As Texas Native Plant Week concludes, I’ll share one last look at my use of native plants. The great thing about gardening (well, one of the great things about gardening), is that it’s a venture in which education is continual. There’s always an unknown plant to learn about or a new way of viewing gardening space. In designing gardens, there are endless combinations to experiment with. And as the home landscape evolves and requires change, those challenges present opportunities for further learning and experimenting. One isn’t required to use natives exclusively, but once you invite native plants to your garden party, you experience the aha moment of understanding: native plants work.
Define your plot of the Earth as Texan–use as many native Texas plants in your home landscape as possible and encourage your neighbors to do the same. If you live elsewhere, use your native plants to express the beauty of your unique place.
Save money and time by planting natives which conserve water and don’t require pesticides or herbicides. Rid yourself of the expense and hassle of chemicals and products that you don’t need when working in the garden.
Plant natives to attract wildlife–you’ll enjoy the many wild visitors you receive when you nurture them by planting appropriately. There’s no reason we can’t share our space with the plants and critters who are native, who belong here, and whose survival we want to ensure.
Within the parameters of our personal properties, we make compromises: maybe we have such blasting sun that all we want are the meanest and toughest cacti and agave–and that’s okay. Perhaps we live in shade and dappled shade and must content ourselves with a more limited garden palette. Whatever the space, native plants can and should play the starring role in any garden.
A total transformation from a “traditional” landscape of turf and shrubs to a “regionally
appropriate” blooming garden doesn’t happen during a weekend warrior marathon of work; the process can take years. You will make mistakes; I’ve certainly made lots of mistakes in my gardens–that’s how I’ve learned. Start small: for example, ridding your hellstrip grass between the sidewalk and street and planting tough perennials instead. Or, install a wildlife garden at the corner of your lot with native and seasonally interesting plants that attract pollinators and replacing the water-guzzling turf which feeds nothing. By adding a garden or two, once or twice a year, eventually you’ll increase the biological diversity of your space and conserve water too. Then as time permits, you change and augment those gardens. Before you know it, you’re mowing, watering, and tending less and enjoying the beauty and bounty of your native gardens more.
And you helped to heal the Earth, just a little.
Gardening is about personal expression as much as food production or providing for wildlife. A garden should to tell your particular story, reflecting who you are–your interests, values, and aesthetics. Perhaps my gardening style isn’t to your taste or right for your garden, but I hope the results of my journey transforming a high-maintenance, water-hogging turf “yard” to a wildlife-friendly, water-wise, and Texan garden will encourage you to do something similar.