It’s a common idea for most homeowners to view their landscape as their own personal oasis, to create, enjoy and manage however they see fit. We often forget our little plots of the world are pieces of a much bigger picture, specifically your local native plant community.
When creating or making changes to our landscapes, we’re faced with many variables to consider; cost, aesthetics, and maintenance, to name just a few. Choosing the right plant for the right place is an important consideration as well, as we all understand. In identifying the native plant community you’re considering planting in; you can easily create a resilient, beautiful, low-maintenance landscape teaming with biodiversity. The biodiversity you’re helping to support will eliminate the need for fertilizers and pesticides while also supporting a healthy ecosystem of microbes to combat undesirable pests such as fleas, ticks and grubs.
Your native plants will naturally take to the appropriate climate and site conditions and fit into the wildlife niche of your area. You’ll be providing habitats and food sources for mammals, as well as seeds, nuts and fruits for local and migrating bird species. With the threats to honey bees, supporting native pollinators with the appropriate flowers is more important than ever, while also helping to diversify genetics of native flowers pollinated by only specific native bee species. The next time you consider your landscape, imagine enjoying the company of butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and songbirds.
The native landscape is not only prolific and productive for native animals, but humans can reap the many benefits as well. What could be better than a garden that takes care of itself? Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum), huckleberries (Gaylussacia baccata) and elderberries (Sambucus canadensis) are delicious and popular berries. Tree nuts such as shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) and hazelnuts (Corylus americana) productive as well as beautiful trees capable of producing nuts for generations.
Many lesser-known plants capable of providing not-so-luscious benefits are more popular for their beauty, such as spicebush (Lindera benzoin) with yellow flowers and pretty red berries that can be dried and used as a savory, peppery seasoning. Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) provides a beautiful fiery red fall color in woodland edges while being noted for its long history as a flavoring for drinks, candies and medicines. My favorite native plant, hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides), provides humble white spring flowers along many woodland trails in our area and produces a small black berry with the flavor of clove spiced prunes.
In creating our ideal home landscapes, we have many choices to make. If you choose only to devote a portion of your personal oasis to becoming a part of your native plant community, you’ll still be providing a great service to the environment and surrounding habitat and not mention yourself and future generations of humans and native critters alike.