It’s been a journey of learning. When we bought our house in the spring of 2014, I was naïve not only to what grows in this region, but also to the culture here. Like many, I was moved by the plight of the Monarch Butterflies. For Mother’s Day, I wanted Swamp Milkweeds – but where to buy them? I found that local nurseries stock very few native plants; or they stock cultivars of native plants bred to better behave themselves in standard gardens – alongside the conventional crepe myrtles, azaleas, English ivy and mulch. For many of the native plants just don’t behave conventionally, they don’t confine themselves neatly to flower beds, they lounge around, they sprawl, they tumble, they multiply exponentially. They exhibit no tidy symmetry, they do what they please; they have total disregard for Home Owner’s Associations, they answer only to the regulations of Nature. As such, native plants don’t seem to rate much priority in standard nurseries.
And buying these non-conformist plants from nurseries that sell large varieties of poisons also seemed inconsistent with what I was trying to achieve. I would question myself standing in the checkout line next to chemicals that were guaranteed to kill all forms of life for a long period of time, or your money back; an estimated seven million birds a year die from lawn pesticides. Another thing that bothered my conscience was whether I should be supporting nurseries that sell invasive plants, plants that stray from gardens and rapidly take over huge tracts of natural wilderness, and which I have since spent many freezing mornings trying to remove from natural areas. Recognizing the suffocation and the strangulation of new growth in the forests by invasive plants strengthened my resolve to plant what belongs here, and to buy plants from sources that don’t weather my conscience.