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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Welcome visitors

Today is a banner day for my garden. A hummingbird appeared outside my kitchen window this morning, feeding at a tall stand of yellow Oriental lilies and even perching on one briefly before darting away. Because of her subdued coloring, I’m guessing she was an immature female of our region’s ruby-throated hummingbird; she wasn’t sporting the bright greens or reds of the adults pictured on the website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
            I rarely spot hummingbirds, and I’m going to credit this visit to my efforts this year to provide more plants that will attract wildlife. In addition to squeezing in native plants where I can in my already crowded landscape, I started an insectary garden this May to provide food and lodging for native insects. 

May 19, before the plants went in
It began with a few seedlings of cosmos and black-eyed Susans and some native perennials I chose because they were recommended by Jessica Walliser in her wonderful book Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden. For more about beneficials, check out Jessica's bug blog. 
Insectary bed July 25

 Thanks to her advice, I’ve now got a bed bursting with flowers and buzzing with new insect visitors. 
I can’t identify the bugs yet, but I’m optimistic that they’re contributing to a healthy balance in my garden’s insect population while also helping to pollinate my vegetables. 

Along with the swamp milkweed, yarrow, phlox and purple coneflower, I included a few zinnias and some sweet alyssum that insects like even though they’re not native to the Northeast. Today’s hummingbird visitor underscores Jessica’s point that some nonnative plants can provide services to wildlife. The Oriental lilies come from China, but their trumpet-shaped flowers apparently gave the hummingbird some nectar she needed. The new bed for insects has brought me a lot of fun, in addition to attracting hungry guests.

It’s been great to watch the new plants shooting up, making buds and opening their flowers. Besides encouraging beneficial insect predators, I also aim with this bed to provide food and shelter for native herbivorous insects near the base of my garden’s food web. When leaves are chewed, instead of worrying, I can count it as progress toward my goal.

Let the feast continue!

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