Are Native Plants Worth the Hype?

Eight years ago, we were landscaping our lawn and the landscape designer made a big deal about growing native plants.

It makes sense right? Why not grow the plants that are indigenous to our region?They were designed to thrive in our environment, right? Plus, non-native species can quickly become invasive and quickly find themselves on banned-lists.

But a funnything happened. Our landscaping sucked. Or at least the native plants sucked.

They got diseases. They grew really slowly. Sometimes they just flat out died. Now, we have horrible hard clay soil, and all plants are susceptible to disease, so is it fair to say that the native plants were garbage?

What about taking pride in your area and the plants that have been here since the beginning? Kind of like "made in America."

Here's the thing - it's time to really think about that. A good place to start is the book by Jared Diamond - Guns, Germs, and Steel. There is a reason the Europeans conquered the native Americans. The main reason is the productivity of the plants and animals they started out with (or inherited from the Mediterranean area.)

By adapting non-native plants, they were able to feed specialized people, grow their populations, develop superior technologies and create & survive the germs that would later help them destroy the native peoples of America and many other native peoples throughout the world.

Sometimes, what we have been given isn't the best option. As people, we have the capacity to learn from others and improve our surroundings based on the knowledge of the people that came before us.

So....I am turning a new leaf with regards to native plants. Some are invaluable and definitely deserve a place in our lives. But some of them are far inferior and new plants deserve a chance to prove their worth.
Straggly black eyed susans with some sort of black fungal disease?
With that - I have eradicated the prickly ash from my forest (along with the non-native buckthorn). I have removed the black eyed susans that refuse to grow well and have been diseased for years. I also removed the "native" lavender plants that refused to thrive, the blue grass, and the roses. What a disaster!

I plan to add plants based on their value and function - without regard to whether they are native or not. Heresy you say!? Perhaps we all need to rethink what it means to be eco-friendly.

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