A new book that focuses on native plants from the southwest
When George Miller moved to Albuquerque 15 years ago, he had already published a variety of books on landscaping with native plants and wildflower guides. Born in Australia, he earned a Masters in botany and zoology from the University of Texas and traveled the world to photograph and study nature.
Realizing the need in New Mexico and the surrounding area to support wildlife through better gardening choices, it might seem natural to publish another guide in 2021 – Native Plant Gardening for Birds, Bees & Butterflies: Southwest.
Miller’s goal is to help people see how their gardening or landscaping can help or harm our local ecology. He explains that plants provide nutrition, which is the basis of the food chain. By not growing flora that the local fauna has to eat, we are negatively impacting this entire chain.
“Pollinators need native plants to survive,” says Miller. “It’s all part of a tightly knit ecosystem. We have to create a living space. Not just a pretty landscape with a few accent plants. “
While the title of his book focuses on the three most popular pollinators, Miller makes sure to shed some light on other creatures that are equally central to the biosphere, from moths to flies to beetles. Knowing which plants are attractive and necessary for each type of pollen-bearing creature makes all the difference, even in the smallest of gardens.
He says the size of the yard is irrelevant. It is more important to make many courtyards and gardens of all sizes habitat-friendly.
“The more [habitats] there is in a neighborhood, the more sustainable it will be. That’s the awareness I’ve been working on over the past five years with various programs and groups and publishing these books, “says Miller. “It’s good to see that consciousness has moved on, so we’re dealing with bees and moths and little things that we usually either overlooked or tried to eradicate.”
Miller says it’s pretty easy to promote a habitat.
“First and foremost, you are looking for something in a landscape habitat that is sustainable for a large part of the year,” he says. “They want plants that bloom in early spring, when the bees first appear and migratory birds arrive to bear fruit over the summer.
A really important element is the autumn flowering plants that provide pollen and nectar to the local bees before they lay their eggs, ”he continues, suggesting some easy-care native plants.
“Apache Plume is a good example of an early flowering shrub. Chocolate flowers bloom all summer long. They don’t mind reflective heat and are drought tolerant. All you need is a small pulse of water that simulates a thunderstorm, ”he says.
While Miller’s efforts were originally aimed at helping local wildlife, there is another important benefit to the sustainability of native plant habitats – water conservation.
“Water protection is a hot topic. The use of native plants supports these efforts. These plants evolved with this climate, ”he says. “Many of these plants will survive on the water that nature provides. We tend to give them more water than necessary because we want a more luscious appearance. But they will survive with less if you are careful with your landscaping. “
In his book, after covering educational points about different types of pollinators and some basic plant anatomies, Miller groups individual plant profiles by type – desert accents, trees, shrubs, wildflowers, as well as vines and grasses. Each profile describes the plant’s growth, hardiness, flowering time and pollinators, most importantly a guide to planning a garden to meet your goals.
He also added an alternate index that sorts plants by pollinator type so you can look up which plants are best for attracting hummingbirds or bees. As an avid photographer, Miller has spent years capturing images of our native species and using them as a colorful visual guide on each page to good effect.
To complete the ease of use he wants to provide in his book, Miller also lists retail sources for southwestern native plants and seeds, as well as native plant communities and botanical gardens in the southwestern states.
To make this information available to everyone, Miller has also carefully compiled an easily searchable guide to New Mexico Biodiversity on his website, www.wildflowersnm.com.
Native Plant Gardening for Birds, Bees, and Butterflies: Southwest, by George Oxford Miller, Adventure Publications, $ 22.95.