Roll Call: Native Plants In My Garden

by Andrew Keys on March 16, 2010

Lately, like once a week, I hear about Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home. First it was my Connecticut designer friend Scott Hokunson, then I noticed Tallamy was speaking at two conferences I wanted to go to, then again in the newsletter of Plants Nouveau president Angela Treadwell Palmer.

I’m accredited in organic land care through a program offered by the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) (Scott too, for potential CT clients), and it was through that accreditation course I first learned of Bringing Nature Home… Which I still haven’t read. (Shame! SHAME!!) I know, I know, I KNOW, I should’ve read it by now, it’s been on my reading wishlist for a year, but that list is as long as my plant wishlist, if you get me. I do, however, know the gist of it, it’s a big deal to me, and I’d like to pay the buzz forward over that gist here and now.

That is, the entire web of life, all the way up to us, depends on the little guys. I mean microbes in the soil, I mean earthworms, and I especially mean insects. Sure, these guys find exotic plants useful to a degree, but by and large, they’re from wherever you live, and they require plants native to where you live to meet their basic needs — food, shelter, procreation, etc. Think of an insect with native food needs in a mostly exotic garden like you, if you were wandering around a supermarket where most of the food was spoiled. Some people are eating it, and you know it’s food, but you can’t eat it! Instinctively, you can’t. But if you can’t find food, you’re outta luck. So are the little guys. Guess what? If their luck runs out, ours does too.

(In fact, I tried to explain as much last month on the Good Enough Gardening podcast; you may have been distracted by my podcast-long impression of Charlie Brown’s teacher.)

(I realize it’s a bit unfair to compare exotic plants to spoiled food, but I want to drive this point home. I HEART exotic plants, don’t get me wrong.)

Thus it came to pass that I said whatYOU talkin’ ’bout, Willis? I did an inventory of native plants in MY garden, and I shall share with you here. I’d encourage you to do the same, and to consider what other natives you could plant. There’s a crazy amount of debate over what’s native; for our purposes, this includes plants native to Massachusetts or, where noted, a neighboring state, and cultivars of those plants. (NOFA thinks cultivars count, Allan Armitage think cultivars count, so I think cultivars count too.)

Established native plants in my garden

Natives planted/moved in fall, newly planted seed, or in the planting queue

Natives still very young and subject to gobbling by INVASIVE winter moth

So, what natives are YOU growing? Make a list! Put it on your blog! Pay natives forward!

Update: @timberpress gave me a heads-up that there’s a neat native plant picker thingy on Bringing Nature Home’s web site. Cool!

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