Go Green by Going Native

Brett Freeman

Instead of putting in Japanese maples, English boxwoods, and Asian hollies, all of which will require TLC and be vulnerable to seasonal hardships, use native species when landscaping. Native species are already adapted to your area, so no green thumb is required. Once established, your yard can thrive with little maintenance. It will also pay environmental dividends.

Would you expect to see a cactus garden in Minnesota? Of course not, that would be ridiculous. Cacti are desert plants: they couldn't survive Minnesota's brutal winters. But while planting a Saguaro in the snow belt is obviously ridiculous, bringing other plant species far out of their native region and climate, where they rely on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and supplemental watering (in addition to rainfall) to survive, has long been an accepted practice. The result is ecosystems damaged by chemical runoff, and yards and gardens so reliant on watering that irrigation accounts for nearly one-third of all residential water use nationwide. It doesn't have to be that way. Instead of wasting time, money, and natural resources keeping high-maintenance plants from far away alive, use native plants and discover the advantages of having a yard full of plants that really want to be there.

Look Locally

In general, you are more likely to find native plants in locally owned nurseries than in big box home and garden centers. More importantly, you are more likely to find someone with knowledge of native species at smaller, local stores. Other sources of information and inspiration include local botanical gardens and nature preserves, and garden clubs. Hiking through undeveloped areas also allows you to identify native plants as well as when they bloom and in what environment (full sun, partial sun, shade) they do best. An oft overlooked source of ideas are highway or municipal beautification projects, which often use native species because they require little or no maintenance.

Plan and Plant
As you create your landscape plan, pay attention to how native plants appear in the wild. If certain flowers tend to appear in close proximity to certain types of bushes, for example, this suggests a symbiotic relationship, and recreating that type of plant proximity will likely benefit your yard. Also remember that transplantation is traumatic for plants. A yard that uses native species will eventually thrive, but native plants need the same attention and care as exotic species when newly planted.

The Benefits of Going Native

The biggest advantage to landscaping with native plants is that, once established, your landscaping will require virtually no watering, no fertilizing, and less pesticides than non-native species. Native plants also nurture native wildlife, protect against soil erosion by establishing stronger and deeper root networks, and promote biodiversity throughout your region. Traditional English gardens are fine--in England. But when you landscape your own yard, do yourself and the environment a favor by using plants that feel at home there.

About the Author

Brett Freeman is a freelance journalist. He also owns a landscaping and irrigation company in North Carolina. Previously he has worked as a beat reporter, a teacher, and for a home improvement company, and he used to own a bar/live music venue.

 

About the Author
Brett Freeman is a freelance journalist. He also owns a landscaping and irrigation company in North Carolina. Previously he has worked as a beat reporter, a teacher, and for a home improvement company, and he used to own a bar/live music venue.


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