This fall, Keep Liberty Beautiful will ask you to “go native with native plants!”
We again will celebrate native-plant awareness this fall to encourage local gardeners and “shade-tree yardeners” like myself to consider using native plants.
Our fall campaign is our way of celebrating Keep America Beautiful’s National Planting Day, which was implemented to celebrate the value and power of native species for our local landscapes.
Native plants are essential in restoring ecological balance to our environment. Native plants also are a wonderful, more beneficial way to create greener, more beautiful communities. Through several activities this fall, we will join KAB by encouraging local citizens to learn more about their native plants and to establish native species of trees, flowers and plants in our local community.
First, what constitutes a native plant? There are many definitions out there. Several references say native plants are those that grow naturally in a particular region without direct or indirect human intervention. Other references place a historical timeline on native plants, saying that they were present in a particular area prior to European settlement of that area. Others say they are plants that have inhabited a particular region for thousands of years. Even the federal government published an “official” definition in the Federal Register, defining native plants as those that are “naturally occurring, either presently or historically, in any ecosystem of the United States.”
I think this last definition is the most logical for what we are trying to accomplish here.
Before the development of the nursery industry, native plants were the only choices for landscape plantings. Early settlers transplanted dogwood, redbud, oak-leaf hydrangea and other plants with appealing qualities from the woods to their personal landscapes. Harvesting native plants from the wild for landscape purposes no longer is acceptable and is illegal in some areas. Thankfully, local nurseries and garden centers offer a wide variety of native plants. Some businesses even specialize in native plants.
Why plant natives? They are losing ground in our country. These plants have to compete with suburbanization, fragmented habitats, ornamental plants and invasive species (think kudzu) for their survival. Unfortunately, our survival — or, at least, the survival of many of the foods that we love — also is dependent on natives. We know that natives are critical to attracting specialized pollinators and insects, which in turn provide food for birds and, ultimately, many more animals up the food chain, including humans (although, I prefer not to consider most of us humans as animals).
So natives really are good for the environment and local wildlife, but naturescaping, whether practiced in place of or in addition to traditional landscaping, is beneficial for many reasons.
• First, consider your pocketbook. Natives will save you money. Naturescaping with natives requires less maintenance and less water. Natives are much more drought-tolerant.
• Natives also will save you time. They are hardy plants that usually are low-maintenance.
• Using natives also is healthier for you and others. Our traditional yards and gardens that so many of us have now need a variety of chemicals — fertilizers and pesticides — that can be detrimental to our health and the health of our environment.
• Naturescaping enhances the livability of the place you live in, so it will foster more relaxation and recreation. Using natives also preserves bio-diversity (birds, fish, etc.). Natives provide habitat for many species.
• And naturescaping may increase your property value, too.
If I have your interest now and you want to learn more about native plants for our area, there are some excellent online resources that can help you choose the right native species for your upcoming project. Some online sites to consider are www.plantnative.org — which features a state-by-state directory of native species, specialized nurseries and local organizations — and www.abnativeplants.com. The extension service has several excellent online publications, too. In September and October, be sure to check out our website, www.keeplibertybeautiful.org, for more information and additional resources on native species for coastal Georgia.
To celebrate National Planting Day, we will have two native-plant giveaways Sept. 13-14. Supplies will be limited and it will be first-come, first-served. After Sept. 1, citizens can call us at 880-4888 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a plant.
So, this year, consider going native! Use native plants, that is!