Would You Do It For Me?

We’ve all heard that one doesn’t plant a tree for now, you plant a tree for the future.  You make an investment when you plant a tree, especially one destined to be a tall canopy tree, soaring high above you, your home and most of the living things around it. Sure, you’ll enjoy it while you’re there, but it will live on after you move away and even after you die.


Would you plant something for me?

The concept of making decisions that yield benefits for future generations is one that appeals to most of us that write here. Yet the benefit to future generations isn’t so far in the distant future.

Your botanical investments affect more than just generations of humans, they affect generations of beetles, frogs, lizards, birds, butterflies and squirrels … the list is long and varied. All of them benefit from the plants you choose – whether they eat part of the plant itself or they eat the bugs that eat the plant. And new generations are born every day, every week, every month!


When you go to purchase a plant for your garden, what goes through your mind? “It’s pretty, it’s evergreen, my neighbors already have one so I’ll be in step with other yards” – those are generally the reasons that I hear people express. You usually garden for reasons of your own. How about gardening more for future generations? How about:

Would you grow plants that attract caterpillars so we can eat?

How about thinking about how your choices can make a difference to an entire world around your house and your neighborhood?


When you make your plant choices, you are gardening for all the creatures around you.  In a sea of suburbia, your yard and your neighbors’ yards can be an essential oasis for now and the future. And I mean right now. You can make a difference not just for future humans but future everything!

Monarch butterfly on goldenrod (Solidago)

Every single plant choice you make can make a difference to some creature. The more diverse choices you make (that is, don’t plant huge masses of just one thing – choose lots of different things!), the more impact you can have on different bugs, birds and small mammals.

The milkweed (Asclepias) that you plant provides nectar to butterflies and to other pollinators, but it also provides food for monarch butterfly caterpillars. The passionflower (Passiflora) that you let scramble up a portion of your fence creates beautiful purple flowers for you and food for zebra longwing and gulf fritillary butterfly caterpillars. As these caterpillars grow, they provide a very local classroom for you to introduce your children, grandchildren or neighborhood kids to the wonderful world of nature.

The oak tree (Quercus) that you plant also plays host to over 500 different species of caterpillars, and it drops nutritious nuts, encouraging a variety of wildlife to explore your yard: turkeys, squirrels, deer, chipmunks and others.

Would you do it for me?

As winter closes in and our garden plans play out in our head and we wait for spring to return, think about who you garden for … and who you could garden for. There are a thousand little creatures just outside your door, wondering if you could make some choices for them. Consider these three points as you plan:

Plant native plants.
Research your choices so that they are suitable for the place you choose.
Be diverse.


The next time you see a bird fly across your yard or watch a butterfly float by on a warm summer day … you can think “I did it for you!”

© 2012, Ellen Honeycutt. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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  1. says

    Excellent article, Ellen! It’s so important to consider how the choices we make in our gardens impact so many other beings, the birds, the butterflies, the native bees, and so much more. When we choose plants that benefit wildlife we truly are gardening for the future of the earth!
    Carole Sevilla Brown recently posted..The Ecosystem Gardening Story

  2. says

    Well done Ellen! Making people think about the garden in these terms, as opposed to “just a pretty place” will definitely help many to make better choices of plantings. Thanks for providing them with a long term plan.
    Loret T. Setters recently posted..Army Lives!

  3. Sheri George says

    Ellen, I wish I could put a beautiful big bow on your article and give it to everyone! Thanks for sharing your gift of writing and passion for native plants and communities.

  4. says

    “In a sea of suburbia, your yard and your neighbors’ yards can be an essential oasis ” so true, Ellen. Having vision for the future for wildlife in your garden, involves thinking about the future that extends beyond you.

    This sometimes additionally means thinking about how you can educate the next folks that live at your property. How can we plant things that will carry on without us? And how can we educate the next stewards?
    Kathy Vilim recently posted..A Time to Be Thankful at the Ocean

  5. says

    Lovely work, Ellen, and so timely as our thoughts turn to ‘giving’ during this season. One of the things I learned in my Audubon Ambassador training this fall was to encourage people to look ahead even though their yards might have nice trees in them already. We need to be placing young trees in a spot where eventually they can take over when their neighbors leave the scene. That way nice specimens, already established, are in position to replace the old trees.
    sue dingwell recently posted..The Power of WE, as in WEtland


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