Free class shows residents why native yard plants are best

Find out why this OSU instructor teaches about the shrubs loved by birds, bees – and bugs …



Native Plants for Bees, Birds, and Butterflies” is the topic of Jen Aron’s class at the Metro Demonstration Garden.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Learning about natural gardening techniques is easy – and free – for East Portland folks, when they come to Metro’s Demonstration Garden in the Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood.

Not long ago, for example, Jen Aron – a certified Master Gardener, and an instructor for Oregon State University – presented a class called “Native Plants for Bees, Birds, and Butterflies”.

Jen Aron shows a native lupine plant; she says it was protected because it was surrounded by other native plants.

“Native plants are attractive to our native birds and insects,” Aron said. “They’re much more drawn more to native species than to the ornamental species. Native pollinators and beneficial insects, in particular, can be four times more prevalent amongst our native species versus the ornamentals.”

This is important, Aron said, because native wildlife sometimes struggles to survive in our urban neighborhoods. “To plant native species supports native wildlife. This, in turn, plays a major role in naturally helping to keep pests in check. And it also helps pollinate our gardens.”

Destructive aphids on this native lupine are dead, Jen Aron says – an indicator of  the “friend of our gardens” parasitic wasps at work.

One secret she shared about planting a landscape attractive to native birds and bees and butterflies is, “Diversity – diversity – diversity! Having diverse plant species is the most important thing.”

And, by clustering, or “creating drifts” of native species – that is, planting in groups of threes or fives – you encourage wildlife to graze, and stay in your yard.

“This is just one of several classes I teach here,” noted Aron. “Check out our upcoming classes.”

Oregon State University instructor Jen Aron teaches many free classes at the Metro Demonstration Garden.

On August 11, Aron will present “Gardens of eatin’: Edible Landscaping”  from 10 until 11:30 a.m., helping participants discover salad-boosting herbs and flowers, fruit trees for small spaces and native plants that hide “berried” treasures. It’s hosted by Metro and Oregon State University Extension Service. It’s FREE, but advance registration is required: CLICK HERE to open their workshop page. Or call (503) 234-3000 for more information. It’s at their Natural Techniques Demonstration Garden, 6800 SE 57th Ave.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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