Native plants are, simply put, plants that naturally grow and have evolved in the area you live. People who are concerned about sustainability, personal health, water quality, natural habitats and creating an attractive, easy to care for option for their lawns and gardens often turn to landscaping with native plants, which is sometimes called “naturescaping.” Some people try to replicate conventional landscaping practices with their naturescaping endeavors, and others try to create a completely natural environment. Whichever way you choose to begin with native plants, this article will give you some insight on the basics and benefits of naturescaping.
Naturescaping vs. Landscaping
Landscaping is generally the practice of removing many native plants and replacing them with nursery plants. These nursery plants are the mass market flowers and shrubs that you see in typical gardens across the country. Landscapers typically like to work with these plants since the results are the same every time and the plants themselves are popular due to popular gardening magazines, radio programs and television shows. Most landscaping practices come from a strong tradition of contractors, homeowners, nurseries and landscapers that have learned one way to do things and decided to cling to it. These landscapes often require intense watering and chemicals to survive since they are not natural or native to the area they’re planted in. Naturescaping is the practice of throwing all of that out the window and going back to biodiversity and native plants.
The first thing that might attract your attention about native plants is how low maintenance they are compared to plants used in traditional landscaping. Native plants generally only require water while they’re getting established. They grow to predictable sizes because natural predators keep them in check. They are resistant to diseases so they do not need any synthetic chemicals, and they also exist happily without any fertilizer beyond what is already there. The natural process of life and death affects native plants, but they sustain their own lifecycles and basically look out for themselves. Some gardeners may wish to remove dead plant matter, but it can work as excellent fertilizer for surviving plants and also act as food for animals. Essentially, native plants take care of themselves and save you plenty of time while looking beautiful.
Perhaps the most notable feature of naturescaping’s green nature is that it requires no synthetic chemicals—you know, the kind that cause cancer and creep into the water supply. Water usage is typically very low on native lawns and gardens, which preserves a precious resource for more essential human and ecological needs. Naturescaping also saves money on edging, trimming and mowing and reduces the noise and air pollution from all of them.
A naturescape is also a functional habitat, which helps to sustain itself and give back to nature. Birds, butterflies and other wildlife will become a part of your naturescape. They have evolved along with these native plants, and they help one another to thrive. Replacing a lost habitat with these plants provides food and shelter for animals, many of whom people actively seek out with feeders and other store bought objects. Song birds, which are having a particularly tough time in our modern urban environments, will reap extreme benefits from native plants. Harmful insects and diseases will mostly leave your naturescape untouched since these plants have already evolved to resist them. Planting native plants helps to reform a balanced, natural habitat around your home.
When we look to native plants for our lawn and garden needs the workload is minimal but the rewards are vast. If native plants sound like something you’re interested in, you can visit PlantNative for planting tips as well as lists of plants that are native to your area.
Photo by Luke McGuff