Native Plants Are Beautiful, Sturdy

Article excerpt

Gardening trends come and go. One year, everyone is planting the latest butterfly bush, then the next, it's on to some new hydrangea. In recent years, brightly colored ceramic pots have become all the rage, succulent plants have arrived at garden centers en masse, and many old-fashioned plants have been re-birthed by breeders in the form of fun and funky new varieties.

Gardening, like fashion, is a fickle business. One year, consumers want color, and lots of it, and then another year, they're into monochromatic plantings. Staying with the trends can be exhausting. I can't manage to do it with my clothes, let alone my garden. I don't know how so many of our local garden centers keep up with it all, but judging from my spring visits to many of them, they are doing an excellent job of bringing us the gardening trends du jour.

For all the "must-haves" that come and go in the gardening world, there is a good one that seems to be sticking around. The promotion and use of native plants has a lot of staying power -- and for all the right reasons.

Native plants are being marketed as 'eco-friendly' (which cracks me, up seeing as how many of them used to be labeled as "weeds" by the industry!). It's true, though -- these plants are as eco- friendly as you can get. They have evolved to grow in a particular region's soil and climate conditions.

As a result, they are comfortably at home there, and require far fewer inputs than many introduced plant species, including water, fertilizer and pesticides. Plus, native plants are better at supporting our native wildlife, including insects and birds of all sorts.

But how to determine whether a plant is native? To refer to a plant as native, it must have naturally grown in a given geographic area without human introduction. …