Garden with Natives
Why Native Plants Matter
As more and more of the land around us is developed and/or degraded, the home landscape is becoming increasingly important in the preservation of healthy, balanced ecosystems. We now know how important it is to change our perceptions and our practices in finding new ways to define the beauty we want in our yards and gardens while simultaneously preserving the natural world as it was meant to be. Therefore, we must learn to incorporate practices that preserve landscapes in their more natural states.
First and foremost, this means planting species on your property that evolved to grow there.
Plants that are native to a given locale or ecosystem evolved to coexist with all other forms of life also found there, and—along with soil type and climate considerations—form the foundation of complex food webs in which species are dependent on each other for their very survival.
Quite simply, the abundant and highly diverse native species of plants, shrubs, vines and trees characteristic of our landscape do a better job—the best ecologically-balanced job—of providing food and shelter for the many insects, birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and other life forms that can, and should, be found there.
Using more native plants has many other benefits as well. Aesthetically, they can be beautiful, and many have long blooming seasons. Many native plants also have other worthwhile attributes, such as beautiful foliage or bark, attractive seed heads and striking fall color, and their appeal may cover several seasons of the year as well, including winter.
Once established, native plants may also require less water than many introduced species, and can require less maintenance, especially treatment with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They are better able to resist pests/diseases because pathogens are much less likely to inflict damage in a balanced ecosystem. Water quality and soil conditions are much improved when these toxins are kept out of the soil and our watersheds.
Native Plant Benefits
- Attract butterflies, bees and other native pollinators
- Provide food and shelter for wildlife
- Grow easily once established and require less water and maintenance
- Reduce the need for toxic chemicals
- Evolved to be in harmony and interdependent with local wildlife
- Prevent invasives from gaining a foothold in the landscape
- Provide beauty, delight and “sense of place.”
Native plants are often easy to grow, especially when grown in plant communities where each plant inhabits its proper growing niche. Plants that are sited properly in plant communities typically show a “layered” effect where different species occupy different heights in the growing zone, including not only the growth above ground but also in the roots below ground. This is especially important at the soil level, where groundcover plants act as “green mulch,” negating the need for repeated applications of bark/wood mulch. Native plant communities are often successful in out-competing invasive plants as well, preventing them from gaining a foothold in your garden.