Going Native In the Landscape
In large areas of Texas, our soil makeup consists of heavy clay with alkaline stone and thin topsoil. This and the harsh climate of many regions are challenging to many standard ornamental plants found at big-box garden sores. Better success for the garden and better outcomes for the environment are reasons to use plants native to our own ecosystem. Natural Awakenings asked some local authorities on the subject for their input about this important decision.
Mark Ruibal, of Ruibal's Plants of Texas, in Dallas and Plano, says, “One of the most attractive reasons to plant native Texas plants is that by definition, they belong here. You'll find that natives require less water and care than non-natives, and supply support in many cases for other life to thrive. Plants like lamb’s ear and Asclepias (butterfly weed) are host plants for migrating butterflies, while Salvia greggii, Turks cap and Texas star Hibiscus are all good for hummingbirds and bees. Not only are they easier to grow and beautiful, but they'll help with pollination of all of our plants.
Joyce Connelley, of Marshall Grain Company, in Grapevine, notes, “First and most importantly, our pollinators need organically maintained habitat. Birds, bees, butterflies and fruit bats are all key pollinators that are very sensitive to toxins. If you do nothing else, refrain from applying chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides to your garden, and switch to organic products. For plant choices, I recommend that new gardeners stick with plants listed on Texas A&M's SuperStar list. Texas SuperStars aren’t just ordinary natives, they are tried and true plants that do extremely well under harsh conditions. SuperStars include: annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees and evergreens, so there’s a lot to choose from.
Rusty Allen, of North Haven Gardens, in Dallas, explains, “Using natives can make Texas look more like Texas, not using the same plants that are used in other states so that there is no individuality. There’s that myth of thinking native gardens and wildscapes always look dry and unkempt, and they certainly don’t have to be. Sure, one can focus on recreating the prairie and use strictly natives, but it’s also possible to have a positive impact by establishing small pocket prairies and finding ways to use our varied natives to adapt to other existing styles. You don’t have to give up appropriate adapted plants; most of us want to incorporate at least a few natives into our landscapes.
Jarratt Calvert, of Shades of Green Garden Center, in Frisco, shares, “Our summers are hot, our spring and fall sometimes short or nonexistent and our winters totally unpredictable. Factor in our alkaline clay soil and too-much or too-little rainfall, and the challenges plants face are daunting, indeed. Plants that flourish in other parts of the country simply can’t hack it and won’t survive. Native and well-adapted plants are good for your budget and the Earth, as well. They require much less water and are more pest- and disease-resistant, requiring less treatment with control products like herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers. You’ll find that just a little organic fertilizer and a few natural soil amendments a couple of times a year will produce great results.”
Ron Hall, of Ron's Organics, Inc., advises, “Going native with your landscape has many benefits for you and for local wildlife. Saving money, water conservation and low maintenance are the three biggest reasons, but we also need to keep our natural ecosystems in balance. A constant introduction of new exotic plants into our ecosystem will lead to many new invasive species that can choke out our native plants that provide food and shelter for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, birds and mammals. With natural habitats disappearing at alarming rates, we need to provide shelter and food anyway we can.
Patrick Dickinson, a horticulturist with Texas A&M AgriLife Research Water University, says, “Planting a Texas native garden or incorporating natives into your landscape plays a fundamental role in reestablishing habitats for our wildlife like bird, butterflies and bees. The habitats have been removed to make room for urbanization that brings a blanket of turfgrass and many exotics not intended for the area. It also has the enticing aspect of creating a less-demanding landscape on you. Less maintenance, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers and less water are many of the beneficial qualities these plants offer. It is important to know the hardiness region you reside in order to select the proper plants for your Texas region.”
Cheryl Beasley, of Weston Gardens In Bloom, in Fort Worth, remarks, “Congratulations on your decision to go native. Native is the path to your landscape transformation. Rather than struggling with non-native plants that guzzle water and fertilizer, let nature work for you by planting the plants that grow here natively. Texas is home to beautiful ornamental grasses, yuccas and perennials that will provide years of beauty. Consulting with a knowledgeable designer regarding a master plan will help you on your way!”
Ruibal's Plants of Texas, 214-744-3434, Ruibals.com.
Marshall Grain Company, 817-416-6600, MarshallGrain.com.
North Haven Gardens, 214-363-5316, NHG.com.
Shades of Green Garden Center, 972-335-9095 ShadesOfGreenInc.com.
Ron's Organics, Inc., 1820 S. Beltline Road, Mesquite, 972-329-4769, OrganicDynamics.com.
Texas A&M AgriLife Research Water University, 972-952-9673, WaterUniversity.tamu.edu.
Weston Gardens In Bloom, 817-572-054, WestonGardens.com