The New Sustainable Garden: Designing with Native Plants
Piedmont Master Gardeners

Spring Lecture Series, March 31, 2022

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Planning a Pollinator Garden
Plant NOVA Natives
October 2020

Why native plants?

Doug Tallamy: "All plants are not created equal, particularly in their ability to support wildlife. Most of our native plant-eaters are not able to eat alien plants, and we are replacing native plants with alien species at an alarming rate, especially in the suburban gardens on which our wildlife increasingly depends. My central message is that unless we restore native plants to our suburban ecosystems, the future of biodiversity in the United States is dim.”

-- Bringing Nature Home

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Native Plants and Sustainability

What are native plants? 
According to Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy, a native plant is “a plant...that has evolved in a given place over a period of time sufficient to develop complex and essential relationships with the physical environment and other organisms in a given ecological community.”
-- Rick Darke & Doug Tallamy, “The Living Landscape”

Why are native plants important?
Native plants play a critical role in the health of our ecosystem by supporting biodiversity and wildlife. Native species are adapted to our local environment and are best suited to our native wildlife. A native landscape is a living landscape with a wide assortment of beneficial insects, birds, and pollinators that create a balanced system.

What is a sustainable landscape? 
A sustainable landscape supports life, creates and maintains a balanced ecosystem, and handles stormwater runoff by mimicking the natural environment and controlling stormwater onsite rather than sending it into our eroded streams and rivers. Rain gardens and conservation landscapes are sustainable landscapes methods in which native plants play a key role. 

What about nonnative plants? 
Nonnative plants can be intentionally integrated into a sustainable landscape if they support certain design objectives and are not invasive or overly aggressive. For example, evergreen nonnative, non-invasive plants may be used for screening purposes. However, a goal of 70% native plants is recommended to obtain ecological benefits. 

The Beauty of Native Plants

Native plants create striking, naturalistic landscapes. A sustainable landscape populated by a diverse assortment of native plants is naturally beautiful.  In addition, compared to a traditional landscape, a sustainable landscape can require less maintenance and allows the homeowner to embrace and enjoy nature, rather than work against it. 

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The Utility of Native Plants

Native plants play a critical role in stormwater management. They have deep roots that absorb runoff. Many native plants thrive in wet, floodplain-like conditions and are used effectively in rain gardens and vegetated swales (shown left: vegetated native plant and river rock swale that replaced turf and barberry culvert hedge). 

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HOMEGROWN NATIONAL PARK® IS A GRASSROOTS CALL-TO-ACTION TO REGENERATE BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEM FUNCTION BY PLANTING NATIVE PLANTS AND CREATING NEW ECOLOGICAL NETWORKS.