One of the best ways to ensure success in a garden is to choose plants that are suitable for the local conditions. If your soil is heavy clay you will struggle to grow flowers that need free draining conditions. So choosing plants that are native to your region just makes sense. But there are misconceptions about these natives as Rebecca Sweet explains in her article which I found on the Horticulture Magazine website.
I can?t tell you how many times I?ve heard, while I?m brainstorming ideas with a new garden-design client,? ?No, thanks?I?m not really into the native look,? or ?I?d love a native garden. You know, one that?s no maintenance? or, my favorite, ?Natives? Um, I don?t think so. I want more than just grasses.?
Poor native plants are so misunderstood! While they are not a no-maintenance solution (is there really any such thing, anyway?), they are so much more than ?just grasses? and they fit into just about any garden style you can dream up.
Benefit #1 ? Drought Tolerance
Here in the arid West, one of the top reasons for growing natives is their drought tolerance. Western natives have acclimated to our rainy winters and bone-dry summers, learning to thrive on very little supplemental water. Therefore, our natives tend to peak in the early spring, putting on a show that would rival any summertime garden. In our hot and dry summers, however, they often go dormant and turn subtle shades of gold.
The native-plant garden of Renate Kempf in California?s Bay Area. Kempf worked with a garden designer to replace her lawn and swimming pool with a garden of drought-tolerant native plants. Photo credit: Rebecca Sweet
While these colors play into the classic characteristics of the Western landscape, this summer dormancy counts as one of the reasons many gardeners shy away from using natives in their own gardens. They?re afraid of having a garden that looks dead in the summer, or a garden that looks wild and unkempt.