We are into gardening season now. Even though most of the northern US has seen a winter not seen in decades, spring IS on its way, and gardens will start flourishing quickly. With all this snow, gardens should be lush!
Even with the best garden plans made, it’s hard not to shop impulsively for seeds and plants. If you are building perennial beds or buying shrubs and trees, go native! Use what naturally grows in your area for the best results.
‘Best’ is a broad word, but native plants will do well in their own climate. They are used to the sunlight, soil, insects, seasonal changes, and the cycles of moisture and drought. Because of this, they require very little maintenance and are generally pest-free while looking healthy. In our dry spring last year, my native plants were green, while the fruit trees and perennial herbs struggled.
Native plants also provide food and shelter for wildlife from bees to large mammals. By planting native plants, you are helping the entire ecosystem of your area! The animal world loses habitat every day to development, pesticides and pollution. You can help fight that by planting native species.
If you are feeling clueless about native gardening, visit a botanical garden, arboretum or native nursery in your area. Some museums even have gardens for display.
Botanical gardens in New York that feature native plants
Here are a few places throughout New York State to see examples of native plantings. One of my favorite things to do is visit a places like these in each season to grasp the larger ecological and natural design picture.
The New York Botanical Garden
A native garden was installed within a 3.5-acre spread of established trees, which served as a foundation. A walking trail around a pond brings you through the woodland, a wetland and a dry meadow. Over 100,000 plants fill the separate microclimates. You can learn what grows in certain conditions then apply that information to your own yard. Be sure to watch the video!
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Native Flora garden has been transformed from a wildflower garden in 1911 to a woodland garden in 1931 and finally to a larger native display in 1983. There is a coastal meadow ecosystem, a bog, and pine barrens, along with trees, shrubs and forbs of the region.
Adirondack History Center Museum
This museum is part of the Essex County Historical Society. On the grounds is a true Colonial Garden of native plants in a formal setting similar to Colonial Williamsburg.
Frank Bailey bought 45 acres on the north shore of Long Island in 1911. He took pride in the number and varieties of trees on the land and hoped that trees would be as common in gardens as flowers were. Self-guided walking trails wind around the woods and water features, and there is a children’s habitat for hands on learning.
On the campus of Cornell University is a collection of gardens and an arboretum. The F. R. Newman Arboretum was built in the late 1930s on 100 acres. It serves educational and research needs for the university. Most species are native, and those that are not are considered ‘adaptable’ – able to flourish in the climate, but not invasive.
There is also a new Bioswale Garden at Cornell, which is part of a storm drainage system. A planting of mostly native perennials and grasses collects and filters storm water that seeps back into the ground or gets discharged into a lake. This is a much more environmentally friendly way to handle run-off than a traditional storm drain.
University of Rochester Arboretum
Although trees have been a large part of the campus since the mid-1800s, the arboretum was officially established in 1999. Native and adaptable species are scattered around the university, and tours of the grounds online and at the school offer quite an education. Be sure to watch the videos!
Learn about native plants in your area
As snow melts and planting time moves in, be sure to visit an arboretum or botanical garden for ideas about native plants for your area. Children and adults will all benefit as you learn about plants, animals and ecosystems. Preserve them with native plants!