Sunday, August 14, 2011

Myths & Facts About Native Plants

Guest Blog by Beth Lacey Gill, Irvine Nature Center

Often, gardeners are nervous about stepping into the native plant arena. But they shouldn’t be! Planting native is best for the environment, but also easy and affordable. Plus, Irvine Nature Center offers one of our region’s best native plant learning opportunities. The 2011 Native Plant Seminar & Sale will take place on August 27 from 8:30am-4pm. You can register online at

1) MYTH: Native plants are not as colorful or showy as exotic plants.

FACT: The colors and textures in a native plant garden are restricted only by the designers' taste. Really! There are hundreds of hues and shades of every color, hundreds of textures, shapes and sizes of native plants to choose from. All it takes is just some knowledge on the best plants for your space. Or a walkthrough Irvine’s Woodland Garden, which is currently in bloom and showcases at least 30 colors.

2) MYTH: Putting native plants in my garden is too expensive.

FACT: It’s true that sometimes a native plant is a little pricier than non-natives at the retail store. But when you factor in the far reduced cost of water, zero fertilizer, zero herbicides, zero fungicides and zero insecticides, as well as the lack of mowing and mower maintenance, gasoline, oil, labor, de-thatching, aeration, weeding, etc., and you have a huge, beautiful return on your small investment.

3) MYTH: Native plants are finicky or hard to grow.

FACT: These plants have been evolving for millennia before we came along with our trowels, fertilizer blends and chemicals. They like our soil and climate just the way it is. If you do your research properly, and plant species where their requirements will be met in your yard (ie. Shade for shade lovers, wet areas for those that like damp feet, etc.) your native plants will thrive for many lifetimes to come.

4) MYTH: Native yards and gardens look like the forest, or are too wild and messy.

FACT: You can have as manicured a native yard as you like, using low-growing ground covers with borders of taller plants, shrubs and trees to look like a conventional yard, or branch out and use color and texture to design a structured and formal bolder look. Dramatic sculpturing and manicured yards are easily achieved by plant selection and placement.

5) MYTH: Native plants are not easily available.

FACT: Many local nurseries are stocking more and more native plants each year, as the trend takes off. If your nursery has yet to offer a variety of local natives, encourage them to get what you want in. In our area, the Nature Store at Irvine sells native plants almost year round. Irvine’s Native Plant Seminar & Sale will have more than a dozen native plant vendors with an amazing selection.

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