Native plants are beautiful; they are diverse in foliage, flowers, hues and growth patterns. They are not ‘fussy’ unless you plant them in enriched soil and overwater them. Planted and irrigated correctly they will flourish and be a true low-maintenance garden with many benefits.
One of the most popular reasons to plant with natives is that they are drought tolerant and grow well in our soil; some even do poorly if watered during the hot summer months. With drought becoming our new normal, low water-use plants are invaluable in our landscapes. Keeping a native planting hydrated uses up to a quarter less water than irrigating a non-native landscape.
Many properties have steep slopes which need efficient erosion control. Ice plant, the old-school method of erosion control, builds up thatch underneath making it a haven for rodents and also a place where fire can smolder. It also dries out the soil and will roll down from the top when it becomes heavy. Plant prostrate natives instead, which have large root structures that will really hold the embankments, protect the soil and will feed beneficial insects and birds.
The most important reason to plant natives is that they provide the best possible food for local wildlife. This is vital to their survival. According to an extensive study by the World Wildlife Fund, between 1970 and 2010 over half the world’s population of animals disappeared. We are now twelve years past that study and the percentage has risen. Think of a flock of birds and cut their number in half. With animal loss comes lessened genetic diversity within species. It means that the plants that rely on the pollination, seed dispersal and fertilization from animals now have less than half the chance to reproduce. The reason for the extinction is from over-hunting and –fishing, but especially through loss of habitat. By planting natives throughout your garden, or making a native swath around the back of your property, you are helping in the fight against extinction.
When you plant natives you are helping to keep alive what wildlife we have left, while saving water and demonstrating the beauty of our local plants.
Diane and Miranda Kennedy operate Finch Frolic Garden Permaculture, at www.vegetariat.com.