Selecting and planting plants native to our region is one of my gardening resolutions this year. Recently I read Douglas Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home; it raises very good questions and arguments regarding native versus alien plant selections and the importance of increasing and sustaining wildlife in our own backyards, and in the grounds of our boutique hotel.
It is my opinion that we need to sustain biodiversity to sustain ourselves. The array of pollinators, beneficial insects, birds, native plant variety, etc, etc; the natural world is full of delicate and fascinating relationships that seem replaced by more asphalt, more houses, and more alien monocultures (lawns!) each and every day. The native short-grass meadow in front of the Honeycombs (shown above) is a beautiful alternative — it is composed of 3 native short grass species and 19 wildflower/forb species, and home to lots of insect life!
I ask myself, will a blue spruce that’s indigenous to the western Rockies provide for our local fauna just as well as a conifer native to the Great Lakes Region? Though I have no concrete research or data to confirm this, my instincts sway me to turn more attention and selection to those plants that have history to this region versus showy exotic ornamentals and plants that are native to the US, but not necessarily to our specific area.
Tallamy’s book provides lists of region specific plants. In addition to that, you can find lists of native plants for your area here. To support local plant and wildlife communities in your own backyard, purchase plants from nurseries that do not wild-collect, and locate native plant societies in your area and shop plant sales.
A few selections on my list this year:
Eupatorium — Joe Pye Weed for the honeycomb border. I distinctly remember seeing a large specimen growing on the hilltop last summer and it was covered in swallowtails.
More winterberry (Ilex verticillata) around our Amish Country hotel — a wonderful winter food source for the birds; the Bluebirds especially seem to enjoy them.
Sedum ternatum, an herbaceous groundcover I’ll be planting by the front water feature.
Sporobolus heterolepsis — prairie dropseed grass for in between the honeycomb units as a groundcover
Schizacyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem) — a petite ornamental grass selection with blue/green color changing to reddish purple in fall.
It won’t always be easy. I find myself oohing and ahhing over the vibrant colors, textures, and seasonal features many non-native plants have to offer. My previous plantings have included a mix of native and non-native selections; but henceforth I’ll be more conscientious in my designs and decisions about choosing native alternatives. There are beautiful native plants no matter your region. By incorporating natives into your backyard you’ll enjoy not only the plants themselves, but also the biodiversity they support. Plant native!