All over the country, yardophiles are going native for a number of
reasons. For some it's a philosophical choice akin to the boom in
natural foods, while for others it's strictly a matter of saving
time, money, and effort. "Some people think that with natives,
they'll never have to water, prune, fertilize, or mulch, because
the plants will just take care of themselves," Lerner says with a
That's not quite true, of course. All plants (except those
unkillable weeds) require at least some minimal maintenance, but
choosing shrubs and trees that are already well-acclimated to an
area certainly means less work and less worry about diseases and
Another concern driving the native-plant boom is that some imports
are invasive, choking out native plants and dominating the
landscape. A classic example from the American South is kudzu, the
vigorous Asian-born vine that smothers native plants and can even
topple trees. Beaulieu points to the purple loosestrife, a
beautiful marsh plant that is choking out natives all over New
England. "And if you lose the native plants, you lose the birds and
animals that feed on them," he warns.
While the native-plant movement continues to gain followers, some
gardening experts aren't fully converted. "I hear people say that
if it's a native plant, it's a better plant," notes DIY's Reeves.
"That's just not true. That's why we have plants that are bred to
have bigger flowers and better berries. I don't hesitate to
recommend carefully chosen non-native plants."
If you're interested in native plants, most large urban areas have
numerous garden centers where specialists can advise on local trees
and shrubs. Or go to any web search engine and enter your state's
name and "native plant society."
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