For Native Havens (27 Powers Dr., Kearneysville, WV), it’s not just about creating a beautiful landscape in your backyard—the environment and the creatures living in it are just as important.
“Gardening for nature means that your landscape is designed with pollinators, birds, and the environment in mind,” said owner James Dillon. “Pollinators require different types of flowers blooming in succession from spring until fall.”
In addition to flowers, the vast majority of butterflies and moths require certain plants upon which to lay their eggs—because the caterpillar stage needs to eat specific plants. Dillon explained that the Monarch butterfly, and Milkweed (Monarch larval host plant), is a perfect example of this specific relationship between caterpillar and native plant.
Most of the plants used by commercial landscapers today are exotics, chosen because they are generalists that can grow almost anywhere. Unfortunately, most larvae cannot eat these plants originating from another part of the world.
“You may ask why caterpillars are otherwise so important,” he noted. “Birds are dependent on caterpillars to feed their young. While we often think of birds as seed-eaters, they actually require many, many caterpillars to feed their young.”
Surprisingly, the small caterpillars only require a minute amount of leaf matter to complete this stage of their development. Native Haven’s goal is to incorporate a diversity of plants that provide nectar/pollen from spring until fall, in addition to native plants that host butterflies, and moth larvae.
Dillon explained that birds and insects are in decline—faced with increasing pressure in the modern era.
“As more and more land becomes unsuitable for bird and insect species, I think we can use our residential landscapes in a way that will delay the extinction of certain species,” he said. “If we think about the ecological value of plants, we can include the species that provide the most bang for the buck.”
Gardens have historically been seen as decorations, or signs of status, but they can serve multiple functions. Dillon’s goal is to strike a balance: to design landscapes that are beautiful, and possess interesting seasonal changes, as well as being ecologically valuable.
“I don’t see many other landscaping companies approach their projects from both an aesthetic and ecological perspective,” he explained. “The success of our gardens is based on two major ideas: the plantings have a beneficial effect on the human psyche, and are valuable to species that are in trouble.”