It’s for you, the wildlife, and the environment.
by Zach Murray
North America is host to a vast variety of beautiful and useful native plants. Here in New York’s Hudson Valley, we are lucky to see an abundance of these native plants covering our landscape—from tall trees to showy wildflowers and perennials.
Although it can be exciting to introduce exotic plants into our environment at home and watch the colors spread, many of these plants can prove to be invasive, quickly covering the land where our native plants should grow. An example of this is the Japanese Barberry, which is native to Asia. However, it is also grown in the more temperate regions of North America. The plant is usually grown for its brilliant purple color and ornamental qualities, but there are negative effects of the plant’s introduction to our area. Japanese Barberry is deer resistant and therefore has an advantage over certain native New York plants that do attract deer. It is also known to raise the pH of the soil and affect its surrounding plants. The cultivation of Japanese Barberry is even illegal in Canada!
Another popular, yet non-native plant is the Multiflora Rose. Originally introduced from Asia for the purpose of soil conservation around grazing areas, it has now come to be considered an invasive plant in North America. Though useful in soil conservation, the Multiflora Rose grows and spreads rapidly and readily invades the woodlands, forest borders, and fields that it was meant to protect.
Many similar problems can be avoided by the propagation and cultivation of native plants. Our native plants possess much of the beauty and variety found in exotics, but these are not the only benefits of native gardening.
When first planning a garden, time and money are two main factors. Native gardening is a great way to cut down on both of these. Caring for a prolific garden can prove to be more time consuming than expected in the beginning of a season. Native plants are already adapted to local conditions and do not need as much care to become well established in a home garden as plants that are introduced from elsewhere. This helps to reduce the maintenance and funds necessary to keep up with your garden’s growth. Once established, native plants will need less fertilizer and water than exotic plants. This helps to establish a more environmentally friendly garden than one requiring more additives as well as cutting down on the costs of fertilizers.
Wildlife is another important factor in gardening. The cultivation of native plants in a garden may ensure the attraction of local honeybees, butterflies, and hummingbirds that will benefit both the garden and the life it attracts.
So, what natives can grow well in a home garden? There are many different kinds all over the Wallkill and Rondout valleys. One local and abundant plant is the Highbush blueberry. These can be seen on a summer hike along the rivers of Minnewaska State Park. On your drive, be sure to keep an eye open for the native Goldenrod decorating the roadsides. Blueberries can be cultivated in one’s home garden for delicious summer harvests (and freezing for winter). Mountain laurel and rhododendron are great choices for bringing color into a woody landscape. For a native and wildlife attracting perennial garden, consider Black-eyed Susans, Bleeding hearts, or Garden phlox, among others.
For a promising and environmentally friendly home garden, remember the benefits of planting native. Visit garden centers like Catskill Native Nursery in Kerhonkson (845-626-2758) throughout the growing season to see what’s blooming. This will provide you with a home garden that blooms, or provides fruit, for months.