I tend to be a bit of a purist when I think of native plants. There are many varietals of native species that you would find in the wild, but I consider these ornamentals.
If you truly want native plants in your garden, go for species that you can find locally and that are wild type.
What is a native plant?
Any plant that has existed in an area long enough to be become an integral part of an ecosystem.
What does a wild type mean?
How a plant looks, acts, and behaves in its wild state, genetically similar to those wild plants found locally.
So now that is out of the way, why would anyone want to grow native plants in their garden? For many reasons.
Second, native plants are adapted to live in our climate; they require a little less care (less watering after establishment, and a lot more pest resistant). This is great for our gardens which usually crave water, and sometimes need some sort of chemical addition.
Third, they provide habitat for animals. I know some people don’t want critters in their garden, but if you think of your garden as an ecosystem, this means it can be in balance.
Some invertebrates will eats less desirable insects. Birds will feed on these other insects and your garden reaches equilibrium. This doesn’t mean you have to have a prairie. Many native plants can be organized in a formal fashion. Don’t think going native means your garden has to be unstructured, although this can be good too.
If you think going native is for you, there are a number of native plant sales hosted around the Chicago land, often times they are right in your neighborhood.
Usually they sell the plants as plugs, a smaller version of the adult plant but not as small as seedlings. When purchasing plants it’s best to figure out what kind of back yard you have. Is it sun, shade, or a mixture of both? Is it wet or dry? These are important considerations when choosing any plant. A full sun prairie plant will probably not do very well in deep shade.
So why is all this important?
I have talked about the benefits, but really it boils down to native plants in your back yard can help the environment.
In this day and age where natural areas are getting increasingly fragmented, it is important to provide stepping stones from one natural area to another. Gardens can provide those stepping stones, and much like trees in urban areas which provide woody connections between forests, gardens can provide connections between prairies and other natural areas.
The more native plants in the more gardens, the more natural areas we provide for all organisms. Maintaining those physical connections can be more important than we know.
Also, native plants are cool.
Possibility Place Nursery offers mostly wholesale or others by appointment only, check out their online page for great information on growing native plants.
Look for these common native plants:
- Purple coneflower
- Northern Dropseed
- Black Eyed Susan
- Ohio Spiderwort
- Blazing Star
- Joe Pye Weed
- Ostrich Fern
These are just a few there are plenty more out there. Get planting!