2020 reminded us that some things are out of our control. Instead of letting these things agitate us, let’s focus on the positive effect we can have when we empower ourselves and take action where we can. Today, we’ll remind you of our favorite one – planting natives. A native garden is an achievable way to beautify your surroundings and benefit your local ecology. Let’s stop making ‘the environment’ an abstract and distant concept. Step outside your front door, and there it is! Suburban and industrial sprawl has caused widespread habitat loss and fragmentation, and the rapid influx of pesticide use, alien ornamental plants and invasives are tangible reasons for why we need to collectively change our landscaping approach.
There’s no shortage of variety and beauty
There’s native plants of various sizes, shapes, and colors for every season. If planted strategically, a native garden can provide vibrant beauty from early Spring to late Autumn, and food and nectar sources for native creatures.
For every non-native plant you may aesthetically desire for your landscape, there is an environmentally-conscious alternative. Planting native is not about ignoring aesthetics. Combining ecological consciousness with visual appeal is what we do at McCoy Horticultural. However, when visuals are isolated and trump ecology, we arrive at (unfortunately) the perspective of most landscape companies and homeowners, which disregards our ability, our responsibility, to play a direct, positive environmental role.
For details on specific natives for zone 6-7, see our Native Plant at a Glance posts. You can also find some valuable native plant directories in the Resources section of our website.
They’re naturally low maintenance
Because natives have evolved for your region, once established they are highly resistant to conditions and phenomena that non-natives may struggle or perish under. This means it’s extremely rare for an established native to need replacement if planted properly, granted it’s culturally suited for its placement in the landscape (e.g. shade/sun levels, not too crowded, etc.). It will also be unnecessary to fertilize or periodically water your natives at this point.
Insects and Alien plants do not mix
One of the most fascinating and overlooked aspects of natives is the degree to which specialization between them and cornerstone insect/pollinator species plays a role in environmental functions. As Doug Tallamy cites in his book Nature’s Best Hope, “most insect herbivores, some 90 percent in fact, are diet specialists – host-plant specialists that are restricted to eating one or just a few plant lineages” ([Berynays and Graham 1998, Forister et al. 2015]” (100). A common example is the relationship between the widely loved Monarch and their host-plant milkweed, the only plant that Monarch caterpillars eat in their larval stage.
Help Mother Nature, and She will help you
You may say that nature will take care of herself, but as stewards of the land it is our duty to remind you of your ability to help nature along in its balancing processes. It is undoubtable that every native garden does facilitate positive ecological action by bringing together essential insect species with their specific host plants and providing food and shelter sources for birds and small mammals. When you provide for your local ecology, it provides for you – you’ll have a plethora of aesthetic and sonic beauty added to your yard, you’ll save money in water and hours worked, and (especially if you stop using toxic pesticides,) you’ll also reap the benefits of avoiding some common mosquito, pest, and fungal issues in allowing and assisting nature’s balance to take effect.
Get outside and plant some natives in 2021! Visit Homegrown National Park’s website to #GetOnTheMap with your native garden!
Sources: https://www.naturalshore.com/native-plants/ , Bringing Nature Home by Douglas Tallamy, Nature’s Best Hope by Douglas Tallamy