Ruth WalkerComment

Today's the Day to Add Native Plants to My Garden

Ruth WalkerComment
Today's the Day to Add Native Plants to My Garden

While I grow a variety of native and adaptable plants, there’s no doubt in my mind that becoming a pollinator’s friend by growing more and more native plants benefits the environment.and my garden. That’s why when I got an order form for my local conservation district’s native plant sale I couldn’t resist.

The problem was what to choose. I have several spaces that I’m cleaning out in my front yard garden and I built my order around those spaces. While I would have liked to buy at least three of everything and more of some things, the reminder that the space I’m planting this year sent me — as usual — to my collection of gardening books.

In this case it was 100 Easy-to-Grow Native Plants. The author, Lorraine Johnson, spoke at a Master Gardener recognition dinner a few years ago and captured my attention when she talked about how she had participated in a study where she had to record all the inputs to her garden: water, chemicals, gas for mowing the lawn and any other expenses. She also kept a log of the time she spent on the garden: watering, fertilizing, weeding and mowing. The sum total of maintenance was three and a quarter hours and inputs totaled about eight gallons of water, no gas (no lawn), no fertilizer or other synthetic chemicals. Granted, she has a small backyard garden in Toronto where she’s created a native plant meadow that only contains a few adaptable (non-native) plants, but what works on a small scale can be even better for those of us who garden on a larger scale. As I’ve moved toward more native plants in my garden I have noticed how much less time I have to spend in the garden coddling plants.

This year I have a shaded area to plant as well as a sunny one so I made a spreadsheet of all the plants offered by the soil conservation district. There I listed each plant, plants that are complimentary in a landscape, what the plant attracts (butterflies, bees, birds) as a pollinator, whether it’s best grown in shade or sun and how tall the plant can get.

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From there I looked at the books photos of the plants as I envisioned them in our garden space. I knew that in one sunny corner I wanted plants with height so that decision was easily made — I chose some cup plants (pictured at the right). In front of the cup plants I plan to plant purple coneflower and blend that in with the wild blue indigo and the blazing star that I already have planted. I’ll also add in some rattlesnake master — a plant that looks like something straight out of the 1950s and early 1960s outer space focused designs. (Rattlesnake master is the plant featured at the beginning of this article.)

In the shadier area I’m planning on planting some foxglove beard tongue and some wild columbine — a plant I’ve loved since childhood when I’d make flower dolls and use the columbine flowers.

I’m excited to fill up those spaces because I know that it’s easy for invasive grasses and undesirable plants to move in if those are left unplanted. And my goal is to get my summer work in the garden reduced significantly so that I can move on to the back yard where I plan to plant a full pollinator garden with only native plants.

If you want to increase the number of native plants in your garden or if you’re planting a completely native garden you may want to check out 100 Easy-to-Grow Native Plants. It’s one of the garden books — and I have a lot — that I refer to time after time as I transition our yard more and more to the benefits that planting wild offers.

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