Gardening Native plants

Ways to Help Bring Nature Close to Home

Help Nature in Your Own Community!

The following press release is from the Nature Conservancy of Canada, a volunteer organization seeking to preserve nature in Canada. However, the information proposed would apply anywhere in the world. Whatever plants are native to your country are the ones you should consider preserving.

As the mercury slowly rises, many people are making springtime plans for their lawns, backyards, flower beds and gardens. “No Mow” and “Slow Mow May” have been tried by many people over the past couple of springs. However, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is encouraging people to find new ways to naturalize their yards.

The not-for-profit land conservation organization says that growing native plants is a small act of conservation. It helps urban wildlife and biodiversity in many ways. About 80% of Canadians live in urban settings. As a result, what we choose to put into our yards and on our balconies can benefit the plants and animals that share our neighbourhoods.

Samantha Knight, NCC’s national conservation science manager, says actions we take close to home are beneficial. Plus, they can help some wildlife populations, improve the health of urban ecosystems and foster our connection with nature.

Monarch butterfly visiting the flowers of a native aster.
Monarch butterfly visiting the flowers of a native aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae). Photo: huggy1, depositphotos

“We often think of the spaces where we live as separate from nature, but they are an integral part of the ecosystem. The plants we choose to grow will have a significant influence on the diversity and abundance of native wildlife. Native trees, shrubs and wildflowers support a greater diversity of pollinators and other insects than traditional horticultural plants. They are an opportunity to learn about local biodiversity.”

So, give biodiversity a big boost by devoting even a small portion of your lawn, garden or balcony planters to native species. NCC encourages people to challenge themselves to convert a portion of their growing space to a haven for native species. In that way, you support the plants, insects and animals that are our natural neighbours.

Here are some tips and things to consider when planning a native species garden:

American goldfinch on a thistle.
Make sure you let native flowers go to seed to feed birds like this goldfinch. Photo: Steve Byland, depositphotos
  • Find out what kind of soils and plant communities naturally occur locally. This will show you what sorts of native plants will do best in your garden.
  • Many regions have native species councils and invasive species councils. They offer information on what plants to sow and what plants to avoid when planning a native garden. Visit the Canadian Council on Invasive Species “Be Plant Wise” program for more information.
  • Garden centres and local native plant suppliers can tell you where their plants come from. And in what conditions they grow best. Sticking to plants adapted to growing locally is a good way to support regional biodiversity. And also to ensure your garden flourishes.
  • Native plants have evolved alongside wild bees, butterflies and other pollinators. As a result, they provide better habitat than non-native ornamental varieties do.
  • You can consult experts, read a book on local species. Or you use an app like iNaturalist to identify plants already growing in their yards. For details on some commonly found invasive species, visit NCC’s website.

“Spending time in nature is good for our physical and mental health. Planting native gardens invites nature in and offers refuge for local wildlife. It’s a good way to connect to nature, get the whole family involved and watch the fruits of your labour flourish,” said Knight.

About

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the country’s unifying force for nature. NCC seeks solutions to the twin crises of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change through large-scale, permanent land conservation. As a trusted partner, NCC works with people, communities, businesses and government to protect and care for our country’s most important natural areas. Since 1962, NCC has brought Canadians together to help conserve and restore more than 15 million hectares. To learn more, visit natureconservancy.ca.

11 comments on “Ways to Help Bring Nature Close to Home

  1. marianwhit

    Bravo! (Standing ovation!) People should spend a little time going to You Tube and listening to the work of the late E.O. Wilson and the concept of “Half Earth” which can be applied from a terrace to the average back yard. In the absence of that, helping support, steward, and learn about natural areas with (and for) your kids.

    We have one acre and have reaped the rewards of having 70% of it be in its nearly natural state that we steward in protecting the native plant life…the plant life is everything…but for the evolution of plants, we might still be trilobites! We went from 5 to 22 species of butterflies by trying to understand their whole life cycles…and after years of planting host plants for them realized the adults need native grassland areas to hide at night and winter cover for their chrysalises. The bird life has followed, and we celebrate when we see nestlings and also predator birds who need a fully functional ecology to be there. We love that we are doing our best to save a little piece of the world in our back yards. In Nova Scotia, the goal is 12%…far less than people who study the life cycles of other living species recommend.

