Why Native Plants?
There are many reasons to grow native plants rather than commercial garden center plants; some are rated G and the others rated R. Let's start with the rated "G" version.
G-Rated Reasons to Add Native Plants to Your Landscape
1) Native plants add a new level of interest to your garden. Butterflies, bees and birds will start to hang out in your garden. Some days its very Disneyesque. I feel like if I just had a good singing voice and a lithe, graceful figure, the butterflies and birds that populate my garden would light on me while I sang "Some Day My Prince Will Come." But I digress.
2) Many native plants, once established are much easier to maintain than imports. They require less water, can thrive in poor soil, and do better when they are neglected than babied.
3) If you are looking for something new to place in your garden, look at Cardinal Flower, Pussytoes, Bottlebrush grass among many other choices. Besides feeding the wildlife, they will look like exotic additions to your garden.
R-Rated Reasons to Add Native Plants to Your Landscape
We are living in an insect apocalypse and the loss of species needs to be stemmed immediately to prevent more extinction further up the food chain. Insects on our planet have decreased by as much as 80% in some areas studied. If insects disappear, life on earth as we know it will as well. Hysterical? Exaggerated? I wish. Insect Apocalypse is not my term. It is a term used by entomologists who have studied the rapid decline of insects of the last two decades. If you know any entomologists, "apocalyse" is not a word they take lightly. These people are not prone to dramatic exaggeration.
Why are they disappearing? Well most insects life cycle is tied to either a family of plants or even one species. Native plants in our yards, gardens and fields have been replaced with exotic imports that don't support the insect population. Rampant use of pesticides is also a a factor. Many species of songbirds feed their babies caterpillars. It has the right nutritional balance and is soft enough to be shoved into the babies' mouth. The decline of caterpillars is directly linked to the decline of songbirds. The disappearance of insects is a phenomena many people are vaguely aware of. The most commonly absence is that of bees and fireflies from our yards and gardens but there are other indicators. If you are 40+ years old, ask yourself these questions:
1) When was the last time you saw a cloud of moths or insects around an outside light?
2) When was the last time you had to scrape "bug guts" off your window shield after a long trip?
3) When was the last time you rode a bike and had to brush insects from your clothing when you stopped?
If your answer is "it's been a while" -its not just "you" - there are a lot less insects now then there were in your youth. There are several reasons for this - the main one being loss of habitat and pesticides. The good news is that this is something the ordinary person can help change by simply not using pesticides and planting native plants - the ones that support the bugs that feed the birds. I can't do anything about starving polar bears and Rhinos poached to the last of their species. But I can plant a stand of Turtlehead, Bottlebrush grass, Pussytoes and others and help to rebuild a different eco-system - It's a smaller, less dramatic act of conservation but it is just as important. Insects are the foundation of our environment and our foundation is crumbling fast. Let's join hands or spades and become part of the solution. Plant a native. Save the planet.
All photos copywright by Jocelyn Demuth, all taken at Checkerspot Farm except for the last, taken in Chelmsford. - plant it and they will come.