Go native - and attract the wildlife Habitat: Natural areas with native plants are the kind of place that local animals like to call home.

In The Garden

August 23, 1998|By Ary Bruno | Ary Bruno,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Creating a wildlife habitat in the back yard has become an important goal for many gardeners. In connection with this, one of the most significant shifts in gardening in recent years has been the movement toward the use of wild plants native to specific regions and climates.

The reasoning is simple. Birds, butterflies, bees and other wild creatures integral to beautiful landscapes have developed in perfect tandem with local flora over millenniums.

Just as important to the aspiring wildlife gardener is the fact that native plants are more self-sufficient than imported plants, making any garden much easier to maintain. Native plants are naturally adapted to local conditions such as soil types, rainfall and temperature fluctuations.

On Saturday, the Irvine Natural Science Center in Stevenson will sponsor a seminar about native plants in the home landscape for wildlife habitat. There will also be a plant sale featuring 14 native-plant vendors.

Several speakers are scheduled, including Claire Sawyer, director of Scott Arboretum in Pennsylvania, and Kim Hawks, owner of Niche Gardens, a North Carolina nursery specializing in the propagation of native trees, shrubs and flowers.

Using native plants in your back yard not only means lower maintenance, but also helps preserve local ecosystems.

This avoids problems often encountered when invasive exotics (non-native plants) are introduced. Too many times, these plants have no natural controls. In many areas, these invasives are crowding out native flora. Add to this the fact that exotics often require more water, nutrients and chemical herbicides and pesticides.

So how does one go about designing with native plants? First, identify the different types of micro-climates on your property, then capitalize on these. In other words, what was your yard like before it was a yard?

Is there a corner of your lawn that is always wet after it rains? This could be transformed into a small wetland or simply a place to support trees, flowers and shrubs that thrive in moist environments.

TTC The same can be done with a wooded area by adding woodland shrubs and shade-loving wildflowers. Some brush left lying about and a decaying log or two will add immeasurably to the appeal of your woodland.

Native trees, shrubs and flowers should never be gathered from the wild. Most garden centers carry at least a few natives, and there are catalogs that specialize in local native plants that are nursery propagated.

Those interested in learning more about landscaping with native plants can register for the Saturday seminar at the Irvine Natural Science Center by calling 410-484-2413. The registration fee is $50. The plant sale, which takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., is free to the public.

Pub Date: 8/23/98

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