If you’re looking for ways to be more sustainable in your personal life, planting local is for you. Native plants have evolved to thrive in our climate. They are naturally drought-tolerant, which makes them ideal companions for your water-free artificial grass lawn.
You can establish a place of great beauty using an entirely native plantscape of perennials, shrubs, and trees. Or you can co-mingle natives with non-natives that thrive in the same conditions.
Nurseries and garden centers offer a mind-boggling selection of plants, most of them introduced from elsewhere around the world. However, planting local has become so popular, nurseries are now carrying an ever-wider selection of natives as well. If you’re unsure what to plant with what, they can give you great professional advice.
So why use locally indigenous plants in your garden?
They are naturally water-wise. They are not needy when it comes to maintenance. And you will automatically attract an array of songbirds, hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies to add color, chirping, tweeting, and friendly background humming to your garden. Not only are these wild critters pretty and fun to watch, they provide critical pollinization that keeps native plants growing strong and healthy.
By planting natives along with your artificial grass lawn, you can stop applying endless and harmful chemicals typically required to fend off unwanted bugs and disease. You’re establishing your yard as a working component of our broader eco system.
How much difference can that make? The Audubon Society notes that one native oak tree provides food source for more than 500 different types of caterpillars. On the other hand, a gingko tree – admittedly lovely but an Asian import – supports just five caterpillar species. Those cutie-pie chickadees you love to watch? One brood can scarf down more than 6,000 caterpillars. An oak may be too big for your yard, but you get the idea.
What to plant?
Lest you think you’ll be severely limited in your options if you elect to go native with your garden design, this book describes more than 500 lovely choices for virtually any type of space. And that’s just the beginning. According to the California Native Plant Society, there are over 7,000 species of native plants in our state, many of which cannot be found anywhere else.
Once you get over your shock at the sheer variety available, consider the fact that this means you can create a garden that is truly unique. No need to rely on the same “top 10” native plants everyone else has already turned to.
As part of the California Native Plant Society’s dedication to restoring natural habitat, their website offers inspirational examples of native gardens as well as practical design and other how-to tips. Our neighbors at Sunset Magazine have also pulled together a list of 23 “knock-out” natives you’ll want to consider for your garden design. And the Audubon Society has a great native plant database you can search by ZIP code.
Host a monarch, help save a species
Most folks here in the Bay Area are painfully aware of the plight of our beautiful monarch butterflies. Their numbers are dwindling, in large part because their habitat is disappearing. Including native milkweeds that monarchs depend on. Your garden is a wonderful way to personally support environmental sustainability.
Be aware that monarch caterpillars will devour the milkweed, so think of it as a food crop. And a nursery. You’ll get a double show: the caterpillars themselves are strikingly handsome, and then they morph into butterflies – right in your own backyard.
Whatever your garden goals, there is no shortage of native plants to create the space of your dreams and help protect our environment at the same time.