There is an exciting new trend in gardening; native plants are making a comeback! More and more of us are using and loving native plants in our gardens. This is good since these plants are beautiful and usually less fussy than introduced species. It is also very good for the environment. Native plants supply food for our native birds, many of whose populations are in steep decline. Using native plants also avoids the risk of introducing a foreign species which might turn out to be a destructive invasive.
The first modern champion of native plants that I remember is Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon Johnson. I think many of us who were around at that time were more focused on policy issues like the Great Society and the Vietnam War. I remember thinking that Mrs. Johnson’s campaign to encourage the use of native wildflowers seemed trite and superficial. Well, score one for Ladybird. She also had the insight to call billboards “litter on a stick”.
If you have some time this winter while the ground is frozen, or just really muddy, pick up a copy of Douglas Tallamy’s book Bringing Nature Home. Mr. Tallamy covers all the scientific arguments for including natives in your garden without sounding pedantic. His tone is impassioned and inspiring; his plea for gardeners to take steps to save the natural world is difficult to ignore. He also includes practical information; for example, did you know that if you want to attract luna moths to your garden, you should plant alders, American beech, hickories, oaks, persimmon, sweetgum, and willows?
So consider adding a few natives to your gardening plans for 2016. This column will be a regular feature in “The Garden Shed” and we hope it will help you find, plant, and enjoy natives in your garden.