Friday, August 28, 2020

Meet Our Community: Laura Lopez, native plant enthusiast and wildlife gardener

 

Photograph by Two Rivers Photography

Let's get to know each other!


Since we're not able to meet up in person this year, let's meet online. Every week we're introducing a member* of our Fling community here and on Instagram, in their own words. We're excited to see what everyone's talking about and sharing with their followers!

(*Any garden blogger, vlogger, podcaster, or Instagrammer who follows our Instagram or is a member of our Facebook group. If you'd like to be considered or recommend someone for a Meet Our Community profile, email us.)

Laura A. Lopez


Bee on a coneflower
At Tiny Urban Wilderness I share about creating a wildlife habitat using native plants in my Quad Cities, Illinois, garden. You can follow my progress on my Instagram as well as my blog and Facebook page

I love the native plant jewelweed. It grows naturally on my property, but deer eat most of it. This plant is in the impatiens family and has a delicate, trumpet-shaped, orange-and-yellow flower. It's fun to touch the ripe seedpods to see them burst – hence the plant’s other name, touch-me-not. Folklore says it often grows near poison ivy and is a remedy. 

I got married and began house-hunting in 2012. We found an outdated ranch house with windows overlooking a deep ravine lined with oaks, cherries, catalpa, eastern redbud, pines, maples, hickory, walnut, and hackberry. And when I saw the large screened porch, I gasped. It was like being in a treehouse. We sit on that porch on summer evenings, and even though traffic from four city arteries surrounds our neighborhood, we enjoy the sounds of birds, frogs, crickets, and cicadas in the woods. 

Jack-in-the-pulpit
I’ve had a green thumb for growing houseplants all my life, but this was the first time I’d tried gardening outdoors. I started planting common plants purchased at local garden stores. But then I attended a local pollinator conference with entomologist Doug Tallamy as the keynote speaker. Heather Holm, a biologist and native bee and plant advocate, also spoke. The conference changed my life. ​I came home and removed most of the exotic plants I had planted, which don’t benefit our native insects and wildlife that coevolved with native plants. Globally, we're experiencing a severe loss of native bees, birds, butterflies, and other animals due to habitat loss. We humans are not immune to this decline. Pollination is how we get much of our food, and if too many species disappear, our whole ecosystem will collapse. 

I began remedying my plant blindness by learning to identify plants, and a surprising thing happened. I realized my yard was full of invasive plant species. It’s a never-ending battle, but I've cleared enough so that native plants are returning on their own. Tall bellflower, Solomon's seal, Joe Pye weed, jewelweed, prairie trillium, Jack-in-the-pulpit, wild black currant, American germander, and small-flowered buttercup​ have all appeared! 

Tiger swallowtail butterfly
When I walk out my back door, I feel a sense of calm come over me. I completely forget personal and world problems when I’m barefoot among the plants and towering trees. I swear I could watch bees forage on flowers all day long! I enjoy watching the tiny dramas in the lives of insects. There are nesting birds, chipmunks, squirrels, deer, opossums, and groundhogs. Rarer sightings include red foxes, coyotes, wild turkeys, two bald eagles, and one wood duck. 

I blog because I hope to inspire people to plant at least a few native plants in their yards. I’m just one person with limited space, but collectively we can make a huge difference!



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Thanks for sharing your work and your gardening passions with us, Laura! 

Photographs courtesy of Laura Lopez except as noted.

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