Since the arrival of the colonists on this continent, many plants have been imported for both utilitarian purposes as well as for ornamental landscaping. During the Victorian Era, acquiring plants from exotic lands gave one status as many adorned their gardens with species from abroad. And while we’ve grown accustomed to the aesthetic and beauty they offer, recent studies indicate that many of these species have become problematic and are known as 'invasive’. Basically, they outcompete our native plants which are so essential to maintaining a healthy environment. This landscape collision, between imported plants and local birds, insects, animals, and soil dwellers occurs in nearly all of our gardens. Lisa Doseff addresses this issue in her beautifully illustrated, and uplifting book, Grandma Lisa’s Humming, Buzzing, Chirping Garden. The book is published by Pollination Press out of Minnesota and incorporates illustrations from her nephew, Duncan Robertson.
The book forces the reader to ponder how they can add beauty and color to their garden while enhancing the natural environment. Doseff navigates this challenge effortlessly in print, using vivid descriptions, “When animals and plants die off, the bugs begin to toil: they decompose what’s left of them to make the good, rich soil. And many other animals eat bugs to stay alive. If bugs aren’t in our garden then those creatures can’t survive.” The book describes the fun she and her husband had enlisting the help of their eager grandchildren in turning their traditional garden into a natural wildlife habitat.
Doseff began her journey as a native garden specialist after becoming a Virginia Master Gardener. Upon moving to Lancaster from Virginia, she became a Lancaster National Wildlife Federation Habitat Steward by taking a program through the Lancaster Conservancy, further enhancing her work through training in ecology designed to educate the public about native habitats.
“Your garden does not have to be unattractive,” said Doseff when interviewed near her magnificent garden. The ultimate desired result, according to Doseff, is a landscape that functions for wildlife, is enjoyed by grandchildren, and provides beauty for the neighbors.
Native plants which are most loved and required by insects, are the backbone of her natural wildlife habitat garden. This is illustrated best in her book, where Doseff describes dislodging plants that do not serve a purpose for wildlife. “This burning bush just has to go. That butterfly bush, too.” When her grandchildren protest by stating, “But Grandma, lots of butterflies just love it, yes they do,” her response provides context. “I know that my sweet darling, but here’s the rub, you see...they sip out all the nectar and are happy as can be. But they can’t lay their eggs on it. When caterpillars hatch they need specific leaves to eat; this bush is not a match.” The concern for Doseff is that ignoring the need for increasing native plants and their ability to nourish wildlife Is leading to what is now being referred to as an “insect apocalypse”. Up to 1/3 of the birds in parts of North America have perished, indicating that their food sources are in trouble. “Without bugs, we will not survive.” This life cycle analysis weaves through Doseff’s work and writing. Birds and other animals eat the insects and prolong the food chain.
She’s also concerned about unnecessary poisons used on plants and insects, leading to a reduction of fireflies, and other beetles and pollinators; the very creatures that keep the system moving. For example, removing grubs in the lawn, which many animals, including birds, depend upon for food, can result in a loss of native beetles which include our fireflies. Grubs are simply a variety of beetle larvae.
But Doseff is full of hope. She hopes her book will help inspire those looking for a simple blueprint on how to create a natural wildlife habitat and she encourages people everywhere to check out the “Homegrown National Park” (see sidebar on page XX) and ‘get on the map’. She has faith that we can turn things around and create a healthier environment for all creatures living on this earth. She enthusiastically welcomes visitors to her garden, hoping to show them how beautiful, fun, and full of life it is.
To continue her quest, Doseff also co-founded Gardens Gone Native, a neighborhood garden club that focuses on creating beautiful pollinator gardens using native plants. It introduces members to featured speakers, tours, and native plants. For more information about native plants in the region, and gardening the native way, please read the Gardener’s Corner column in this magazine written by Doseff and other members of the Gardens Gone Native club. Also, please consider reading her book and/or joining the Gardens Gone Native club listed below.
Lisa Doseff can be reached at GrandmaLisasGarden@gmail.com