Gardening As If Nature Matters
There are basic understandings that I wish to address to those just starting to garden for bringing nature back to your piece of the planet. First, native plants, also called indigenous plants, are plants that have evolved over thousands of years in a particular region. They have adapted to the geography, hydrology, and climate of the region. Native plants have evolved with the pollinators as well as other plants. As a result, a community of native plants provides habitat for a variety of native wildlife species such as songbirds and butterflies seeking host plants to lay their eggs while feeding off the nectar and leaves.
Non-native plants, also called non-indigenous plants, invasive plants, exotic species, or weeds, are plants that have been introduced into an environment in which they did not evolve. Such monoculturally aggressive plants like Canada thistle and Myrtle spurge can pose harm on the ecology of other native plants and wildlife.
So why should you use native plants? Here are my reasons:
- Native plants do not require fertilizers.
- They are hardy, drought resistant and require fewer pesticides than lawns.
- They help reduce air pollution and sequester carbon, thus helping to contain the increase of global warming.
- They provide shelter and food for wildlife.
- They promote biodiversity and stewardship of our natural heritage.
- They save money.
- They entertain and inspire the deeper nurturing connections with nature rooted where you live.
- They provide beautiful aesthetic impressions of nature.
Last year I applied with the National Wildlife Federation to receive the status stating our property is certified as a Wildlife Habitat. We have a seasonal creek, scattered aspens, Doug firs and Ponderosas, and 4 newly installed wren-chickadee bird houses on opposite corners of our land along with a bat house to go after the Western spruce budworm moths in the late spring.
So far on our half acre lot I have been able to identify 75 native plant species and still counting over the years. To help get you started you can check out these useful links:
• Native Plants: nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife/ About/Native-Plants
• Resources: homegrownnationalpark.org
• Certify: nwf.org/Garden-For-Wildlife/Certify
• Colorado Native Plant Society: conps.org
We continue to grow through hands-on understanding as we experience this little challenging earth with humility, patience, and knowledge.
Dennis Swiftdeer Paige is an environmental educator and native landscaper in Conifer. His is the author of Community Eco-gardens: Landscaping with Native Plants. Community Eco-Gardens – McFarland (onpressidium.com) He presents eco-garden talks based on his book through zoom regularly. Contact Dennis at [email protected].