Tag Archives: native plants

Remember the Wildflowers for Your Garden

I always love planting a good vegetable garden. There’s just something about that fresh produce that can’t be touched by any other source. But my gardens are never just about the vegetables. I include flowers as well. Are you making sure to include wildflowers in your garden?

Wildflowers, especially of native varieties, are wonderful for your garden. They grow better than other plants as they’re adapted to the climate. Many attract bees and other pollinators, and can be beneficial to native wildlife.

Select the right varieties, and they’re also beautiful. That’s true even here in southern California, where most people don’t think of the native plants as beautiful. There are some great ones for gardens. The California poppy is perhaps the best known. There’s a quite lovely larkspur that is native to the part I live in right now that produces stunning, deep purple blooms. I learned about that one when it volunteered itself in the backyard last year.

Wildflowers may not be beautiful year round, which is why not all gardeners like them. If you want them to keep growing year after year, you have to let at least some of the flowers go to seed, which may not be the most attractive time for the plant either. But if you do this, you won’t have to keep planting them year after year. Some of the seeds should come up on their own. Do clear out the dry plants after they’ve gone to seed and add them to your compost pile.

Letting the seeds go on their own does mean a more random, natural look to your garden. That’s one of the things I love about it, but that is difficult for others to appreciate. If you want your flower garden to look a bit more organized, you may need to harvest the seeds yourself and plant them where you’d prefer that they grow.

Wildflower seeds shouldn’t be too hard to find. Look at local garden centers and find out which wildflowers are native to your area. You may also have to check with your Homeowner’s Association if you’re planting them where others can see, as some associations are really picky about what you can grow.

Choose well, plant them in the right kind of soil, and you should have some lovely native flowers to enjoy from your garden in the months to come. A good mix of species will add wonderful colors to your garden.

Could You Switch Your Lawn to Native Plants?

I’m kind of sighing here. Due to the homeowner’s association kicking up a fuss over an imperfect lawn – one spot simply refuses to grow grass, despite reseeding and trying to fix the sprinklers, my landlord is resodding the front lawn. If it were my home, I’d be looking at what else could go in there. I have the back lawn for the kids; I’d frankly rather not have a front lawn at all. Put something else in there!

A well watered lawn is attractive in its way. All nice and green. But it’s not green in the sense of being environmentally friendly, as a general rule. Most lawns get treated with harsh chemicals that then wash into sewers with every rain or runoff from the sprinklers. They take huge amounts of clean water, which is horrible for places where water resources are already strained. Most people trim their lawns with lawn mowers that have highly inefficient engines.

In short, they just aren’t that eco friendly, no matter how green the color.

A lawn is not the only path to an attractive front yard, however. If you want an attractive and eco friendly front yard, read up on xeriscaping and find some native plants.

Advantages of Native Plants

Choosing native plants for your landscaping has many advantages. They need little to no water, as they evolved to grow in the area you’re trying to grow them. That’s a nice savings on your water bill.

They’re also better adapted to the soil. This means you won’t need to spend so much time fertilizing them. If you’re using compost from your own kitchen, fertilizing isn’t so bad a deal, but when people use chemical fertilizers, as is far more common with lawns, it’s bad for the environment and frankly unhealthy for the people and pets who have to live with the chemicals there.

You can also find many beautiful native plants. It make take some searching, but most places have native plants available that you will be happy to have growing in your yard. Also plenty you’d be unhappy with, but of course you won’t be growing those.

You also won’t have to worry so much about spraying for bugs. Native plants are used to the local bugs.

You may also attract more local wildlife. This can be both an advantage and disadvantage, depending on your perspective. It’s great to encourage the local wildlife, but let’s face it – a skunk won’t be as welcome as a songbird most places.

What About the Disadvantages?

Native plants aren’t going to be perfect for everyone or every use. There’s a reason why I only want to have a front yard landscaped with native plants.

Most areas don’t have native plants that are good as a lawn, and that means it’s not so good a place for the children to play. That’s important to me as a way to encourage my kids to get outside regularly.

It can be much harder to find local plants that really suit your idea of an attractive yard, as you will have far fewer plants to choose from. This may not be a major issue in some places, but if you have a definite look you’d like to go for, it may be a real challenge.

What About Plants from Other Areas that Are Adapted to the Climate?

Nonnative plants that grow well in your area may also be tempting. They may well be a better choice than trying to grow a lawn in some ways. But they can also be problematic.

Nonnative species can become invasive, pushing out native plants in areas beyond your yard. Seeds don’t just stay put, after all. They get eaten and excreted by animals and bugs. They may get blown around by the wind. They grow where, if you knew about it, you’d really rather they didn’t.

The decision to use nonnative plants should be made carefully. They can allow you to really cut your water use and still have the yard of your dreams, but they aren’t perfect.

Especially in the Western part of the United States, it’s important to cut back on how much lawn area we grow around our homes. It uses too much water and is bad for the environment. Start taking a look at what you’re growing outside your home and start thinking about the best decisions you could make.

Ending on a Lighter Note

I have to note that the resodding is taking a really long time. We visited family over the Mother’s Day weekend, and on the way back home my oldest daughter commented in a rather disgusted tone, “I hope the sodding guys have finished the lawn.”

All parents know how hard it is to not laugh sometimes.