Community

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. – John Muir

In a garden, as with any community, each member plays a role in its success or failure. The relationships between its residents–both plants and insects–intertwine and are dependent on one another.

A garden planted with a broad palette of plants not only provides year-round beauty but also supports a diverse population of insects. The goal is to maintain a habitat that balances insects considered to be plant pests with their natural enemies, called beneficial insects. Creating and maintaining a balance between these two populations is essential to sustaining a healthy garden.

What can you do?
Create a garden using a variety of plants that attract all types of insects.
Avoid using insecticides as they kill beneficial insects as well as garden pests.

Planting Companions

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. – William Shakespeare

Groups of plants that grow well together are called “companion” plants.  Planting different types of plants in close proximity with the intention of enhancing their growth or protecting against plant pests is known as companion planting.

Many of the plants in the Folger Rose Garden were chosen for their ability to attract beneficial insects. They provide habitat, shelter, and food sources for these insects throughout their lifecycle. Selecting a variety of plants with different bloom times helps sustain a range of beneficial insects.

What can you do?
Choose plants wisely. Plants in the aster family (Asteraceae) with their daisy-like blooms and easy-to-reach nectar are good examples of flowers that attract and support beneficial insects.

Creating Balance: Plant Pests and Beneficial Insects

What I dream of is an art of balance. – Henri Matisse

Insects are often perceived as something to be avoided or even eliminated. On the contrary, most are beneficial to your garden! Insects not only pollinate our food and flower crops, they also improve soil texture, break down decaying wood and plants, and serve as an important food source for birds and small mammals. Some insects help manage pest populations while causing little or no damage to plants. These helpful bugs are called beneficial insects.

In addition to feeding on flower pollen and nectar as a part of their diet, some beneficial insects dine on insect pests. Common beneficial insects include ladybugs, green lacewings, syrphid flies (a.k.a hover flies), and non-stinging parasitic wasps.

An insect is considered a plant pest if it causes a significant decline in plant health or crop yield. Common pests in rose gardens include aphids, mites, and thrips.

What can you do?
Get to know the insects in your garden. Identify and monitor the populations of pests and beneficial insects. A healthy garden should have both.