Glenwild Garden Center Gardening Links

Building a Native Backyard Ecosystem or Pollinator Garden

There is a lot of buzz around the term “native plants” or native gardening. What does it mean to plant native? And why is it important to our local environment and ecosystems? As a home gardener, you can easily attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators to your backyard garden by adding native plants. By slowly building a native pollinator garden one or two plants at a time, you help to replace the dwindling food and habitats pollinators and other beneficial organisms rely on to survive. 


Why incorporate native plants into your garden?

Our local community of insects and animals rely on the plants around them for survival. They have evolved over time to be able to use different parts of these plants for food and shelter. When we bring in non-native plants, most of the time the local fauna can’t adapt to this new environment. For example, the only plant a Monarch butterfly caterpillar can eat is milkweed. It is their only food source, or host plant, and when we clear these ‘weeds’ from our native pollinator garden and plant pretty annuals or something else, they cannot lay their eggs or survive in that area.

What exactly does it mean to be a “native plant”?  

A “true” native plant is generally recognized as a specific species of plant that has been growing in a particular area (in our case, Northern New Jersey or the ‘mid-atlantic area’) prior to European colonization. This definition is from Awesome Native Plants : “Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions where they naturally occur. These important plant species provide nectar, pollen, and seeds that serve as food for native butterflies, insects, birds and other animals.”

Cultivars are created by cross-pollination between two different varieties of a plant, creating new colors, shapes, or fragrance. Although this can happen naturally, most cultivars exist because of human intervention. Even if the ‘parent plants’ are native, there are varying views on the inclusion of cultivars in native gardens. We feel that if the local insects or birds can eat or use these cultivars, it can be included in your native garden without concern. Hybrid plants are the intentional cross-pollination of two different species. Though they may be very pretty, or interesting, they don’t generally support the ecosystem they live in as the insects and animals cannot use them for survival.


How to choose plants for your native backyard ecosystem

We have put together Native Plant displays and areas at Glenwild so you can easily find the right plants to choose from. Know that there are also native plants and cultivars scattered throughout the nursery as well. We also have lists of plants at the garden center for you to take, walk around and shop with, or you can go to our native list on our Plant Finder page. Visit our native and cultivar Plant Finder page HERE.

Don’t forget to plant herbs, vegetables and fruits, as pollinators love these blooms, too. Arugula, borage, rosemary, thyme, dill, oregano, parsley, carrots, cauliflower and also fruit shrubs and trees are just a few of the plants you can find here in season that pollinators love.

Planting large groupings of flowers in full sun can make for a more attractive display, as can combining diverse plants that bloom from early spring into fall for a long season. Diversity in color, fragrance and shapes will also attract the eye of both pollinators and humans alike. Bees are particularly attracted to shades of blue, purple, white and yellow, whereas butterflies love red and purple blooms.

Bees and butterflies aren’t the only pollinators, though! Other important backyard pollinators include, flies, wasps, moths, beetles, hummingbirds, bats, and birds.


Other tips for a successful native pollinator garden

When it comes to gardening, being messy can benefit everyone. Leaf litter and bushy areas provide habitats nesting and egg-laying. Grassy or weeded areas, shrubbery, branch piles and leaf litter can provide nesting areas and/or cover for pollinators to nest, lay eggs, and overwinter. Don’t clean up leaves in early spring—let the insects emerge after the days are over 50 degrees before raking.

Water sources, like a small bowl or birdbath with pebbles for perching, can make your native yard even more attractive to pollinators.


For more information, try these websites:

Native Plant Society of New Jersey

Awesome Native Plants

American Beauties

By Glenwild Gardens