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X Marks the Spot: VISTA Gardens is on The Homegrown National Park Map

VISTA Gardens is on the Homegrown National Park map, joining a conservation movement that inspires small changes in our own backyards to improve the health of the ecosystem.

Founded by Michelle Alfandari and Doug Tallamy, author of “Natures Best Hope,” this cooperative conservation project inspires us to make a difference for butterflies, bees, birds, as well as the land, the air, and the sea.

Just one plant container planted with Florida native plants growing on a balcony, patio or porch helps!

Have more growing space? You can create an ecological gold mine by planting:

  • native perennial plants that support a diverse community of pollinators, and

  • native trees (oak, plum, hickory, willow, maple, elm, etc.) that support birds by “hosting” caterpillars necessary for birds to feed their young.

A large tree canopy softens the impact of pounding rain, and the extensive root system encourages rainwater infiltration that is especially useful after a storm event. VISTA’s Live Oak and Laurel Oak trees are excellent examples.

Plants share energy harnessed from the sun with the local animals, critical to our ecosystems. At VISTA, bees and butterflies nectar on Tea Bush (Melochia tomentosa) and Dotted Horsemint (Monarda punctata) plants, among many other Florida native plants.

We depend on pollinators to successfully grow vegetables in our raised garden beds, and they are important to the ecosystems beyond VISTA Gardens, too.

At home, consider adding a container, tree, shrub, or flowering plant. Go to the National Wildlife Federation Native Plant Finder, type in your zip code, and learn which flowers and grasses, trees and shrubs are best suited for your location, as well as the number and names of butterflies and moths they host. This resource ranks native plants by the number of butterfly and moth species that use them.

Follow the “Right Plant; Right Place” rule. As you decide about plants, access information about their growing conditions (sunlight/shade, sandy/loam soil, high/low moisture, etc.) at the Florida Wildflower Foundation and Florida Native Plant Society websites.

Spend time at VISTA looking at our Native Plant Landscape around the pavilion, the Wildflower Garden adjacent South Village Drive, as well as the Monarch Waystation Garden and the native plantings that surround our pond. If you see a plant that interests you, look for a marker that identifies it. There may be a QR code to connect you to information about growing it in your yard.

Bee nectaring on flower of the Tea Bush (Melochia tomentosa) ©Rick Jackson

VISTA thanks Rick Jackson for his exquisite photography, all of which is copyrighted.

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Among the many worthy causes to support, you continue to appreciate VISTA Gardens with your financial contributions. Together, we are cultivating a vibrant and sustainable community for generations to


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