Natural landscaping involves using plants that have adapted to and flourished in the growing conditions found in your local area. Wildflower gardening is just one example of this type of landscaping, but it can also include trees, shrubs and grasses in addition to flowering plants. This form of landscaping is becoming increasingly popular for many reasons; by individual gardeners as well as municipalities and local governments.
Perhaps the major reason that natural landscaping is catching on is because it can be a useful tool in solving problems. Many gardeners in areas experiencing drought are turning to native landscaping to keep their yards green even in dry conditions. Once established native plantings use significantly less water and if erosion is a problem than native grasses and trees can help bind the soil together to address this concern. If too much water is sometimes a problem in your yard than native plants might be a way to combat this issue.
Another good reason to invest in growing native plants is because they can be less costly to maintain. Many local governments are growing wildflowers in highway medians to reduce the need to water and cut grass during the summer and since native plants are so adaptable they often self-seed themselves and eliminate the need to be replanted year after year. These attributes can be equally beneficial to the residential gardener as a low maintenance yard means time can be freed up for other pursuits and carefully planted native trees can shade a home and reduce cooling costs in the summer or provide a wind break to reduce heating costs in the winter.
Natural landscaping not only benefits governments and people but also provides sanctuary to birds and wildlife. Restoring native plants to an area can encourage species to return to habitats they once avoided and this can include beneficial insects and other animals that actually help home gardeners and farmers protect vegetables and other crops. Native plants don’t need fertilizers to grow or herbicides to protect them from pests or disease, they help improve the environment which is beneficial to everyone.
While I’ve touted the benefits of natural landscaping and native plants I don’t want to leave you with the impression that growing them is any easier than traditional plants. For example, the soil that is left behind in building projects is often less than desirable and it will need to be invigorated even for native plants. Remember, healthy soil will support healthy plants! Additionally, although they won’t need as much water in the long run they will require a little extra “TLC” to get them properly established. Look at it as an investment whose benefits you’ll enjoy down the road.
If this article has convinced you to “try going native” you’ll be happy to know that there are resources available to assist you with this. The American Horticultural Society provides a list of state native plant societies http://www.ahs.org/gardening-resources/societies-clubs-organizations/native-plant-societies and many local garden centers are now stocking and promoting native plants for their customers. If you’ve already successfully used native plants in your garden please share your experiences with all of us on our Facebook page.