Embracing native plants doesn’t have to be all or nothing

As home gardeners become more educated about the role native plants play in the ecosystem and their importance to pollinators, wildlife and humans, many are turning to “rewilding.”

The term refers to a landscaping approach that depends on the use of native plants to sustain insects, bees, birds and butterflies.

In embracing the movement, these gardeners are eliminating their lawns, replacing exotic species with native plants, forgoing fall cleanups to preserve food and shelter for overwintering birds and insects, and transforming their properties into habitats.

Others, however, are worried about what they fear might be a “messy” landscape, and are intimidated by the work and potential cost of a complete garden makeover. Those living in neighborhoods governed by homeowners’ associations often face mandates on well-maintained lawns and restrictions on plant choices.

The good news is that embracing native plants doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. It’s possible to incorporate natives into a conventional garden without embarking on a complete renovation.

Just one native potted plant that feeds one pollinator will make a difference. More is better, of course, but including a few natives alongside traditional garden plants, whether in containers or in the ground, will create a more sustainable, blended garden that attracts beneficial insects. A bonus: Native plants are generally drought-tolerant.

If replacing your entire lawn with a meadow or even native groundcover sounds daunting, consider shrinking it. Install new beds and borders — or expand existing ones — around its perimeter or at its center and fill them with plants native to your region. You’ll be rewarded with the buzzing of bees and fluttering of butterflies, as well as fewer mowing, weeding, watering and fertilizing chores and expenses.

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Your flowering plants, fruits and vegetables will bloom better with the help of your garden’s new residents.

Sowing native wildflowers would be ideal, but if a meadow aesthetic doesn’t sit well with you or your neighbors, consider retaining a small border of manicured lawn. It will define your plantings and keep the garden looking well-tended.

In my garden, I embarked on a gradual conversion several years ago. I minimized the lawn and overseeded it with clover, which attracts pollinators, fixes nitrogen into the soil (free fertilizer!) and stands up to my dog’s “visits” better than turf grass.

Although I kept my beloved hydrangeas, roses and lilacs, the only new plants I bring home these days are natives. After just a few years, native plants already outnumber exotics in my

Source:: East Bay – Entertainment

      

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