Plant Natives for a Resilient Future - 27 East

Residence

Residence / 2249030

Plant Natives for a Resilient Future

icon 4 Photos
Garden by Abby Lawless. Natives plants add beauty to a landscape while making it more ecologically valuable.   TRIA GIOVAN

Garden by Abby Lawless. Natives plants add beauty to a landscape while making it more ecologically valuable. TRIA GIOVAN

Ruth Ann Rosenthal's garden includes the natives Joe- Pye-weed, Eutrochium fistulosum;  mountain mint, Pycnanthemum muticum; and spotted bee balm, Monarda punctata.  RUTH ANN ROSENTHAL

Ruth Ann Rosenthal's garden includes the natives Joe- Pye-weed, Eutrochium fistulosum; mountain mint, Pycnanthemum muticum; and spotted bee balm, Monarda punctata. RUTH ANN ROSENTHAL

COURTESY MT. CUBA CENTER

COURTESY MT. CUBA CENTER

COURTESY MT. CUBA CENTER

COURTESY MT. CUBA CENTER

Ruth Ann Rosenthal on May 1, 2024

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”

— Audrey Hepburn

April was declared Native Plant Month in the State of New York by Governor Hochul, recognizing the vital role native plants play in nurturing our environment and fostering sustainable ecosystems. It is the culmination of a concerted effort by garden clubs and environmental organizations to promote a vital change in both tree and plant choices. This effort is not limited to one month a year!

In a world where maintaining biodiversity is a paramount objective, the choice between native and nonnative plants holds significant consequences. A native plant is one that has existed in our local Long Island area for hundreds if not thousands of years. They have co-evolved with the local insect population. Insects lay their eggs to hatch on native plants providing our declining bird population with a steady diet of insects, especially caterpillars, to eat. One pair of chickadees were observed feeding their babies 350 to 370 caterpillars every day — that’s 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars to raise one family of baby birds.

Native plants are well-suited to our climate and growing conditions, requiring less water, no chemical fertilizers, are often deer resistant and have natural pest control. Once established, their deep root systems make them effective tools in combating erosion and can be planted in rain gardens to mitigate flooding.

Nonnative plants have been imported from foreign countries or different areas of the United States. We plant them for their exotic blooms and leaves that remain unblemished by insects. But the downside is that these nonnative plants often fail to provide essential sustenance for our local birds and insects.

Native plants not only offer only high-quality food and shelter for declining bird species but also serve as crucial sources of nectar and pollen for our native bees, moths, butterflies and hummingbirds. To get started with native plant gardening, think about integrating them into existing gardens. A local organization Two Thirds for the Birds (234birds.org) advocates for a reasonable yet impactful solution for all of us: Plant two native plants for every one nonnative. The members have found that birds need at least 70 percent (two-thirds) native plants within foraging range to maintain healthy population levels.

Try adding some taller varieties to your garden, such as sun loving Joe-Pye-weed (Eupatorium purpureum), a favorite of native bees, or common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), which provides vital support for the survival of monarch butterflies, into the back of borders. You can replace a failing shrub with the native summer sweet (Clethra alnifolia), a fragrant flowering shrub beloved by pollinators.

To create a new garden, consider this planting list provided by landscape architect Abby Lawless of Farm Design. She has combined native grasses with perennial native pollinator flowering plants, best suited for a sunny location with good drainage: little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium), prairie dropseed grass (Sporobolus heterolepis) switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), hyssops (Agastache) Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum), Virginia mountain mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum), spotted bee balm (Monarda punctata), pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida), sweet Joe-Pye-weed (Eupatorium purpureum) and swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata ssp. pulchra).

Sustainable garden practices protect the plants and safeguard the insects and birds that rely on them. The Perfect Earth Project (perfectearthproject.org) provides a manual for homeowners and professionals, promoting nature based, toxic-free land care. Their website is a valuable resource for planting natives, maintaining the health of the plants, people, their pets and the planet.

Professional gardens that are open to the public such as Longhouse Reserve in East Hampton, Madoo Conservancy in Sagaponack, Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton and Landcraft Garden Foundation on the North Fork in Mattituck, all offer inspiration and examples of native plant choices, combinations, design and an opportunity to see the excitement you can create with pollinators in action foraging for food.

Planting natives is a tangible way to contribute positively to our community and protect the biodiversity that sustains us all. It’s a way that we can practice our belief in a better tomorrow, to nurture our wildlife and to cultivate a greener, healthier, more resilient future.

Ruth Ann Rosenthal is a member of the Westhampton Garden Club Conservation Committee.

You May Also Like:

How To Attract and Support Butterflies

I’ve had a number of experiences with butterflies in my life, and each one has ... 12 Jun 2024 by Andrew Messinger

Light It Up And More Seed Starting Advice

The adventure started back on April 22 and was repeated on May 5. But in ... 10 Jun 2024 by Andrew Messinger

Landcraft Gardens Hosts Jorge Pardo Exhibition This Summer

The Landcraft Garden Foundation in Mattituck’s 2024 season of Sculpture in the Garden will feature ... by Staff Writer

LongHouse Reserve Presents Paola Lenti Furniture

Starting this month, more than 100 armchairs, sofas, poufs, tables, and parasol umbrellas by Italian ... 5 Jun 2024 by Staff Writer

‘Garden Dialogues’ Planned by Cultural Landscape Foundation on June 15 To Feature Three Homes

Three landscapes by Water Mill’s LaGuardia Design Group at private homes will open for ticketed ... by Brendan J. OReilly

What To Know About Growing in Containers

I’m getting reeducated with growing plants in containers this season, but it was an act ... 30 May 2024 by Andrew Messinger

The World Around Summit 2024

“Why does architecture matter?” That is the raison d’être of The World Around, a nonprofit ... 28 May 2024 by Anne Surchin, R.A.

The May Garden Ramble

It’s spring, it’s planting time and it’s crazy. Three boxes of plants arrived this afternoon, ... 23 May 2024 by Andrew Messinger

Gardening: The Happy Place

“Gardening is a way of showing that you believe in tomorrow” — Audrey Hepburn When ... by Jenny Noble

Flowers and Bees — A Magnetic Attraction

At 97 years old, British broadcaster/biologist David Attenborough is still learning and — more importantly ... by Andrew Messinger