Monday, December 06, 2004

Native Plants for a Beautiful and Meaningful Garden

In many ways, native plants lend themselves to creating beauty and meaningfulness in the garden! Are not gardens, at best, created for beauty and meaningfulness? Beauty and meaningfulness are closely allied.

1.The natives of a circumscribed area --as opposed to the bewildering array of all the possible plants that might be cultivated on a site -- comprise a more easily mastered set of "likely suspects" for garden use. In the case of natives those "likely suspects" can be more easily personally observed in Nature in numerous cases of individual plant variations, preferred exposures, plant combinations, soil types, etc. Sticking to a circumscribed category makes garden mastery more attainable -- and natives comprise a category particularly accessible to the sort of study required for mastery.

2. The beauty of many native species and combinations is obvious. The study of that beauty and its potential is more accessible in a circumscribed area, where one can personally observe many specimens and landscape combinations in Nature.

3. Adaptability relates to beauty since well-adapted plants "perform well" -- they glow with health! The adaptability of native plants to their climate, soils and situations is apparent and easier to study in Nature so as to be better understood by the gardener. For a given plant or vegetation type one may personally observe various cases of exposures, etc. to get a better feel for its requirements -- exactly what it takes to get good results! Other people who make such studies -- or their published results -- are easier to find in or for a circumscribed area. Optimum conditions for a plant's health are generally easier to arrange when growing it in its native area. Selections for particular situations also can be conveniently made from native populations in Nature. For example: which plants do deer leave alone?

From the standpoint of plant choices that provide ease of cultivation and healthy growth, almost anywhere half or more of all the “best” plants will be local natives. They are among the most promising to attempt to cultivate.

4. Natives are especially handy for creating a comfortingly familiar and distinctive sense of place -- echoing or fitting into the larger landscapes of Nature roundabout -- or reproducing an historic natural landscape in the area of its native climate and soil. The sense of place created by the skillful use of native plants in a garden is both beautiful and meaningful.

5. Native plants serve a broad spectrum of native animal life -- creating good possibilities for a garden teeming with life -- "native critters need native plants"! Planting a native plant garden thus serves the greater ecological good while bringing more of the beauty and interest of animal life and movement into the garden. Observations from Nature can conveniently inform the garden-making process if animals are the interest in one's native plant garden!

6. Native plants have historical associations -- strong and numerous ties to the past of a circumscribed place -- their relationship to former inhabitants, human and animal. Native plants bring with them stories of their circumscribed area -- and who doesn't love a relevant story? History is layer of meaning well served by native plants.

Garden mastery is more attainable with plants accessible to one's observation in Nature. A familiarity with a plant's -- or a landscape's -- possibilities and requirements is more attainable with locally native plants. Growing a plant well is contingent upon understanding and fulfilling its needs. It is easier to understand and fulfill the needs of species and vegetation types one may observe in Nature in one's circumscribed area. Japanese gardens, so universally admired for their mastery, are a sub-set of native gardening -- created with plants native to their circumscribed area of the earth!

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