It is say that the biggest trend in landscaping is going to be flower garden.
It’s a concept Wesson has put into practice as a consultant for Brooks Wines in Oregon, establishing an insect garden, or insectary, on the biodynamic winery’s grounds. By planting flowers and shrubs that attract beneficial insects, the winery reduces the need to treat pest outbreaks with chemicals.
Take aphids, for example: “We have aphids that come after our plants in the spring and early summer when they’re lush and hospitable to aphids. We could use a product to kill the aphids, but nature is not that clean or orderly.”
He recommends accepting some of the damage as inevitable and appreciating the imperfection: “Just because a plant has hole in a leaf doesn’t mean that bug deserves the death sentence.”
Oftentimes, the food chain regulates pest problems without the need for harmful insecticides, some of which have been shown to have an adverse affect on bee reproduction. For example, gardens featuring chamomile, dill and golden rod bring in lady beetles (or lady bugs), which are natural predators of aphids. Other plants attract lacewings, bees, hover flies and parasitic wasps — all insects Wesson says “provide their own role in this ecosystem.”
“If gardens have enough beneficial insects, your #1 role is to not kill those guys, but to … take a step back, take your hand off the pesticide spray nozzle and have those bugs come in and save you money,” Wesson says.
Besides the one at Brooks, some of the most prominent insectaries can be found on the West Coast at wineries like Benziger Family Winery and Winery Sixteen 600, both in Sonoma, and Quintessa Winery in Napa Valley; farms including RobinSong; and San Francisco-based organic landscaping company Home Design Collective.
For gardeners looking to grow their own insectaries at home, Wesson recommends starting with a selection of native plants, which are adapted to your region’s unique growing climate and won’t require as much water once they’re well established.
Some of the plants grown at Brooks to attract beneficial insects include allysum (for syrphids and wasps), dill (for lady beetles and wasps), Russian sage (butterflies) and sunflowers, which also provide a natural winter habitat for insects when seed heads are left intact, Wesson says.
(For a comprehensive guide, check out Attracting Beneficial Insects to the Garden with Beneficial Flowers at Renee’s Garden.)
whether you’re into the insectary thing or not, Wesson encourages gardeners to consider not only the aesthetic appeal of flowers but also their varied purposes: How might that plant be useful to insects? Could it look pretty and provide a benefit to wildlife?
“By working with nature and encouraging healthy predator-prey relationships, over time it allows the garden to come into balance, reducing the need for treatments in response to a pest outbreak,” he says.