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A New Book Focuses on Native Southwestern Plants
When George Miller moved to Albuquerque 15 years ago, he had already published a variety of books on landscaping with native plants, as well as guides to wildflowers. Originally from Austin, he received a master’s degree in botany and zoology from the University of Texas and has traveled the world, photographing and studying the natural environment.
So, as he recognized a need in New Mexico and the surrounding area to support wildlife through better garden choices, it may have been natural for him to publish another guide in 2021 – Native Plant Gardening for Birds, Bees & Butterflies: Southwest.
Miller’s goal is to help people recognize how their garden or landscaping can help or harm our local ecology. He explains that plants provide food, which supports the very base of the food chain. By not growing the flora that the local fauna needs for food, we have a negative impact on this whole chain.
âPollinators need native plants to survive,â says Miller. âIt’s all part of a tightly woven ecosystem. We have to create a habitat. 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 spotlight other creatures that play an equally central role in the biosphere, from moths to flies to beetles. Knowing which plants are attractive and necessary for each type of pollen-bearing critter makes all the difference, even in the smallest of yards.
He says the size of the yard doesn’t matter. It is more important to have lots of yards and gardens of all sizes to be respectful of the habitat.
“Most [habitats] there is in a neighborhood the more sustainable it will be. This is the awareness that I have been working on over the past five years with different programs and groups and publishing these books, âsays Miller. âIt’s good to see that awareness has shifted, so we are concerned about bees and moths and the little things that we have normally overlooked or tried to eradicate. “
Miller says fostering habitat is pretty straightforward.
âWhat you’re primarily looking for in a landscaped habitat is something that’s durable for much of the year,â he says. âYou want plants that bloom in early spring when the bees first emerge and the migrating birds arrive, which bear fruit all summer.
A very important element are the fall flowering plants which provide pollen and nectar to native bees before they lay their eggs, âhe continues, suggesting a few native plants requiring little maintenance.
âThe Apache plume is a good example of an early flowering shrub. The chocolate flowers will bloom all summer long. They don’t mind reflective heat and are drought tolerant. They just need a small pulse of water that simulates a thunderstorm, âhe says.
While Miller’s efforts were initially aimed at supporting regional wildlife, he says there’s another important habitat sustainability benefit by using native plants – water conservation.
âWater conservation is a hot topic. The use of native plants contributes to this effort. These plants evolved with this climate, âhe says. âMany of these plants will survive on the water that nature provides them. We tend to give them more water than necessary because we are looking for a more lush look. But they will survive on less if you are careful with your landscaping.
In his book, after covering educational points on different types of pollinators and some basic plant anatomies, Miller groups the profiles of individual plants by type – desert accents, trees, shrubs, wildflowers, vines, and grasses. Each profile details the plant’s growth, hardiness, flowering time, and pollinators, all preceded by a guide on how to plan a garden to achieve your goals.
It also included an alternative index, where plants are sorted by pollinator types, so you can research which plants are best for attracting hummingbirds or bees. An avid photographer, Miller has spent years capturing images of our native species and put them to good use as a colorful visual guide on every page.
To complement the ease of use he strives to provide in his book, Miller also lists retail sources for plants and seeds native to the Southwest, as well as native plant companies and botanical gardens. in the southwestern states.
In order to make this information widely available to all, Miller has also diligently compiled an easily searchable guide to New Mexico’s biodiversity on his website, www.wildflowersnm.com.
Native Plant Gardening for Birds, Bees, and Butterflies: Southwest, by George Oxford Miller, Adventure Publications, $ 22.95.