Friends In The Garden: Inviting Animals & Insects

Friends in my Baltimore city garden.

Friends In My Baltimore City Garden.

If you want to live and thrive, let the spider run alive.
–Old proverb

Insects, birds, and even reptiles are not only beneficial in garden production but they also bring color, movement and added interest to your garden.  4,6,8  legged, winged and even legless creatures are vital in pollinating your plants, controlling overpopulation, and create a source of entertainment for the gardener and visitors.

Young Mantis On My Coneflower

My Young Mantis

A brood of praying mantis hatched recently in my yard in Baltimore city and it is very cool to see them clamber around the garden and grow (at about an inch a week!).  Praying Mantis are particularly beneficial because they are carnivorous and feed on other insects that can be detrimental to plants.   Like the praying mantis, spiders and ladybugs are also desirable because they help to keep other unrewarding bugs in check.

Insects and animals will instinctively be attracted to your urban garden.  However, a mixture of plants with a variety of color, textures and sizes along with a well executed plan, ensuring there is consistently something blooming from spring to fall, will increase the arrival and diversity of visitors to your garden.  Native plants are a great place to start.  For a list of Maryland natives including sizes and bloom times, CLICK HERE.   Naturally occurring Maryland plants may be the obvious choice to attract our area fauna, but by paying special attention to color and shape, you can attract the largest amount of visitors to even the smallest of spaces.

Bee On Asclepias In My City Garden

Asclepias In My Garden

Red and orange plants are strong attractors of bees, butterflies and birds.  The genus Asclepias (pictured), for example, of which there are many varieties, is not only the host plant of the Monarch butterfly, but is the beloved food of many others (I’ve gotten the butterflies to come, but really am giddy for the first rainbow striped bald caterpillar to show up and chow down). Flowers with deep throats are also powerful lures and are particularly inviting to hummingbirds. You definitely don’t have to purchase a feeder to have hummingbirds in your garden; a bright Monarda will also do the trick.  Plants with leaves that hold water are also enticing and varieties such as Silphium Perfoliatum will keep your visitors well hydrated.  Concerned about inviting too many insects to your garden? –Don’t be.  Once your bug to plant ratio starts to tip, the city spiders, snakes and bats will come by and thin out your insect population. It’s all pretty exciting to watch unfold (especially for nerds like me) -just remember it’s all a balance that existed well before we showed up, so don’t be over controlling and simply let nature do it’s thing.


Baltimore City Hummingbird Feeding On My Monarda