Plant Local to Feed Locals

By: Michael Fox

I just read an interesting article in Canadian Geographic: Inside the mysterious decline of Earth’s insects

Why are insects important?

If we want to bring beautiful birds like the Variegated Fairy-wren Malurus lamberti back to our urban gardens we need to provide their preferred Food: insects. As well as Water and Shelter.

The article is Canadian, however, the relationships between insects and our local birds is still relevant:

“We have only half the birds now that we had in the 1960s,” says migratory bird researcher Bridget Stutchbury during the preamble of “Songbird SOS,” a CBC Nature of Things episode that first aired in March 2015. While the investigations into the loss of bird species span everything from habitat loss to light pollution, pet cats and collisions with buildings, severe, long-term declines in insectivorous birds stand out as a possible proxy for a decline in their insect food sources. Such a broad-based factor is suggested in the nose-diving populations of 22 of 26 aerial insectivores that breed in Canada — including swifts, flycatchers, nightjars, swallows and whip-poor-wills.

The best way to preserve insect diversity and abundance is the same as it is for all animals — maintaining habitat and habitat diversity. It’s a subject on which Simon Fraser’s Elle has much to say. “If our farming practices aim to preserve diversity, then it will wind up being good for the farmer. For instance, preserving a hedgerow creates habitat for bees to nest in, and is also habitat for birds and small mammals. Preserving species on this planet can’t just be a thing we do out in the wildest spaces — it also has to happen in human landscapes,” she notes.

Those landscapes include cities, whose less-complex insect faunas reflect an environment of mostly invasive plant species and the monocultures common to landscaping. “In urban areas, the diversity of birds and insects in native trees versus non-native trees is higher. If we’re all living in cities, then we need to make them better,” says Sandy Smith, a forestry professor at the University of Toronto. “Currently we’re reducing things to something that either looks good or is easy to manage. It’s this kind of homogenization that worries me most because you’re creating a vulnerable world.”

Inside the mysterious decline of Earth’s insects. Canadian Geographic

Black-headed Skimmer Dragonfly - Crocothemis nigrifrons - 24 Apr 2018 cropped
Black-headed Skimmer Dragonfly  Crocothemis nigrifrons

Plant Local to Feed Locals is a key to creating a diversity of Food for birds like Variegated Fairy-wren Malurus lamberti and introducing team of free specialist pest controllers to protect your vegetable garden.

You can create habitat for both small bird and insects in your Pollinator Link® based on what we are learning with our small forest bird planting in Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve.

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Give Mum Birds, Butterflies and Bees

Order your Pollinator Link Mother’s Day Gift Pack today.

Gift pack

Pack includes:

  • Pollinator Link® garden certification
  • Pollinator Link® fence sign and Blue-banded Bee on Google maps
  • Gardman Easyclean Cat-safe Birdbath
  • The Brisbane Bird Challenge Game:
    • create a family challenge
  • Pollinator Link® Discount Card
  • Three Easy Steps to vibrant backyards guide

Price: $40 inc GST

Scaly-breasted Lorikeet - 17 Feb 2014

Providing Water, Food and Shelter is the secret to bringing your garden alive with colour and birdsong. The quiet hum of bees in your veggie patch. You leave the city behind as you come home and relax with the peaceful sounds of nature.

Start your Mum’s journey to creation of a thriving Pollinator Link® garden with an attractive, easy to clean, cat safe birdbath.

Orchard Swallowtail - female - 2 Jan 2016

Pollinator Link® is a non-profit initiative of Mt Gravatt Environment Group. All funds raised are used to support the initiative to create a mosaic wildlife habitat across all south-east Queensland urban space.

Every Pollinator Link® garden, whether a large backyard or a balcony garden in a unit block, contributes to bringing birds, butterflies and bees back to our urban habitat.

Order Mother’s Day Gift Pack

 

Supported by

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Australian National Botanic Gardens

Sticky Everlasting - Xerochrysum viscosum - 3 Apr 2018

Golden Everlasting Xerochrysum viscosum

By: Michael Fox

Bright yellow Golden Everlastings provide a cheerful welcome to the Australian National Botanic Gardens (Canberra).

I particularly like ANBG because it recreates habitats ranging from rainforest gullies to central Australian desert, to present a wide variety of Australian plant species.

 

Australian Bluebell - Wahlenbergia stricta - 3 Apr 2018

Australian Bluebell Wahlenbergia stricta

Golden Everlastings Xerochrysum viscosum occur naturally in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Australian National Territory and Tasmania enjoying full sun and attracting native bees and feeding caterpillars of Australian Painted Lady butterflies. These spectacular plants are a great way to create a splash of colour in your Pollinator Link garden and your home as the flower heads can be easily cut, dried and preserved whist retaining colour for floral display.

