The Mas­ter Gar­den­ers

Home - Santa Fe Real Estate Guide - - CONTENT - LAURIE MCGRATH

There are many paths to fol­low in the world of gardening. Some lead to or­derly beauty or a unique col­lec­tion of plants. Oth­ers may lead to too much work at great ex­pense. I of­ten think of choos­ing na­tive plants for the gar­den as the path of least re­sis­tance. On the way to cre­at­ing a na­tive plant gar­den, you will dis­cover plants with great beauty and unique char­ac­ter­is­tics. But you will also find that, once es­tab­lished, na­tive plants need lit­tle at­ten­tion from you other than ad­mi­ra­tion and some oc­ca­sional weed­ing or prun­ing.

You can pur­chase na­tive plants in sizes to fit any bud­get, or start them from seed. And you do not need costly soil amend­ments to get them started. Na­tive plants are al­ready adapted to our soils. It is im­por­tant to pro­vide them with the nec­es­sary amount of sun and wa­ter. Knowl­edge­able staff at a nurs­ery that spe­cial­izes in na­tive plants can give you that in­for­ma­tion.

Adapted to the va­garies of our cli­mate, na­tives ex­ist in happy co­ex­is­tence with the fungi and micro­organ­isms in the soil, sur­round­ing wildlife and, most im­por­tantly, na­tive in­sects and other pol­li­na­tors such as birds, but­ter­flies, and moths. It’s im­por­tant to con­sider the finely tuned re­la­tion­ship of na­tive plants to the other in­hab­i­tants of an ecosys­tem. They sup­port wildlife as sources of food and shel­ter. This may mean that cater­pil­lars ap­pear on shrubs in your gar­den. But be­fore you hurry to pur­chase a spray the minute you see a few holes in leaves, keep in mind that those same cater­pil­lars pro­vide food for nest­ing birds and their young. Ac­cord­ing to Dou­glas Tal­lamy, a pro­fes­sor in the Univer­sity of Delaware’s Depart­ment of En­to­mol­ogy andWildlife Ecol­ogy and au­thor of Bring­ing Na­ture Home, it can take 6,000 to 9,000 cater­pil­lars to raise a group of young chick­adees. So the ben­e­fit of sup­port­ing na­tive birds by plant­ing na­tives even­tu­ally comes full cir­cle to fewer cater­pil­lars on your shrubs.

While na­tive pol­li­na­tors may not be at­tracted to plants from an­other part of the coun­try, they may be crit­i­cal to the sur­vival of a na­tive plant to which they have adapted over hun­dreds or thou­sands of years. Some pol­li­na­tors are de­pen­dent on a lim­ited or sin­gu­lar plant choice for lay­ing eggs or feed­ing. The monarch but­ter­fly is a case in point. With­out milk­weed as a host plant for its eggs and lar­vae, it will not sur­vive. Na­tive plants are adapted to con­di­tions in which they not only sur­vive but thrive. For you, the gar­dener, this means they are less likely to develop dis­eases, be dam­aged by in­sects, or re­quire costly prod­ucts and ar­du­ous la­bor as reme­dies.

I want a na­tive plant gar­den. I also want culi­nary herbs, which are mostly na­tive to the Mediter­ranean. So I don’t ad­vo­cate be­ing a na­tive-plant purist if that’s not your style. But by sim­ply mak­ing a grad­ual shift to a pal­ette of plants that sup­port ben­e­fi­cial di­ver­sity in the land­scape, you can achieve a gar­den that is eas­ier to main­tain, re­quires less pre­cious wa­ter, and sup­ports the com­plexweb of an en­tire ecosys­tem.

Laurie McGrath has been a Cer­ti­fied Mas­ter Gar­dener for 20 years and is a found­ing mem­ber of the Santa Fe Na­tive Plant Project (SNaPP). She re­cently em­barked on a com­plete ren­o­va­tion of her yard to cre­ate a na­tive plant and per­ma­cul­ture gar­den.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.