Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Interesting Idea for Native Plants

Garden Chick had this interesting thought for native plants - contain them. The idea is that in case you are out of room in your yard you can still have and enjoy native plants, but pop them into containers.

I'll admit I've got mixed feelings about this one, but on the whole I like it. For folks who aren't sure about whether or not they want native plants, it would be a good way to experiment with them. It also seems like a nice way to introduce some of the benefits of natives - attracting pollinators and predators to your yard and garden while offering an invaluable food source for insects and birds - without committing space for a perennial.

I've dedicated a bed in the garden to perennials, and most of them are natives. The more I read about the benefits of natives, the more I think they are the way to go for our future and for farming and gardening. I have a hard time now thinking about other more traditional perennials - hostas, bleeding hearts, day lilies, etc. - as a viable option. Some are really invasive and others offer the wider world nothing but their beautiful colors. That's not really so bad, I admit, but sometimes it doesn't seem like the best criteria for a garden or landscape. Somehow it's important to me that what I grow, whether vegetables or ornamentals, are helpful.

Some useful resources for thinking about incorporating native plants are:

Enhancing Beneficial Insects with Native Plants - This MSU study really got my mind turning on incorporating them into my garden. The site includes plant lists and their rating, helpful publications outlining their research and findings, useful publications and websites.

Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens - Douglas Tallamy's book is one of the best I've read yet on why native plants are relevant to urban, suburban, or rural gardeners or farmers. Compelling research written in an accessible manner along with great photographs inspired a fondness for bugs I never thought I would have.

Wild Ones - The premiere organization focusing on native plants and native plant education, if you ask me. (Disclaimer: I received a grant a few years ago to do a project in Tecumseh, Michigan, from Wild Ones.) Find a local chapter and plan to spend some time. I learned loads from them and still am. An invaluable resource for people, information, and activity.

Look also for local native plant nuseries. I just ran a quick search and found oodles. Add your state name, and you'll be in business.

Your local arboretum is a great place to look, too. The University of Wisconsin Arboretum (I'm an alum, I confess.) is a terrific resource for Wisconsin folks.

Natural Area Preservation, a division of Ann Arbor Parks, is a great resource, too. Workshops, workdays, publications, and a blog are but a few of the ways this group works together to educate and learn about native plants.

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