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Tiger Swallowtail nectaring on Purple Sage ( Salvia leucophylla ) Butterflies are among the most attractive visitors to any garden.   ...

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Why Gardens Matter (in Times of Drought)

Many of us are looking inward in 2016, reflecting on our motivations, actions and responsibilities to others.  These are important steps; somehow, we must work together to solve the challenges of our interconnected world.   Harmony, cooperation, thoughtfulness and positive actions are needed in times like this.

Times of change also remind us of our sacred role as land stewards.  Urban dwellers sometimes forget they are part of larger ecosystems.  But our actions – good or bad - effect the lives of many species, in addition to our own.

We’ve recently been reminded of the importance of gardens in times of drought.  The signs of S. California’s worst recorded drought are all around, in brown lawns and sick/dying street trees.  The effects are even more dramatic in the wildlands - and it’s not just the plants that are suffering.
Sand wasp on Red Buckwheat

Even some ‘common’ native butterflies and other insects are just not out there in the wild this year. Drought means no water and no food. And so these creatures flock to our gardens, desperate for a meal and a drink.  Gardens are a sanctuary for many creatures this year.

It’s no surprise that naturalists have noted increased numbers of birds and insects in gardens this summer. These observations are supported by data from recent bird and butterfly counts. Our gardens are truly a haven of last resort in times of drought.

Climate change forces us to rethink our gardens. In addition to choosing plants that can survive, we should consider those that provide something extra.  That ‘something extra’ can be a sweet aroma, food or flavorings for the table, herbal medicines or habitat for native creatures.  Fortunately, many California native plants provide many ‘extras’ (in addition to being drought tolerant).  Gardens that include native plants simply offer more benefits.

Whether just a few pots on a balcony – or a plot of several acres – your garden can be a place of refuge for plants, humans, other animals, insects and others.  You have the luxury of providing a little bit of water – even if the amount is restricted.  And that makes all the difference, in times of drought.   

Creating refuge is not difficult – all it takes a bit of thought and planning.   The preparations can be fun and interesting for the entire family.  Learn about local native birds, butterflies and pollinators.  What do they need in order to live in your garden?  How can you provide it? Visit a local nature center or botanic garden and ask questions.  Consult books at your public library and the many good resources on the internet.  Here are a few to get you started:


Gray Hairstreak on Dune buckwheat (Eriogonum parvifolium)
So let this be a year of introspection – but also a year for positive action.  Resolve to make a difference in the community where you live; and don’t just limit your vision to the human species.  Learn more about the ecosystem in which you live.  And don’t be surprised to discover new meaning and direction along the way.

Get out, start thinking, get going; the time for action is now.  A bit of mindfulness can transform each of us into agents of positive change.  And the cumulative effects of positive actions, no matter how small, can truly make a difference in challenging times like this.



For more ideas on sustainable living see:


Summer garden - Mother Nature's Backyard, Gardena CA



We welcome your comments (below).  You can also send your questions to: mothernaturesbackyard10@gmail.com


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