Bringing Nature Home + Oak Hill Elementary

One of gardening’s biggest thrills is growing food for friends, like beleaguered Monarch butterflies, here on Conoclinium coelestinum.

Monarch butterfly on conoclinium (eupatorium) Central Texas Gardener

John Dromgoole takes us on a stroll through the Butterfly Garden at The Natural Gardener to explain why to plant for all seasons.

John Dromgoole in The Natural Gardener's butterfly garden

Isn’t this just gorgeous? It’s also bountiful with lots of grateful creatures on the firebush, Conoclinium and Mexican bauhinia.

butterfly garden eupatorium, hamelia, bauhinia central texas gardener

Red Admiral tucked into fall-blooming Mexican bauhinia.

butterfly Red Admiral on mexican bauhinia central texas gardener

In winter, annual pansies, snapdragons and calendulas (not pictured) feed bees and butterflies that show up hungry on those warm days we always get. Great container plants too!  Those background pentas may be frozen after this week, so replace with more cold weather plants.

pansies and pentas for butterflies central texas gardener

We’ve got to accept some chomping since the little guys have to eat, too! Here’s a Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar merrily dining on pipevine. The plant will recover and the adults will stick around to nectar and lay more eggs.

pipevine swallowtail caterpillar on pipevine central texas gardener

Make a mini spa for male butterflies who like to puddle around and soak up salts in the decomposed granite we’ve all got handy.

butterfly puddling spot on decomposed granite central texas gardener

Bringing Nature Home author Dr. Douglas Tallamy, University of Delaware Professor & Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, joins Tom to make the essential link between native plants and wildlife.

Tom Spencer and Douglas W. Tallamy Bringing Nature Home

Beautifully photographed where Doug’s personal stories mingle with illuminating (and sometimes scary) facts, Bringing Nature Home makes a powerful statement about the damage we wreak on our future with exotic plants, especially invasives.

Bringing Nature Home author Douglas W. Tallamy

At the same time, Doug Tallamy encourages us with simple ideas, including lists of host plants and plants by region like winecup, which we can plant now.

native plant winecup central texas gardener

Our food crops, like okra, support wildlife through their flowers. Viewer Picture goes to Grow Where You’re Planted Andrea Fox, ASLA, of transplant studio, College Station. Isn’t this wreath a charming way to use okra stalks when the harvest is over?

Okra wreath photo by Andrea Fox transplant studio, College Station

A warm weather herb for next spring: borage, Daphne’s Plant of the Week. Along with lovely texture, this annual herb’s young leaves perk up salads and beverages with a cucumber taste.  Best yet, charming lavender flowers bring on the bees to pollinate your summer crops.

borage flowers for bees central texas gardener

On tour, this garden’s got it all: wildlife plants, pond, hand-made bird houses, vegetables and even an orchard. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s really a ton of fun for its caretakers: the Gardening Club at Oak Hill Elementary.

butterfly garden at Oak Hill Elementary Gardening Club Central Texas Gardener

After school twice a week, teacher Paul Cumings, former teacher Sue Lagerquist and parent volunteers pass along adventures in food, wildlife habitat and conservation.

Gardening Club teachers at Oak Hill Elementary Central Texas Gardener

This student documented plant info on his tablet. Great reference tool!

Gardening Club Oak Hill Elementary Central Texas Gardener

The students really turned things around with a drought defiant perennial wildlife garden right out front.

Oak Hill Elementary butterfly and bee garden central texas gardener

On a scrappy patch of turf at the bus stop, they dug out Bermuda grass for a butterfly garden that fascinates everybody.

Gardening Club Oak Hill Elementary Central Texas Gardener

Things might slow down a bit on route when the children spy a chrysalis on the fence or butterflies floating among the flowers.

Oak Hill Elementary butterfly garden central texas gardener

In their pottery class, Gardening Club made water dishes to give little critters a drink.

butterfly and water dishes from Oak Hill Elementary pottery class central texas gardener

Building bird houses (22 of them, for different birds) really made a hit, since what kid doesn’t have fun with a hammer and paint? They’re hoping to raise money to install web cameras inside to see who shows up.

bird houses built by Gardening Club Oak Hill Elementary Central Texas Gardener

Gardening Club students voted on the design for the vegetable gardens they built. Each semester they renew them with compost and seasonal plants.

vegetable garden design built by Gardening Club Oak Hill Elementary Central Texas Gardener

With seed donations from local nurseries, they’ve even ventured into new tastes, like arugula.

arugula grown by Gardening Club Oak Hill Elementary Central Texas Gardener

In their commitment to wildlife habitat, they add native flowers that encourage pollinators to stick around to help with the squash.

rudbekia and bee balm for pollinators central texas gardener

A super important lesson the kids are learning: why we grow without pesticides. “It’s about as organic as it gets here. You do see lots of bugs munching on vegetables, but it’s not just for human consumption, we’re trying to support the whole ecosystem,” notes Paul Cumings.

Oak Hill Elementary Butterfly Garden Central Texas Gardener

In 2013, 5th grader Ian McKenna wrote and received a grant as seed money for the Giving Garden to help feed families.

Oak Hill Elementary vegetable gardens Central Texas Gardener

Gardening Club students also feel a lot of pride in beautifying their school grounds.

Oak Hill Elementary Gardening Club Central Texas Gardener

After watching their energetic weeding, I simply had to jump in!

Linda Lehmusvirta at Oak Hill Elementary Gardening Club Central Texas Gardener

Meet them all now right now!

Thanks for stopping by. See you next week, Linda