Have you heard the buzz about native plants? Native plants are the topic of many magazine & newspaper articles, garden shows, blogs and seminars. So why is everyone talking about natives? Natives make sense! Native plants "grew up" in Illinois. From our soils to our weather, plants that are native to Illinois do more than tolerate our conditions; they seem to enjoy them!
Since native plants enjoy our climate and soils they can grow vigorously and fight off most disease organisms and fungal pathogens without our help. This means that you, the gardeners, don't have to spray them with fertilizers, insecticides or fungicides. Another benefit to their Illinois heritage is that our native critters, butterflies, birds, and bees recognize them as a food source! You might be thinking, "Ahhh....I don't want critters eating my new plants!", well, yes you do! You see, once a native plant is established, it can tolerate feeding from our native critters with no problem. For example: a Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) can be nearly defoliated by monarch caterpillars- and it's ok! The plant is no worse for the wear!
Healthy insect populations = healthier food chain. Insects are kind of like the bottom of the natural food pyramid. Many animals, birds and reptiles depend on insect protein for food. When insect populations are not healthy, neither are the populations of certain birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. Healthy plant and animal populations = healthy food chain = cleaner water = cleaner air= healthier humans.
You might be thinking... what does any of this have to do with me and my yard. Well, you're yard is or should be an ecosystem! We have modified 95-97% of the land in the lower 48 states. Approximately 42% of that land is in agriculture, and an additional 54% of that land is urban and suburban development. This is where you come in, the average homeowner (don't worry in this example it's okay to be average). Our backyard gardens have never been more powerful or more necessary than they are today.
Our "natural" areas are over-run with invasive plant species like Buckthorn, Russian Olive, Japanese Honeysuckle, Garlic Mustard, Tree of Heaven, Multiflora Rose, Crown Vetch, Tall Fescue, and the list goes on.
Your backyard, with proper planning and proper plant choices can be a functioning ecosystem!
Stop in and check out our selection of Illinois Native Plants and ask us how you can make your yard a healthier place to be! We partnered up with Possibility Place Nursery (Monee, Illinois), they specialize in growing native trees, shrubs and perennials that are indigenous to northeast Illinois, with most of thier seed collected from native sources in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa.
(Special thanks to Carey Boehm-Corrie for her contribution to the above information.)