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Native Plants for the Penny-Wise

Sticker shock.  That term is usually associated with purchasing a car but it can happen when shopping for plants, too.  Plants can be fairly pricey — especially those larger-sized garden center trees and shrubs.  The cringe factor is multiplied when landscaping sizable areas.  But do you need such a large plant to begin with?  I say absolutely no, you don’t.

Start Small

If you have a little patience it’s a sensible idea to purchase a smaller, younger plant for a fraction of the cost.  In short time, that whip of a sapling will be the size of the tempting five-gallon container of greenery you wisely passed over.  And it will probably be healthier.  Seasoned gardeners know that the joy of tending a garden is in nurturing, observing and in watching life grow.  No instant garden is needed.

Cheerful woodland poppies at a native plant sale.

Cheerful woodland poppies at a native plant sale.

What Grows In Your Area?

Common garden shops, besides shrinking your wallet, offer very few native species.  When they do have them in stock, these natives aren’t necessarily found naturally growing where you garden – they’ve evolved in other regions of the country.  The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is no longer a sound tool to measure what to plant.  It’s simple: we just plant local-ecotypes – and as many as we possibly can.  We know that planting natives local to an area, in the conditions they evolved in, lowers water and chemical inputs and makes for strong, thriving plants.  California is the perfect example.  Many homeowners are replacing non-local landscaping and lawn with plants that originated there to offset the current multi-year drought’s effects. Continue reading