KCNPI Partners Host Native Garden Tour

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Jill DeWitt, gardener, naturalist and native plant enthusiast, generously offered to open her yard for KCNPI’s first garden tour event.  For the inaugural year, the Small Scale Landscape Work Group opted to select a single location and make education the focus of the event.  This was accomplished by including signs identifying many plants and explaining their connection to pollinators, birds, and other wildlife.  Two educational presentations were given by Tom Schroeder and Betsy Betros.  Both talks were well received, with 50-70 people attending each (many stayed for both) and several asking questions of the speakers afterward.  Overall the day saw approximately 200 visitors to the Crestwood location, with many who were new to native plants as well as long-time enthusiasts coming out to learn and enjoy the beautiful yard and weather.

Garden tour attendees listen to Betsy Betros speak about gardening for native butterflies and other beneficial insects.  Photo courtesy of Mark Ostendorf.
Educational signs mark plants of particular interest and wildlife benefit.  Photo courtesy Jill Erickson

Tom Schroeder pointed out several individuals of a species of bumblebee- the Black and Gold Bumblebee, Bombus auricomus, not commonly found this far from grassland or prairie habitats.  This species nests above ground, in prairie grasses, but does not travel long distances, there must be a colony nearby using ornamental grasses in a yard or park.  Jill’s high quality, abundant native plants were helping to support that colony and attracting the bees to feed there.

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Bombus auricomus, Black and Gold Bumblebee feeds on Monarda fistulosa, Bee Balm.  This prairie associated species was a surprise to find in the garden.  Photo by Sarah Beier

Refreshments were provided thought the morning, including two teas made with native plants by Cathy Bylinowski, and cookies and nuts provided by Stephen Van Rhein of the Missouri Department of Conservation.  Several partners contributed educational materials, among them MDC, MU Extension, Grow Native, and KCNPI.  Donations to KCNPI received from garden tour attendees totaled over $250, including a portion of the proceeds from sales of Betsy Betros’ book A Field Guide to the Butterflies in the Kansas City Region.  Green Thumb Gardens held a plant sale on site and many patrons left with armfuls of new favorite plants to enrich their own yards.  Several volunteers including Kristin Riott, Matt Bunch, Hilary Noonan, Roberta Vogel-Leutung, Cathy Bylinowski and Kathy Gates volunteered their time to mingle with visitors and answer questions.

One visitor commented that she had attended a talk at the Gorman Discovery Center where Stephen Van Rhein and Will Gibson from Green Thumb Gardens spoke to self-described native plant novices about the value and beauty of native plants, and she had caught the native plant gardening “bug” that night!  She had since started adding native plants to her yard and recruited a friend to do the same.  They both came to enjoy the tour and be inspired for their next native plant additions.

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Birders with their eyes on the trees.  Native plants are crucial sources of insect and berries for nesting and migrating songbirds.  Photo by Sarah Beier.

After this initial success and enthusiastic public reception, the Small Scale Landscapes Work Group is laying initial plans for another garden tour event in 2018.  If you would like to submit your garden for consideration, please email us with details and a photo or two!


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