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The Flower Show

Biodiversity Begins in Your Backyard

February 27, 2020

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biodiversity bird

By Danielle Hanlon

Climate change and a rapid decrease in biodiversity around the world have motivated people to take matters into their own hands, and into their own gardens. Individuals and their gardens, no matter how big or small, can play an important role in wildlife and plant diversity and the overall health of the ecosystem in the region.

PHS is proud to be partnering with the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation - USA to host the PHS Gardening for Biodiversity Symposium on Wednesday, March 4 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. At the symposium, notable speakers will discuss how gardening influences biodiversity and share ways that individuals can help conserve and promote a variety of life in the Mid-Atlantic region.

So, you may be wondering, what is biodiversity? According to the National Wildlife Federation, Biodiversity is the variety of life. It can be studied on many levels. At the highest level, one can look at all the different species on the entire Earth. On a much smaller scale, one can study biodiversity within a pond ecosystem or a neighborhood park. Making your garden friendly for pollinators such as honeybees, native bees, and butterflies are some of the best ways to promote biodiversity and contribute to the health and rebirth of the environment. The best part? Creating your pollinator habitat may be easier than you think.

Samir Dalal, Planning Manager for PHS's LandCare program, and Holly Gallagher, Senior Manager of Education and Community Conservation at the National Wildlife Federation, will give a presentation at the symposium about the impact both groups are making with PHS’s LandCare Program. “The clean and green treatment that we normally provide to vacant lots with our Philadelphia LandCare Program already has had a great impact on the physical, social, and environmental health of a community,” says Dalal. “Now with the addition of pollinator gardens, these vacant lots serve a greater purpose. The community appreciates the natural beauty that the garden brings, local community garden groups are excited for the support of pollinators in the ecosystem, and local landscapers and community groups appreciate the extra employment and learning opportunities. It is an added value to an entire cross-section of the community,” he explains. 

Together at the symposium, Dalal and Gallagher will highlight the attributes a garden needs to create a healthy habitat for pollinators, including food, water, cover, and places for garden critters to raise their young.

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All living species need energy and nutrients to survive, so supplying a food source for wildlife is a key aspect of a sustainable habitat. For pollinators, food sources come in the form of plants. Planting species that are native to your region is the best way to support pollinators with the best nectar and pollen. Some beautiful species native to the northeast region are Grey-Headed ConeflowerPurple Coneflower, and Butterfly Weed - all of which attract a variety of butterflies, bees, and birds. 

Clean water sources have always been a basic survival need for wildlife. Luckily, there are a variety of ways that individuals can incorporate water into their gardens. Because of their small size, placing a simple birdbath or shallow dish of water in your garden (plus keeping it filled and clean) will suffice in hydrating pollinators.

Clustering plants together is an easy way to provide shelter for pollinators. By clumping flowers, bushes, shrubs, and any other plants in your garden together, you’re giving pollinators the perfect camouflage from predators.

There’s no better way to promote the diversity and growth of pollinators than by giving them a place to successfully create and raise the next generation. Host plants are a necessity for attracting butterflies because they provide food for their caterpillars. Several common garden plants are great host plants to both butterflies and caterpillars such as Black-Eyed SusanMilkweed, and Fennel. By planting both host and nectar plants, your garden will provide an ecosystem that supports their entire life cycle.

Most native bees are solitary and lay eggs in holes in the ground, dead trees, fallen branches, or hollow stems. By avoiding thick layers of mulch in your garden, you’re making sure not to cover any possible nesting areas. Some gardeners have even taken to building their own bee hotels for their gardens and homes!

There is still time to purchase your ticket to the Gardening for Biodiversity Symposium! 

Purchasing a ticket gives you the opportunity to spend the day hearing from a mix of environmental organizations, botanic gardens, nonprofits, government institutions, entrepreneurs, and research firms. Influencers, innovators, and researchers across the world will be promoting biodiversity, including keynote speaker Dr. Peter H. Raven, President Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden, via live video conference.

PHS aids in development of green spaces all through neighborhoods in the Greater Philadelphia region.