Australian Bluebells Wahlenbergia stricta make a great show lining a “rocky creek” near the Visitor Centre. Australian Bluebells are widespread in most states and may often be seen flowering alongside highways in all habitats.

Austral Storks Bill - Pelargonium australe - 3 Apr 2018 - M Fox

Austral Storks Bill Pelargonium australe

A special discovery on this visit was Austral Storks Bill Pelargonium australe in flower. This beautiful hardy native geranium is widespread being found in semi arid, alpine areas and along the coast. Easy to propagate it grows well in containers with full sun or light shade so a good choice for Pollinator Link balcony gardens in unit blocks.

 

Native Wandering Jew - Aneilema acuminatum - 3 Apr 2018 - M Fox

 

Aneilema acuminatum Native Wandering Jew is an attractive delicate groundcover that can be used as Living Mulch to control weeds, retain water and keep the soil cool promoting soil health.

 

The most unusual discovery has to be the Banana Bush Tabernaemontana pandacaqui with its banana like fruit. An attractive and interesting plant occurring naturally in coastal Qld, northern NSW, WA and NT.  While its attractive white flowers and fascinating fruit the milky sap is toxic, similar to highly poisonous Oleander, so care should be taken.

Banana Bush - Tabernaemontana pandacaqui - 3 Apr 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cooee Motel: a surprise in country NSW

By: Michael Fox Gigandra

Travelling to Canberra over Easter and planning to visit the Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo, we needed somewhere to stay overnight. We found Cooee Motel, a real gem in the small country town of Gilgandra, three hundred and thirty kilometres north-west of Sydney Harbour and surrounded by farm land.

 

We were just expecting a basic motel suitable for an overnight stay. What we found was an oasis created by our generous hosts Tony and Lois Smolders. After ten hours on the road I was surprised and delighted to be able to explore a large garden that met all the criteria of a Pollinator Link garden #WaterFoodShelter for birds, butterflies and bees.

Almost immediately I spotted a beautiful Australian Painted Lady Vanessa kershawi butterfly. I then had a pleasant thirty minutes checking out mature Casuarina and Cypress pine trees.

Cypress sp. - 30 Mar 2018

Cypress sp. 

 

 

A number of old growth trees with nest hollows providing Shelter have also been retained. Tree branches have not been trimmed close to trunk which means nest hollows are left for birds and possums.

 

 

 

Nest hollows - 30 Mar 2018Talking with Lois and Tony, I asked if the garden was public park land. I could hear the pride in their voices as they explained that the land is part of the Motel site. Rather than develop the whole site they generously chose to retain the habitat for wildlife and in the process create a relaxing space for travellers.

The Water, Food and Shelter available in this special habitat is used by Australian King-Parrots Alisterus scapularis, Western Rosella Platycercus icterotis, Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae and Brushtail Possum Trichosurus vulpecula using nest hollows and visited by Kangroos relaxing on the grass.

The generosity of our hosts was underlined when we entered a motel unit well equipped with the usual kettle, toaster and microwave. We felt really valued as customers when we realised that, unlike the majority of motel rooms we have stayed in, this unit was made welcoming and cheerful with good lighting not the parsimonious minimum low wattage lights.

Excellent habitat for wildlife and human travellers.

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Bushcare nursery thriving in backyard

 

By: Michael Fox

Greg Tasney’s passion for the environment and his generosity means that he has propagated more 1,000 plants for use in restoration of his Rocky Waterholes Bushcare site.

Walking round garden I was amazed by the diversity of plants: vines, grasses, shrubs, trees and wildlife in this standard suburban block. Greg’s effort and skill propagating plants for his Bushcare site and to share with others is an inspiration.

SONY DSC

Joseph’s Coat Moth – Photo: Kerry  Sinigaglia

If you want to learn to propagate natives, Greg’s tip about Silver Plectranthus Plectranthus argentatus is a good start … read the Gardening Australia guide.

Kangaroo Vine, Water Vine Cissus antarctica is an attractive versatile creeper:

Climbing Maidenhair Fern 

Climbing Maidenhair Fern Lygodium microphyllum

Climbing Maidenhair Fern Lygodium microphyllum is an interesting option for shady spaces in the garden.

The Small-leaved Abutilon Abutilon oxycarpum is an attractive yellow flowering shrub 1.5 to 2 metre.

Greg refers to the Small-leaved Lilly Pilly Syzygium luehmannii  as a 7-Eleven for possums, fruit bats and Figbirds Sphecotheres vieilloti.

