Remember the childhood rhyme: Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Bear. Fuzzy Wuzzy had no Hair. Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t Fuzzy, Was He? I never really understood what it meant either, but it was an appealing saying for a kid who loved soft and fuzzy stuff such as the down on a newly hatched chick, the velvety-soft nose of a horse, or the furriness of a pussy willow catkin (at right).
Whether you’re young or old, the presence of fuzzy stuff in your garden is still fun — from plants to fuzzy butterfly caterpillars! Sensory gardens, childrens’ gardens, wildlife gardens — these are all gardening styles that by nature include many fuzzy wuzzies as part of the sensory immersion of visitors in the sounds, scents and textures of the garden.
Here are a few fuzzy wuzzy plants suitable for habitat gardens because they all provide food or shelter of some kind to wildlife:
Silver Sage ‘Hobbit’s Foot’ (Salvia argentea), growing here in the Lerner Garden for the Senses at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. The small tubular blooms of Sage/Salvia attract many pollinators to their nectar, but this variety features distinctively soft and silvery foliage inviting to the touch:
If your garden contains plenty of host plants for butterfly and moth caterpillars, you’ll probably find lots of fuzzy caterpillars! Below is a fuzzy milkweed tussock moth caterpillar curled up on these Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina), with leaves as soft as a baby lamb’s ear:
Lamb’s Ear is one of my favorite garden plants for bees — their purple flowers are rich in nectar and much loved by bumble bees, especially. Lamb’s Ear is native to the Middle East but does well in New England gardens where it can spread to form a short groundcover that contrasts nicely with other perennials. I like to use it as edging for perennial beds:
There are lots of different furry moth species out there, including tussock and tiger moths (which include the familiar woolly bear caterpillars), but be very careful about touching them. Some people can get a rash by touching the hairs…
The native staghorn sumac shrub (Rhus typhina) carries large fuzzy red seed clusters high on its branches — they persist well into winter, when they feed birds and provide some much-appreciated color to the landscape. Sumac branches are furry, too:
The soft fiber (called floss) attached to milkweed seeds invite you to feel their silky strands:
What child hasn’t tried their best to puff all the fluff off a dandelion in a one big huff?
Cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) sports furry “cinnamon sticks” that are dramatic in appearance as well as soft to the touch — ruby-throated hummingbirds often use bits of these brown fronds as a soft lining for their nests:
Do you have fuzzy wuzzies in your garden that delight the senses and nurture wildlife? I can think of many others, including the native boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) with its hairy stems, southeastern native shrub fothergilla with its fuzzy bottle-brush flowers (below), and the furry late-winter buds of Asian magnolia tree. Please share some others!
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