Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
April, 2007
Regional Report

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Although naturalized rather than native, foxglove is a beautiful plant and true harbinger of spring in the Northwest.

Going Native

I love walking through my woods in early spring. Native plants are always the first to awaken from their long winter's nap, showing new growth weeks before plants in my carefully planned landscape awaken. As new stems grow and leaves unfold, I imagine they're stretching and yawning in preparation for a busy growing season.

Native plants are those that have evolved and adapted over the eons to where they grow today. They have grown alongside the native insects, fungi, wildlife, and other native plants for thousands of years. This long-time association has produced a complex web of interrelationships, where the native plant may depend upon other native organisms to survive, and a multitude of native organisms may, in turn, depend upon that plant.

Why Grow Natives?
Because native plants have evolved and adapted to local conditions, they are vigorous and hardy and able to withstand winter's cold and summer's heat. Once established, they require no irrigation or fertilization. They're resistant to most pests and diseases. All these traits mean native plants suit today's interest in low-maintenance gardening and landscaping.

Native Plants Stay Put. Each native plant species is a member of a community that includes other plants, animals, and microorganisms. The natural balance keeps each species in check, allowing it to thrive in conditions where it's suited, but preventing it from running amok. Native species rarely become invasive, unlike some plants introduced from other parts of the world.

Native Plants Support the Ecosystem. Native plants provide food and shelter for birds, butterflies, and other desirable wildlife. Many natives help enrich the soil. Their root systems help rainfall percolate into the soil, reducing erosion and runoff and improving water quality.

Native Plants are Interesting. The diversity of native plants includes interesting flowers and foliage. Native shrubs and trees provide a variety of heights, shapes, and textures in the landscape. Many provide winter interest through their bark or seedpods. I think that's reason enough to plant them!

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