Richmond Birdwing Butterfly Vine - Pararistolochia praevenosa - flower - 16 Oct 2016

Richmond Birdwing Vine flower

Plant the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly Vine Pararistolochia praevenosa in your Pollinator Link garden to be part of the project to save these beautiful butterflies. I received a report just last week of multiple sightings of Richmond Birdwing Ornithoptera richmondia So let’s make sure we are ready to welcome these beautiful butterflies back to our backyards.

Swamp Banksia Banksia robur As the name suggests this shrub will be happy in that wet spot on in your garden or can it will do well in a drier spot if water is provided. In full sun the yellow-green flowers provide food in the difficult Autumn / Winter seasons.

Lemon-scented Myrtle Backhousia citriodora Growing 5m tall and 3m wide in full sun this is an excellent screening tree to ground level. Bonus is the lemon scent from the leaves which can be used to make tea and works as a mozzie repellent. Birds visit the tree for fruit, insects and nectar.

Sweet Morinda Gynochthodes jasminoides

Sweet Morinda

A scrambling climber Sweet Morinda Gynochthodes jasminoides (previously: Morinda jasminoides)  is great for hiding an ugly corner and with pruning it makes an attractive bird sheltering shrub. Shiny leaves and sweet scented butterfly attracting flowers make this an attractive and useful addition to your garden.

Greg’s somewhat untidy gardens with garden waste recycled as lizard habitat obviously work with Eastern Water Skinks Eulamprus quoyii visiting.

Hairpin Banksia Banksia spinulosa is an attractive shrub growing to about 2m by 2m in a sunny position as part of a Verge Garden.

Spiders are not wildlife most people want in their backyard however when you hear the  ‘oop-oop-oop-oop’ of a Pheasant Coucal Centropus phasianinus that is something special.

Creek Mat-rush, Green Mat-rush Lomandra hystrix is typically thought to planted along creek however it also does well in much drier conditions. A useful Security Plant to restrict access for people and cats it is also caterpillar food for Splendid Ochre butterfly Trapezites symmomus.

Creek Satinash Syzygium australe forms an attractive hedge attracting fruit eating birds and providing bush food for people.

Native Mulberry Pipturus argenteus is an interesting bush food addition to Greg’s verge garden. Mothers will like the white fruit which will not stain clothes when kids have a mulberry fight. Fruit eating birds also visit and the tree will provide caterpillar food for Speckled Line-blue Catopyrops florinda, Varied Eggfly Hypolimnas bolina and Yellow Admiral Vanessa itea butterflies.

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Water Plants for Containers

Water plants for containers

Water Plants for Containers

If you have been inspired by Rob Lucas and his frog ponds download the excellent guide to water plants for small frog ponds from Native Plants Sunshine Coast.

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Urban wildlife oasis

Rob Lucas crop2

Rob loves his urban wildlife oasis

By: Michael Fox

Walking into Rob Lucas’ Pollinator Link® garden is like walking into an oasis for wildlife. Shady and cool it is also an oasis calm for people.

Gardens like Rob’s, support the volunteer restoration work of groups like Melrose Park Bushcare by providing water, food and shelter for wildlife moving through the urban habitat.

Tusked Frog and eggs - cropped

Tusked Frog and frog eggs

Water for wildlife is an important component of creating the cool micro-habitat of this garden.

A discarded child’s clam-shell has been used to create a frog pond large enough to host attractive water plants like Water Snowflake Nymphoides indica indigenous to south-east Queensland. Check with your local Community Nursery

Frog Pond

Old cook pot re-purposed as frog pond.

Evidence of success is a raft of frog eggs and a Tusked Frog Adelotus brevis hiding among the leaves.

You can build a frog pond.  A frog pond does not need to be expensive or even large. Evan an old cook pot can find a new life creating habitat for wildlife in the backyard.

Maintain some open water to encourage dragonflies to visit your garden. Dragonflies are beneficial insects providing free 24/7 pest control for you garden, with adult dragonflies feeding on mosquitoes and nymphs feeding on mosquito larvae in the water.

Blue-banded Bees Amegilla sp. are another special beneficial insect providing buzz pollination for your vegetable garden.

Australia has over 2,000 species of solitary bees, like the Blue-banded Bee. Solitary bees do not form colonies like Stingless Native Bees  Tetragonula sp. or European Honey Bees Apis mellifera. You can make your own Backyard Bee Home to provide Shelter for these valuable pollinators.

Waxflower Vine

Wax Flower Vine Hoya australis

Wax Flower Vine Hoya australis is a hardy versatile attractive native climber that does flowers well in sun but will tolerate deep shade and growing in pots or hanging baskets.

Food plant for Common Crow Euploea core butterfly caterpillars.

 

 

Dome Tent Spiders Cyrtophora moluccensis create webs peaked in a shape like a circus tent.

Spiders and moths like the Two-spots Tiger Moth Asota plagiata are food for birds like the Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoides family nesting in the trees.

 

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