Planning your Native Plants Garden

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Winter is the perfect time to think about planning your garden.  It won’t be long before spring is in the air and flowers will be blooming.  Whether you’re looking to add beauty, curb appeal or a habitat for song birds and butterflies, using native plants is the way to go.

Why are native plants so important? 

  • They contribute to biodiversity and a balanced ecosystem.  By using native plants, you provide food and habitat that support populations of our beneficial insects (honey bees, butterflies and other bugs), as well as birds and other wildlife.  When invasive plants take over and push native plants out, there’s a lack of food for beneficial species.  This leads to a reduction in their populations which, in turn, leads to more pest problems.
  • Native plants and biodiversity protect water resources and soil, absorb pollution and help the environment recover from natural and human disturbances.  Native plants are well-suited for your region and require less maintenance and water.  Plus, they typically don’t need any chemical additions like fertilizers.
  • Native plants and grasses can replace non-native turf grass that consumes vast amounts of water, fertilizer, weed-killer and pesticides.  Plus, the shallow roots of grass lawns contribute to storm-water runoff where chemical applications run off lawns into our waterways and cause numerous problems.  Native plants and grasses have deep roots that allow rainwater to be absorbed into the ground where it can replenish our depleted aquifers.

Types of Native Plant Gardens:

  • Rain Gardens
  • Shady, Woodland Gardens
  • Sunny Meadows
  • Butterfly/Hummingbird Gardens
  • Formal or Informal Gardens

A great resource is where you’ll find a directory of native plant nurseries, regional plant lists and tutorials that teach how to create a native landscape.  You’ll also find a list of community service organizations and professionals to help you create the garden of your dreams.

A good place to shop is at your local nursery/garden center, and I’m not talking about the big box stores, as they have very limited selections of native plants.  You can also purchase small plants and seeds online.  The Arbor Day Foundation offers low prices on trees and shrubs, most of which are native.

For Pennsylvania residents, free landscape planting plans are available through iConservePA.  Their website displays helpful garden templates, showing types and arrangement of plants.

Another rewarding way to learn about native plants is to volunteer for your local arboretum, botanical garden, university, organization or company that specializes in native plants.

photo courtesy of Washington Native Plant Society

Tag(s): Going Green, The Great Green Outdoors


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