Author Walliser says healthy gardens need many plants and insects to thrive
Jessica Walliser thinks bugs might be some of the best gardeners out there.
“People need to become aware of this awesome activity that is happening outside their doors every day,” she says about the role the insects play in the health of gardens — and in controlling each other.
Organic gardener Walliser, whose column appears twice weekly in the Trib, explores those ideas in her new book, “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden” (Timber Press, 240 pages, $24.95).
The book is about encouraging and attracting insects to help the garden and to mitigate the bad bugs. But it also is about the role they play in creating the delicate balance that exists in the garden.
“Plants and insects are completely interwoven,” says Walliser, who has a degree in ornamental horticulture from Penn State University and is on the faculty at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland.
In the introduction of the book, Walliser admits that she has come to be more fascinated with bugs than plants; a “confession” that will puzzle many of her professional colleagues.
But she says she now is focused on “how a beautiful garden lives in harmony with billions of insects,” she writes.
The biggest part of the book is a guide to beneficial bugs and a look at their roles in plant growth and predatory control. She says most gardeners feel that bugs are their enemies, but 95 percent of them do good jobs for plants.
Walliser also wrote “Good Bug, Bad Bug,” which she calls more of a “field guide” to insects, while this book examines their beneficial work.
The final third of the book might be the most important, as it deals with establishing “beneficial borders,” areas of the garden where plants encourage bugs and wildlife to foster growth.
She talks about plants to use and good ways to arrange them. For that reason, she says, the book is aimed at the “intermediate gardener,” one who is fairly knowledgeable but still has that common hatred of bugs.
“A lot of gardeners don't know about that form of gardening,” she says.
Creating such insectary borders, she says, has an overall positive gain of establishing areas that help the job of insects — and the garden.
While large border areas would be wonderful, she says, many small ones have the same effect. “If you only have a 5-by-5 or a 10-by-10 space, do it,” she says.
Walliser feels so strongly about the benefit of insectary borders, she proposed her book to the publisher with the title, “Beneficial Borders.”
“But they thought that sounded too much like the borders between countries,” she says, and that began an exhausting effort to develop a workable title.
The book is filled with about 245 photographs, all but about two dozen being Walliser's, she says. The result is a book that is full of information but is not heavy to look at.
“I am completely thrilled with the way it turned out,” she says. “The book has a lot of information in it, but if you don't present it in a way that makes it easy to get to, it doesn't matter.”
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7852.
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.