Explore The Natural World At Home

by Cindy Gilberg

Nature will never cease to amaze if you take the time to slow down and observe it. Learning to slow down and be more observant is not so easy for busy families—it is much like being a child again and going on a treasure hunt. In fact, sharing this time with a child often teaches us adults how to find the ‘child’ within us. There is no need to wait for vacation time and go to far-off destinations. You can explore in your own yard. Add some native plants to your landscape to enhance the diversity of insects and birds that come to visit. Plan pathways and sitting places where you can go to watch nature unfold. Quiet and stillness is the key to being a good observer and that is exactly what we all need to balance our life in this hectic modern and often loud world.

A diverse landscape of native trees, shrubs, perennials and ornamental grasses is the key to a diverse habitat that will attract insects and birds. Plants that offer seed and berries at different times of the year are as important as plants that produce pollen and attract insects. If butterflies are of particular interest, plant not only plants for nectar but also the host plants for the butterfly larvae. This includes combinations such as milkweeds and monarch butterflies, pawpaw trees for the zebra swallowtail or violets and the fritillary butterfly. Add a water feature—even one as simple as a bubbler stone will be enough to attract all sorts of birds in all seasons. Keep some good field guides handy for identifying birds and insects.

So sit back and enjoy all the surprises and wonders as nature reveals itself. A quote I came across sums it up well – “the greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses” and of the soul as well.

Cindy Gilberg is a Missouri native and horticulturist whose work includes design and consulting, teaching and writing. Much of her work focuses on native plants, habitat gardens and rain gardens. Cindy’s projects include work at Shaw Nature Reserve and its Native Plant School, the Shaw Profes-sional Landscape Series and the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance. You can ontact Cindy at 314-630-1004 or cindy.gilberg@gmail.com.