Growing With Native Plants
A quiet revolution is going on in gardens all across Saskatoon. A renewal. A return to appreciating the beauty and diversity of the plants that have been blooming here for hundreds and thousands of years. By adding native plants to your garden, you can join this growing trend.
Why is this important? We are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis. Little of our native prairie ecosystem remains intact. Populations of grassland birds, songbirds and insects are dropping at alarming rates.
Gallery of Native Plants
Early blue violet
Star-flowered Solomon's seal
Wild blue flax
Canada Milkvetch & Prairie Sage
Western red lily
Purple prairie clover
Smooth blue aster
Obviously, on the scale of a city lot or balcony, we cannot restore our ecosystem to its natural beauty and function. We are not going to be reintroducing a herd of bison to Stonebridge or wolves to Holiday Park. But what we can do, even in an intensely urban environment, is welcome native plants back to their home territory.
When we do, we support local insects, a crucial link in our native ecosystem. Most native insects, including butterflies, moths and their larvae, as well as bees, rely on native plants for food. Birds, even songbirds that feed on seeds and berries as adults, rely on insect larvae (think caterpillars) to feed their young.
We support insects by providing them with the resources they need to survive, including the plants they eat. For the most part, that means native plants for native insects. And that supports native birds. It is all interconnected.
Endangered woodland skipper butterfly in Saskatoon. Photo by Meghan Mickelson.
Supporting moths, butterflies and bees throughout their life stages means leaving leaf litter for overwintering pupae and adults, growing lots of plants to support lots of caterpillars (food for nestling birds), and choosing flowering plants for sweet nectar and protein-rich pollen for the hundreds of bee species native to our province.
In addition to flowers, wild bees need a source of water, shallow enough so they will not drown, and places to nest. The requirements vary depending on the species. Bumblebees might form a colony in a mulch pile or underground in a mouse nest. Most of our wild bees are solitary and nest in hollow stems or in undisturbed ground. Mess is important.
Here are the ground rules: Embrace Mess. Go Organic. Lawn Be Gone. Grow Native Flowering Plants.
And when you do, gift after gift begins to arrive – joy at that first bit of mauve as the crocus you planted last year emerges from the ground, wonder at seeing a sleeping bumblebee in a bed of bergamot blossom, curiosity piqued when you spy a little red and gold bee land in fallen leaves. What could it possibly be called? As the plants take root and grow and flower in this place where they belong, we too begin to belong.
– Candace Savage and Joanne Blythe
Gallery of Spring Wildflowers
Early Blue Violet
Early Yellow Locoweed
A pine siskin eating giant hyssop seeds. Photo by Meghan Mickelson.
In our area, these are the plants that host the highest numbers of butterfly and moth larvae and feed the birds and other wildlife.
- Wild strawberry
- Wild blue flax
- Early blue & Canada violets
- Wild sunflowers
- Wild sages
- Saskatoon berries
- Wild roses
- Green ash
- Manitoba maple
- Pin & choke cherries
- Native dogwoods
Plants for Pollinators
“These are native flowers that are mobbed by just about anything with wings,” – Chet Neufeld, Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan
- Wild bergamot
- Giant hyssop
- Meadow blazingstar
- Canada milkvetch
Starting Seeds in an Eco-Friendly Way – Sandra Walker shows us how to start wildflower seeds in eggshells, view the video here.