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When we bought our first house 30 years ago, I plant thousands of spring bulbs and every exotic plant that caught my eye. Two children and three corporate moves left little time for gardening for almost two decades. When my nest sort of emptied, I returned to gardening with a goal of creating a butterfly "pollinator garden” by filling my yard with beautiful flowers. I knew little about pollinators and even less about native plants but loved the idea of attracting butterflies to my yard. I researched the internet to figure out the best butterfly plants to replace the grass I was hand digging in my yard. 

When I couldn't find some of the most popular butterfly plants at the local nursery because they were native I went to my first Georgia Native Plant Society sale. A whole new world of native plants opened up, but my focus was still on the butterfly plants, not the complex ecosystem of my yard.

What I didn’t know at the time:

  • The non-native plants were most likely treated with caterpillar-killing neonicotinoids.

  • To attract butterflies, I needed to add native host plants for butterfly larva (aka caterpillars) to eat.

  • Moths, wasps, bees, flies, beetles, and even ants also play a role in pollination. 

  • To attract pollinators, I needed to create a healthy ecosystem in my yard with a biodiversity of plants.

  • I was gardening for people, not nature.

The more I learned, the more my gardening efforts shifted away from showy hybrid flowers towards creating a safe sanctuary for all creatures by adding native plants and changing how I took care of my yard. I hope by sharing my ongoing journey transitioning my yard to nurture native nature will in some small way help others who are trying to be a better custodian of their own piece of our earth, no matter how small it is.

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