If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my fellow gardeners, it’s that they lean toward frugality on the micro level. On the macro level, they might be spending half their incomes on their domestic landscapes, but that’s OK if they’re also getting good discounts at the garden center and free divisions from gardening clubs and friends.
That’s why I’m a bit troubled by a recent offering from the National Wildlife Federation. Now, this is the group that we were mad at about its “leave the leaves” advice, but that’s another story. The new promotion asks supporters of wildlife to buy four different starter sets of native plants. There are part-shade and full-sun blends; the plants are as you’d expect: butterfly weed, coreopsis, aster, and goldenrod in the sun package and wild geranium, foxglove, lobelia, and rudbeckia included for part-shade. There are a couple other plants in the mix and you can get the exact species here. The 12-packs go for $118 and the 6-packs for $68. The inch sizes of the pots are not given.
One should not expect deep discounts from a nonprofit’s fundraising efforts—quite the opposite. But that’s not the only purpose here. The NWF is tapping into a surge of interest in supporting pollinators, especially from beginning gardeners. It knows that’s the main reason many are getting into gardening in the first place. I know this, too; I see it listed as a reason on the regular whenever we get new member requests for our online gardening group.
What happens when someone orders one or more of these collections, plants them in an 8×10 or 4×6 bed, as suggested, and, at the end of the season, is met with a discouraging survival rate? New gardeners especially won’t be too thrilled about what they spent and what they got. It’s just human nature, but it won’t advance the cause of supporting pollinators.
I’m just leary of kits. Let people discover what happens as they plant and maintain. Notice what pollinators love, but also important, notice what they, the humans, love. Notice the plants that are both thriving in the garden and attracting bees and butterflies.
You’ll say that “well, at least it’s getting people into gardening,” but I maintain that it’s aimed at people who want to be there already and might think that a garden can work like a meal kit. They’ll find out differently soon enough.