WANT A HEALTHY, BEAUTIFUL YARD? USE LOTS OF NATIVE PLANTS. FOLLOW OUR NATIVE PLANT PROJECT TO GET IDEAS FOR YOUR GARDEN
While something as big as the Mississippi River or other rivers or waterways near our homes seems beyond the scope of our ability to make an impact, the opposite is true. Non point source pollution is the result of many small contributions to a large pollution problem. Together what we do in our yards matters tremendously. Most of the land in the US is residential, homes and small parks, schools, and churches, where the neighborhoods decide how the soil and gardens are cared for. Each year Americans use over 80 million pounds of pesticides on our yards and gardens that wash into our drinking water, and we don’t need to.
Gardening to protect water quality means gardening without pesticides and using lots of native plants is the best way to do this.
I am a mom and a doctor, so protecting water quality is really important to me. I am a lifelong gardener who had an organic farm for fifteen years on the banks of a trout river. I care about gardens, and I know many practical ways to avoid pest problems or deal with these problems organically. Speaking to groups around the country I have found the biggest obstacle to adopting pesticide free care is that people are concerned that their yards will not look good without chemicals. Making changes to our garden plans and deciding how to add native plants was daunting to me. Along with many of my friends and fellow gardeners I had added some milkweed and some native plants, but needed help with an overall plan to make a big impact.
So I got help from an amazing landscape architect. Follow along to see how we are starting to change our landscape to more and more native plants, and yet making it more beautiful than it was before when it was comprised largely of traditional non-native plants.
We are doing this on a budget, so it is a phased plan. Moreover, while I now have some help in the garden, my husband and I do most of the yard work on our property so it has to be manageable and enjoyable to maintain. I am a member of Bedford Garden Club, so I am sharing the knowledge I have gotten with my friends and neighbors as I go and benefiting from their experience, too.
Join us on this garden adventure.
This is a great time to start planning for Spring planting!
Above is an early “before” picture showing some of our foundation plants (the Kousa dogwood, rhododendron, scotch broom, and boxwood, are all visible). We built our home over 20 years ago. We were fortunate to have a spectacular architect who worked for a renown firm known for their landscape architecture.
The entrance to the house was flanked by two large boxwoods and the path was flanked by a hedge of smaller boxwoods. The two large Buxus Sempervirens had grown to be taller than I am, full and beautiful. However, in heavy snow falls they suffered. We just did not have the patience to cover them in burlap every winter, and even the few times we did they took hits with heavy snow falling off the steeply pitched roof. And running outside to clean off all of the many boxwood that I had planted on the property got old quickly. We used Green Velvet boxwood, a cultivar that only grows to 3′ by 3′ to flank the path. In addition to snow damage rabbits were very fond of them, and they grew raggedy over time. Boxwood leaf miners occasionally attacked, too. Buxus Sempervirens is native to Southern Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa. Buxus Green Velvet is from Europe, Asia, Africa and Central America. We also had a hedge of Buxus Sempervirens on the side of the driveway with an opening to walk or drive through.
On either side of the front door were groupings of Chionoides Rhododendron. A traditional and beautiful foundation plant, they have dark green leaves and beautiful white flowers with yellow centers. These are not native so they do not support native insects and birds. Our biggest problem was that in very heavy snow storms the snow falling off the roof would pummel them. Also, while our yard was fenced, if deer managed to get in they would head straight for these plants. We also had a Scotch Broome, but rabbits continually feasted on that so I gave up on it. We had Miss Kim lilacs which are just beautiful, but not native. Blue Girl Holly got quickly decimated during deer incursions and did not recover. We had a Rose of Sharon that was beautiful (also white with a yellow center), and though it was not a native the bees loved it and it grew like a weed. In fact it was so vigorous I could not keep it pruned and we needed to remove it. In front of the library we had Delaware Valley White Azaleas. They were not native, and struggled with cold winters in our zone 5. We initially also had four Cornus Kousa trees, one at each corner of the auto court. We got rid of those after one of our labradors ate the Kousa fruit. He loved it, and would jump in the air to get more from higher branches. But it upset his stomach and I would have to walk him again and again at night.
As you can see, I was ready for a change!