Wednesday, June 22, 2011


My conversion to Urban Landscaping with Native Plants
Spring Bloodroot flowers
Ok.I’ve been bitten.Over the past 5 or so years, through my own interest in gardening and landscaping, certification in the Master Gardener program, reading, volunteering with the Wood County Parks’ native plant restoration efforts, attending numerous lectures, and talking with Jan Hunter of Naturally Native Nursery, I’ve become convinced Native Plants are the way to go.Gradually we’ll convert our traditional landscape to native plants.We’ll replace as many cultivars and exotic plants as possible with natives.

WHY? Good question.

Native plants are much less maintenance.They are naturally designed to live here, in the very type of soil we’ve all got.They’ve grown here for hundreds of years with no help from mankind.They live with the water and nutrients the environment gives them.

Native plants are the base of the food web for our native wildlife.Our pollinating butterflies and other insects depend on these native plants.These plants provide the nutrition and habitat that our wildlife need.The butterflies, beneficial insects, and birds that we all like to see in our yards, grew up on these plants.Hybridized, commercial landscape plants don’t provide these same benefits.Many of the commercial nursery plants have limited nutritional value even though they look pretty and are readily eaten by birds.Invasive plants have crowded out much of our native habitat.I’ve heard it said that birds feasting on the berries from the invasive bush honeysuckle are like our children living on Twinkies.Some invasives have defensive mechanisms that actually kill the young of butterflies fooled into thinking this plant is their natural host plant.Diabolical, huh? Is it any wonder that we don’t have the variety and quantities of butterflies that we used to?There are many, many species of bees native to Ohio.One lecturer I heard said that our native bees are much more efficient and productive pollinators than the imported European honeybee. However, we’re allowing invasive plants to gradually eradicate this important part of our environment.Returning to native plants will help restore the diminishing and endangered wildlife that makes our life so rich.

Native plants don’t require fertilizer and other chemicals to help them flourish.Our existing soils provide everything they need.Many of our commercial fertilizers are byproducts of oil.Many of us feel our dependence on oil has hurt us, both financially and psychologically.The fertilizers and weed killing chemicals we apply to our lawns and landscapes run off into the water stream.There they cause poisonous algae blooms, killing fish and other aquatic life, and degrading the quality of our water supply.There is only so much water available on Earth.Here in Northwest Ohio we are lucky to have so much fresh water.We need to use it responsibly and respectfully.

In short, God made these plants to survive, and thrive all by themselves.Cheaper, less maintenance, better for the environment, better for us - we just have to preserve and enjoy them.

Now I can’t say every single plant in our landscape will be replaced with natives.I’ve spent a lot of time and energy propagating numerous hostas and planting other hybridized perennials in our landscape.I’ll definitely have a hard time letting some of it go.Our lawn is a source of numerous compliments from neighbors.Over the 13 years we’ve been here, I’ve carefully nurtured it.However, it is definitely high and expensive maintenance.Every time I cut the grass, I’m thinking what a waste it is.It is a biological wasteland.I am reducing the lawn size where possible. Our suburban lot was clearly a rich, shady woodland as species such as bloodroot, Jacob’s ladder, Solomon’s seal, trout lily and Virginia waterleaf have spontaneously appeared in our landscape!

In this blog, I’m going to document the psychological transformation of my mind to embracing the Native Plant culture.In addition, I’ll chronicle the transformation of our landscape to a Native Plant habitat.I’ll share my struggles in making the change and the evolution of my thinking from the “old way” to the new enlightened way.

Stay tuned.

[Note:Jan Hunter has agreed to watch over my shoulder and make sure I’m not posting bogus information.As she offers corrections, I’ll post them as notes to the original posting.Thanks Jan]


Art Roche said...

Dear Mr. Native:

Very interesting! I'm going to start at the beginning and read it all!

-Roc Heart in Iowa

Gloria said...

It will be interesting to follow a your gardening journey through the changes in your garden and to the gardener. Good luck to you and a (rather late) welcome to the adventure.