Have you ever wondered why your garden requires so much work? The birds and bees who visit know how to care for themselves, so why not the plants?
The trouble is, most American gardens are planted with “exotic” or “imported” species that, by definition, evolved to live elsewhere. Even if your garden is in the same “hardiness zone” as the places where they originated, it lacks the same conditions — from soil to rainfall.
Moreover the “community” of plants and animals in your garden is different. The beneficial species that your exotic plants might have relied on back on their ancestral turf are missing. Instead, there are strange species, including pests and diseases against which your plants have no defense.
No wonder it can take so much time, money, thought, effort and, often, chemicals to ensure their survival!
Of course, this is not true for every exotic species. Some are extraordinarily adaptable, naturalizing easily or even taking over (the so-called “invasive” plants). But most need your help to compensate for differences in the environment.
You won’t find the same problem with native plants (i.e., plants living in your area before Europeans arrived). These guys are used to local conditions, have excellent defenses against local pests and diseases and grow naturally. You just need to get them off to a good start. After that, they really will take care of themselves in a normal year, provided you have selected them well. You won’t even have to water them.
Your native garden has important benefits for the environment, too. Not only will it help to keep local waters cleaner (because it doesn’t require chemical fertilizers and pesticides), it will also provide birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife with precious habitat. Truly, native gardens are good from every angle — and can be as beautiful as you wish to make them.