    Here is a short interview of one of the greatest ecologists who ever lived. If you care about the health of the planet, and don’t know what to do, working towards this goal has been the best mental health therapy as well. He has donated his reading of his book “Half Earth” to the internet and You Tube. Taking the time to listen to it has been a real revelation to me as a gardener.

    Our home design uses the concept of a “glade” around the house…we have lawn, but let it, (except for heavily used pathways) be long and we suppress alien weeds (including dandelions which do NOT stay in the lawn) as much as possible because pollinators help native plant reproduce. We do this, especially in our ditches (a mass of introduced plants monopolizing disturbed sunny habitats (just as important for native species), where we make room the more aggressive native species. This helps birds have food for migration. We have plenty of room for vegetable gardening, fruit trees, and our recreational needs. It feels like heaven and I do my wildlife watching at home, not needing to drive to some distant national park. Not everyone is lucky enough to have this much land, but my sister lives in an apartment in Japan and has a terrace alive with some potted native plants drawing in wildlife that give her great pleasure! Thank you, Laidback Gardener! Gardeners love the outside and are the logical leaders in protecting the creatures that make the earth the wonderful garden of Eden that it is…IMHO we were never kicked out…we were given a second chance…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zq3w7cldgMU

  2. The native/ non-native controversy is often quite vocal but I like how Doug Tallamy presents the case for more native plants in our gardens: “It’s not that there are too many non-native plants but that there are not enough native plants’. A different spin on the topic that will hopefully convert more gardeners to incorporate native plants to help native species while still allowing them to enjoy all the plants they love.

  3. Gee, for next week, I just wrote about how unnatural gardening is. It already posted in two papers.

    • It is unnatural in most senses.

    • marianwhit

      This is an interesting idea indeed…is it unnatural? I think so if it is done largely by machine and the inputs come from the hardware store. But we humans are the dominant form of “megafauna” on the planet. We are as much a part of the ecology as anything else. I honestly believe we evolved with fingers (capable of handling delicate seedlings) and large brains precisely for plants. Our brains can remember a wide variety of species, the ones we can eat, the ones that are poisonous, etc. Women were traditionally the gatherers, why do you think we are smarter than men? (joke, could not resist that)

      The fact is we can be either utterly destructive to the ecology or use our big brains to realize that there are complex relationships in the living world that we may not understand, and that maybe shoving all of nature out of the way is not the best approach. I support creating habitat for nature, and planting native plants, and to do that I have to learn about what is needed. It has been a fantastic journey. Today I learned that blackflies are very important to the health of fresh water brooks. I still hate being bitten and protect my person from them, but I don’t wish them out of existence. The day the blackflies show up so come the warblers and the hummingbird.

      I don’t find my presence and my mucking about “unnatural” at all. Alligators make waterholes in the Everglades supporting a whole ecology of animals there. Elephants manage forests and water holes in Africa. Hippos have a whole ecology that lives…in their dung piles. My compost pile has an ecology, and is the focus of interest for many animals and birds. The grass and trees I choose to grow support the ecology…or not.

      • Where I lived in town, I was not concerned with ecology beyond my garden, simply because my garden was so irrelevant to the outside ecosystem, . . . and also because the natural ecosystem of the region was rather open chaparral. Although I avoided overly aggressive plants, even overly aggressive and invasive plants would not have been much detriment to the urban landscape. They really had no place to go beyond my garden. However, in this neighborhood, I am much more careful with potentially invasive species, since the forest is already overrun with several nasty and aggressively invasive exotic species. I do not want to add any more. Unfortunately, in this region, unnatural vegetation management is necessary, not only because of the aggressively invasive exotic species, but primarily because the forest is naturally very combustible, and has become even more combustible in response to clear cut harvesting a century ago. (After redwoods were harvested to rebuild San Francisco after the Great Earthquake and Fire, other species grew up with the regenerating redwoods. Those other species are what makes the redwoods unnaturally combustible.) In this situation, it is native species that are the problem. They naturally live here, but are unnaturally prolific within redwood forests, and will continue to be that way for a few centuries until the redwoods crowd them out again. Also, redwood (trunks) are regenerating in a manner that is too crowded for them. Harvesting would actually benefit them. Unnatural means can actually help to restore a more natural state of the forest. It all gets so confusing.

  4. I was left wondering what the wildlife will do in June, July, August, September, and October….

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