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Going Native Gardens title
Going Native Gardens specializes in landscape design emphasizing
native New England plants
Native Species

Rare native magnolia plant

Native swamp milkweed plant

In my design work I try to always suggest the use of a native plant species first. The questions arise, "Why?" and "What is the definition of a native plant?"The why part involves ecological balance. Human activities - building, roads, agriculture -- especially in the densely-populated Northeast, have disrupted natural plant communities excessively. The open space that remains is often planted out with species from Europe or Asia, which do not necessarily provide nourishment or shelter for the local animal, bird, or insect populations. These communities have evolved together for thousands of years to provide the very fabric of our earth, and to ignore them is to degrade the system which makes our own activities and life possible.

The definition of a plant species native to a place does not depend on geography. There are purists who accept a species as native only if it is found within 50 miles of the subject area, and others who accept all North American species as native even if they are found naturally only thousands of miles off. I'm still working on my own definition, but I really like to design with plants that can be found locally. Sometimes the site difficulties, or client preferences, dictate otherwise.) I also delight in suggesting native alternatives for the over-used, non-native species such as Burning Bush, Barberry, Asian Honeysuckles, and Sycamore-leafed and Norway Maples, which have become invasive in our woods and roadsides, crowding out natural plant species. (Why not Blueberries instead of Burning Bush? The fall color is equally good, and you get the bonus of edible fruit for both people and birds.)

Native Wood Aster

It is also a great pleasure to plant perennials and shrubs that attract butterflies. The Monarch Butterfly, which will lay its eggs only on plants of the milkweed family, is just as attracted to the brilliant orange of Butterfly Weed and to the deep pink of Swamp Milkweed, as it is to the more pallid and problematical Common Milkweed.

How do these ideas fit into residential landscape? In one simple approach, many people are now opting for a formal look in front of the house, but planting the back with more bird-friendly species of trees and shrubs.

John Hanson Mitchell writes, "The whole idea of taking a piece of wild earth and reshaping it to look like something else, the very thought of moving rocks, cutting down native trees, and replacing them with species that do not necessarily grow in that environment, churning up soil, and planting varieties of tropical and sub-tropical vegetables is in fact antithetical to sound environmental practices." He goes on to say, "But there is something in the human soul that wants to make a garden." I see it as my challenge to try to find the middle ground. (Mitchell, The Wildest Place on Earth, Counterpoint Press, 2001.)

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          URL: http://goingnativegardens.com  Date: March 2011  V3.1  Author: Concord Avenues