Plant native plants! We’ve all heard it, mostly from our “granola” friends, you know the ones, always composting their kitchen scraps and yard waste, they have a recycling bin that’s twice as big as their garbage bin, driving their Prius or other hybrid or high MPG around town, or better yet, riding their bike to run their errands. Oh, but wait, that describes me…minus the Prius – I prefer my VW clean diesel and average 40 MPG! Never really thought about myself as “granola”, but yes, I have finally decided recycling is important, composting is an awesome habit to get into, and driving a car that gets more than 30 MPG is a minimum requirement for our main family car. And, as a Landscape Architect I do promote planting native plants. It totally makes sense: native plant communities were here way before we were, they’ve adapted to our soils and climate, they have figured out how to live harmoniously together, they provide just the right kind of habitat for the local wildlife and often require less maintenance than more popular non natives. So, yes, I do promote the use of native plants and so should you!
Being a Landscape Architect puts me in the right place to have influence over what new plants are planted, which is a really great place to be! But it also gives me the opportunity to hear the same first argument over and over and over and over again: Oh, native plants, really? Hmmm, but they always look so weedy and messy! Why can’t they be neat and tidy like what I’m used to? My response is always the same: If the planting plan is designed well, native plants can and do (shocker!) look neat and tidy. It’s all in how you put them together, and often I mix them up with non-natives, because, let’s face it; sometimes you need something a bit more showy in your landscape. When your plant material is organized, regardless of if the plants are native or not, they will look neater and better behaved. If you border a larger bed with a mix of native plants with something smaller and neater, it will help create the illusion that the landscape is tidy. It only takes a small border to help clean it up. Don’t be afraid of natives; think of them as another tool in your shed, when used in the right place, they are just what you needed. Win-win!
Maintenance time and costs can be reduced as well if you utilize native plants in your landscapes. These plants have already adapted to the amount of water they are likely to receive with our regular rainfall. So other than the initial watering in during planting, native plants often don’t require supplemental watering, which translates to less money spent on water for you. These plants also attract and provide the perfect habitat for the woodland creatures, insects, and birds that should be living in the area as well. I try to help encourage our local pollinators, butterfly, bees and other insects, to visit the landscapes I design by adding in plants that they are attracted to. It helps me remember that these smallest creatures are important to the fruits and vegetables I’ve grown, and gives me an opportunity to teach my kids and their friends about how important they are as well. Kids who help their parents work in their garden and care for our natural spaces, grow up to be adults who garden and become stewards of our environment. Having more champions for our natural environment can only mean positive things for all of us in the long run. Instilling a love of nature into the next generation is something that we need to do every day.
The next time you have the opportunity to plant plants, take a minute and think about adding some natives into the mix. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And won’t it be nice to save money and time on watering and maintenance, help influence a future gardener, and you just may have more butterflies, bees and birds in your garden as well.
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