Friday, July 19, 2013

Why Native Plants Deserve to be in Your Garden

If you do not currently have native plants growing in your garden, it might be time to consider adding them.  Plants that are native to your local habitat are more likely to survive local variations in temperature and precipitation than those plants that are native to other areas of the country (or world).  Because these plants are better adapted they require less maintenance than non-native species - less mulching, watering etc.

For instance, look at this rainfall data from the National Weather Service.

The first map shows precipitation data from the last 30 days.  Mt. Pleasant, MI  (starred on the map) has received a total of 2.33 inches of precipitation during that time.  However, 0.98 inches of that came during a single day (June 27th).  Only 0.83 inches has fallen since July 1st - monthly average for July in Mt. Pleasant is 2.87 inches.

30 day precipitation amount for period ending July 18th, 2013

This second map shows the same data for the last 14 days.  A total of 0.60 inches was recorded for Mount Pleasant during this time period, all of coming on July 8th-9th.
14 day precipation totals for period ending July 18th, 2013

So what do these maps have to do with native plants?  Like people across the United States, many of my neighbors are running sprinklers every day to keep their lawns green and their flowers alive.  Much of this water is lost due to evaporation (especially when you water during the middle of the day).  I will admit that I have been watering the flowerbeds and vegetable in my yard - they have gotten a good soaking after the sun has gone down about every 2-3 days over the past month or less often if they don't look like they need it.  

Let's look at some pictures of a garden that has received no supplemental water over the last 30 days - actually this garden has not been watered in over 2 years.  This the Native Pollinator Garden at the Saginaw Chippewa Academy as it looked this morning.

So what is currently blooming in the garden right now? 

Bee Balm/Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) with an unidentified Skipper

Pale Indian Plantain (Cacalia atriplicifolia)

Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis)

Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis)-right and Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) - left

Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta)

Common Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) - a remnant from when birdfeeders were located in this garden

Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum)

Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus)

Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum)

Lance-leaf/Sand Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia)

Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)

Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)

Culver's Root (Veronicastrum virginicum)

Remember these plants have not been watered at all in over 2 years.  They are adapted to their environment and being native plants to Michigan they have co-evolved with the native insects that can be found here.  They are all either host plants or nectar plants for native insects or both.  At any given time during the blooming season dozens of pollinators can be found throughout this native garden.

If you need more convincing look here to see the progression of this garden over the last two years.

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