Yesterday I began telling the story of how I came to be the garden designer for a celebrity’s wildlife garden. I was as surprised as anyone in the summer of 2012 when my phone rang and on the other end was an internationally known actress and activist who had heard of my ecological garden design business and wanted to meet me.
Among the other, edible gardens, Allison Mack and I planned to plant native plants to harmonize with the neighboring wildlife. Lots of Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) was planted for Monarch butterfly support. Other natives in this bed include Amsonia hubrectii, Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem artichoke), Eupatorium maculata (Spotted Joe Pye Weed), Clematis viorna (native species Clematis), Clematis virginia (native Clematis “Devil’s Darning Needle”), Echinacea purpurea (Coneflower), Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem Grass), and Tansy vulgaris (Tansy).
Elsewhere on the property in a partial shade garden, we added a collection of shade tolerant native plants. The bed is now, ten months later, bursting with new life. Months of sequential beauty, motion and color are just beginning to unfold.
At the far corner of the partial shade bed, there is a row of Zizia aurea (Golden Alexander), which packs a lot of muscular ecological wallop for such an unassuming looking plant. Golden Alexander is the larval host plant for the butterfly species Papilio polyxenes, the Black Swallowtail. Z. aurea also is of “special value to native bees, and attracts predatory insects,” according to the Xerces Society. The influx of insects is in turn always helpful for bird populations that feed their young exclusively with insects. (That’s most bird species.) Pound for pound, more insects equals more birds.
Getting to know Allison Mack has been all different colors of a specifically lovely and positive experience. We garden writers and ecology devotees are sometimes as proselytistic about our native plants and wildlife gardening dogma as recent religious converts. It’s a beautiful thing. Allison Mack, the diva of this “Celebrity Wildlife Gardening” event seems to have been stung by the same nature worshipping bee as the rest of us. She has other (and worthy) directions for her activism. But meeting her and observing her joy as her surroundings transform, before her very eyes into a verifiable wildlife habitat has instilled a deep sense of hope in me. Traditionally Americans listen to well known entertainers. We, the people who hope to continue inhabiting this small spaceship sized planet with every species intact, just need a few more “celebrities” to experience how wonderful wildlife gardening is. Gwyneth Paltrow, Jonah Hill, Denzel Washington….. Call any one of us at team BWG. Operators are standing by.
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