It is a strange feeling, seeing ornamental grasses that need to be cut down, leaves still in beds that need to be picked up, trees and shrubs that need to be pruned, and all I want to do is go see if I can find a few new plants to add to my already full yard.
If you are feeling the same and ready to go find some new beauties to pick up, I wanted to give you something to think about first.
The usual argument for native plants
For a long time native plants have been promoted by tree huggers and ex hippies alike. “Non natives are invading our forests and parks, displacing native plants, destroying our ecosystem, enslaving our dogs, bankrupting social security, and taking away our second amendment rights!”
Well maybe not all of those. My reaction used to be, who cares where it’s from as long as it looks cool and doesn’t die.
In fact, I still have a little of that in me. Your garden is meant for you. If you like a plant, that’s your choice.
Why I’m a believer now
That being said, I have slowly been converted to being a lover of native plants. Sure, the fact that they are not invasive and out compete native plants in natural areas is a good thing. I think you can agree to that even if you are not a tree hugging hippie. There are reasons natives are great plants to add to your garden sanctuary for the purely selfish reason of making your garden better for YOU. These include:
#1 – They are adapted to the environment and thus do well in that environment. Nonnatives will often struggle. This generally means, less care and TIME is required from you to keep your garden looking good when you use natives.
#2 – They attract a wider variety of local wildlife than non-natives. A garden with a variety of birds and butterflies really connects us to nature better than one without. Sure some wildlife like cardinals will eat just about any fruit including that of nonnatives, but to get a variety of butterflies and birds, natives are much better at attracting a diversity of animals. If everybody did this, many threatened species could also recover.
For example, the zebra swallowtail is widely distributed from southern New England west to southern Minnesota and south to eastern Texas and Florida. Yet as a caterpillar, it ONLY feeds on the native Paw Paw tree foliage.
#3 – They tie your garden into the surrounding landscape. One of the principles of art is repetition. When you use plants that are in surrounding natural areas, your garden is connected with your area. If you are in the land of sugar maples, nothing ties you into that landscape more than a sugar maple in your yard.
#4 – Natives have cool new cultivars and varieties too. Just as one example, look at the many types of purple cone flower or coral bells. This is a biggie. You no longer have to resort to a plant from China or somewhere else to get a variety of colors and shapes. No one says you have to plant every native plant in your yard. Some are just Blah! Don’t plant those, get one you like.
So that’s why I am now a firm advocate of using native plants. No, not exclusively, but when you have a choice between a native plant and one that’s not. You have a few reasons to tip the scale toward picking that native.
On my next post, I will give you a list of some native alternatives to commonly used invasive plants.