Why should I landscape with California native plants?
Early explorers and settlers were awed by the variety and profusion of wildflowers throughout the state of California. Hillsides were painted in gold, red, yellow, blue and white flowers. Shrubs like California lilac decorated the landscape in blue and white. In the heat of the summer, the wonderful smells of the soft gray salvias and sagebrushes spiced the air. The landscape was abuzz with bees.
Yet new Californians, regardless of where they were from originally, created landscapes of plants familiar to them, from crop and orchard plants to horticultural plants more at home in other climates. Developers entice newcomers by creating lush, tropical paradise landscapes, rather than our own California paradise. When irrigation water seemed limitless, gardeners tried their hands at plants from all over the globe, often with remarkable success. The result of all of this is that today all too many landscapes across the country exhibit the same kind of conformity as shopping malls. Thirsty nasturtium and azaleas color our gardens, just as they do those in the wet, subtropical climate of the Southeastern US. We have lost our sense of place and it is time to reclaim it!
Welcome birds and butterflies into your garden
Landscaping with native plants not only gives us a sense of place, it welcomes native birds, butterflies and other beneficial insects to our yards and parks by creating habitat that feeds and shelters them. Consult the National Wildlife Federation website (www.nwf.org) for more information on creating backyard habitat.
Many non-native plants, particularly those from wet, tropical areas and including lawns, only thrive in our mild, Mediterranean and desert climates with the constant addition of water. The cost of all of that water merits reflection as does the fact that, in times of drought, restrictions on water use may be imposed. Also consider the inconvenience of this dependence on artificially supplied water. With a landscape of established natives, you can go on vacation in August without worrying that all of your plants will be dead if the sprinkler system fails! Check out the Be Water Wise website created by Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for more water conservation tips (www.bewaterwise.com).
Create a beautiful outdoor space
Landscaped spaces, like gardens and parks, are made primarily for people. Taking into account environmental concerns certainly makes sense, but the beauty of California native plants makes a compelling argument for their presence in our gardens. The wonderful smells of our native plants, the soft colors of the foliage, the variety of flowers, and the welcome presence of butterflies and birds, makes the California native garden the perfect garden.