Your Garden Will Spring Higher if You Keep it Local

By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – May 10, 2012 – Comment

The Common Meadow Violet (Viola sororia) is the state flower for New Jersey.

When you think of New Orleans, you think Mardi gras, jambalaya, beignets, and good music. If I said California you might think of beaches, celebrities and traffic. Each region of this country has a specific style, its own pace, tone, foods, views, and people.  The type of vegetation also varies by region, but we don’t often think about the flowers or trees that are native to various regions.  Can you even name your state flower?  The Common Meadow Violet (Viola sororia) is the state flower for New Jersey – but I have to admit that I looked that up on the Internet (thank you Al Gore)!

Sure, that tiger lily looks great with your azaleas, but can bees or other insects in your area pollinate it? Come to think of it, are azaleas even native to where you live? It’s a question not manybackyard gardeners ask themselves, but it is an important one. There are five species of tiger lily, some native to North America and some native to Asia. Still, you might be thinking…they are pretty, and that’s all that matters. Maybe not…

Indigenous plants support local ecosystems, and by introducing foreign plants to your backyard-garden-ecosystem, you’re interrupting the natural flow. The plants support the insect life, and the insects support the bird and animal populations. When native plants disappear, native insects do as well, thus impoverishing the birds and animals. It is an unbreakable link to a healthy ecosystem.

So what does this have to do with water, you ask? Native plants in any environment generally require less watering because their biological makeup is used to only receiving water from the average rainfall in your area. Thus, you are not over-using water trying to keep plants unaccustomed to your local climate alive.

Xeriscaping is a technical gardening term for an approach that limits outdoor water use. If you live in a drier climate, having indigenous plants will save water. If you experience a drought, many of the foreign plants will die, wasting your water, time and money. Researching drought-friendly plants native to your area can keep your garden looking fresh all of the time.

My colleagues at California American Water have put together some helpful information on water-wise gardening, which addresses some of these issues and certainly applies beyond that state alone.

With a little research on native plants, or by checking out this helpful guide, you can support an ecosystem and have a beautiful garden, and the Joneses might start trying to keep up with you.

Take a step in the sustainable direction by having an indigenous garden. It will save you time and money, and keep your area looking natural and beautiful.