Here's how you can support pollinators

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Native plants play a special role for pollinators in providing habitat for their own life cycle. We are all most familiar with the necessity of having milkweed available to support the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly. Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed to support the caterpillar that eventually becomes a Monarch butterfly. Other insects, including the all-important pollinating bees, also require specific native plants for their life cycle. We can help them by including some native plants in our gardens. Here’s a list to get you started: milkweed, including butterfly weed, swamp milkweed, and common milkweed; thistle (as pictured); coneflower, particularly the native purple coneflower; monarda, coreopsis, foxglove penstemon; black-eyed Susan, and several grasses including little bluestem, panicum, prairie dropseed, and June grass.

Roof Gardens for Residential Sites

We're pleased to present new pictures of Sage Advice Test Gardens, where we develop design solutions, test plants, and practice sustainability techniques. garden-24

In these views you can see the roof garden, built 4 seasons ago to test techniques for building a small roofgarden on a shed or playhouse. During the last four seasons we have tested and retested plants the work in this environment, and we've identified those that flouish with little or no care.

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Using native plants in landscape design

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Try these!

Native plants for color and variety

A customer who has lots of coneflowers and coreopsis in his native plant garden recently asked me for a list of less common wildflowers that would add color to his summer garden, and I worked up this list: Asclepias tuberosa (shown above) -- this is the midsummer blooming orange butterfly weed that goes well with coneflowers and coreopsis

Amsonia -- there are several native versions of this plant, commonly called bluestar. Amsonia illustris or Amsonia tabernaemontana are two that come to mind. Amsonia bloom right alongside and among the coreopsis and spreads nicely among other plants.

Monarda bradburiana (above) is a beautiful and less common native beebalm if you can get it. The color of the leaves is a darker almost smoky green and it forms a nice clump.

Indian physic, Porteranthus stipulatus is a delicate plant with feathery leaves that forms a nice, airy clump among your grasses and has small starry white flowers. It's captivating among other wildflowers.

Also plant some native asters for fall color. Sky blue aster, Symphyotrychium oolentangiense is a nice, delicate blue but can spread quite annoyingly if conditions are right. New England Aster, Symphyotrychium novae-angliae or smooth blue aster Symphyotrychium laeve are also options.

What about water?

Water is scarce and valuable in Australia. This country, the size of the U.S., is divided into only six states and its population is just under 23 million. One of the fastest growing states is New South Wales, where new homes are now required to have tanks for gray water, which is used for many purposes in the home, and not just watering the garden!

This is not news in South Australia, the "driest state in the driest inhabited continent on earth," says the website www.waterforgood.sa.gov.au

South Australia is "also feeling the added pressures of climate change, drought and a growing population." People here routinely haul water to fill tanks for gray water usage -- it's a generations-old practice, nothing new and nothing out of the ordinary. It's what you do when underground aquifers are non-existent and all water needs are met by the rivers, which in turn are dependent on rainfall to maintain a level that can supply the population with H2O!

The droughts on the past two years are the harbingers of this kind of change in the U.S. if we don't become better stewards fast.

Daily life in a dry land

It is clear to me on this first trip to Australia that folks here are used to conservation. Even before we got here we could tell. On the airplane, most paper is placed in recycle bags by passengers. Cans and bottles are recycled separately. Once on the ground we quickly learned that ALL toilets in Australia are dual flush, and at public venues, all paper products AND utensils sold at coffee shops and take out windows are compostable. Cups are always recyclable. EVERYWHERE, even street corners, we see three bins to sort trash, recycling and composting.