropical, forests and bayous that all come together to form a unique patchwork not found anywhere else.

Over time we have paved and polluted this unique area driving many of the local critters and plants to extinction. Much of the extinction is due to lost habitats like those of the once common bald cypress swamps.

As gardeners we listen to the news about flora and fauna losses and wonder if we, as individuals, can do much of anything that will make a difference. Gardeners in particular are accustomed to shaping our yard to the garden of our choice. But when we choose plants and the design of our gardens we need to consider the larger picture.

Most of the plants of choice now are plants from Asia, not Texas, or they are the weeds ( annuals ) our ancestors brought over from Europe. Our gardens have become a hodge podge of plant materials from around the world and not part of a larger plan.

If we, as gardeners were to all choose plants native to our areas ( pre colonialist ) then we could create a patchwork of native plant habitats that would grow over time. These habitats would provide food and shelter for native species to grow and thrive.

Unfortunately some have taken gardening with native plants as an excuse to let the yard grow wild with weeds. This have given native plants a bad name and created the stereotype of native plant people to be a bit daffy. Native plant gardens need to follow the same basic design principles that our more common gardens follow. They can and should be just as pretty to look at as what we now plant.

Get familiar with invasive species. Remove them from your gardens, enlighten your neighbors and any stores you find selling invasives to an unwitting public. Limit the amount of lawn. Ditch those plastic and silk flowers made from petrochemicals. They are an abomination.

Remember that when you spray an insecticide something, perhaps a young bird, will come and eat those insects you poisoned.

Do the research. Find out what plants are native to your area. Plant them and the native species will grow. Use local materials for your hardscape. The place will look more natural. Anything that comes local takes a lot less gasoline to get to you.

Put up bird boxes. Put out water for the birds.

Use rain water collection systems and don’t let our water go to waste.

Grow more of your own food.

Recycle.

Most importantly relax and enjoy your garden. Leave some dead trees for the woodpeckers. We have lost most of our cavity dwelling birds because the woodpeckers who create the homes for them have no material to work with.

Send your children outside to play. The world is a wonderful place.

Remember that most butterflies, moths and insects have a specific host plant. Lose the plant and you lose the butterfly.

And that is how you, as a local small gardener can make a difference.

While his philosophy is not my own, it was an inspiring talk. I left fully intending to rip out my gardens and plant all natives. Then I realized my garden is more than half natives so I didn’t feel so bad.

If you are even a little bit inspired or interested be sure to check out The Stephen F Austin State University SFA Mast Arboretum and the Piney Woods Native Plant Center. They would love to hear from you and tell you more about what they are doing.

If you build it they will come.

See also:
Texas Invasives