Home & Garden

Should you plant a native garden?

By: Frank Ferragine, a.k.a. Frankie Flowers

Author: Canadian Living

Home & Garden

Should you plant a native garden?

By: Frank Ferragine, a.k.a. Frankie Flowers
Soon the entire country will be under a cosmetic pesticide ban. Ontario has been under the ban for a few years now and it's led many gardeners to get rid of needy plants.

Needy plants are those that constantly require attention, from spraying and fertilizing to frequent pruning. Some plants even need to be replanted year after year.

My mom's hollyhock is a needy plant that often gets attacked and eaten by rust if it's not maintained with proper watering techniques and fungicide treatments. So say goodbye to hollyhocks and hello to native plants.

What is a native plant?

Native plants meet all the criteria of a pesticide-free garden. Plants that are native to your area are hardy to your zone, meaning they don't require extra maintenance in fall to prepare them for winter.

Native plants are generally resistant to diseases and insects. (However, as global trading increases, many new species of insects have been introduced to our local gardens.) As in nature, indigenous plants are drought tolerant and rely solely on precipitation to sustain them.

The advantages of growing native plants
Once established in our gardens, they will survive well with minimal watering unless under prolonged periods of drought. A native garden will require less water, less fertilizer and less work, making it an environmentally friendly choice.

Page 1 of 2 - Learn how to grow native plants in your area with Frankie's advice on page 2.

Growing native plants in our gardens will help minimize regular maintenance. As with any plant, it's important to find the right location in your garden to grow your native plants.

If you take care to plant them according to their required light exposure (such as sun, part sun or shade) your garden will almost take care of itself.

So how do you find out which plants are native to your area?

Frankie's go-to guide
My favourite resource for native plants is Evergreen, a national organization with the goal of inspiring youth to get more connected to nature. Their Toronto facility, Evergreen Brickworks, has one of the city's only native plant–focused garden centres. Their online national native plant database (nativeplants.evergreen.ca) is a must visit for all Canadians. Click on your region, select the type of plant you're looking for (such as tree, perennial, fern, etc.) and – presto! – your listing of plants will be presented.

My only word of caution when selecting native plants is to research their growth potential. Many will be such great performers that in time they may be the only thing left in your garden.

Top 5 ornamental grasses
1. Zebra grass (Miscanthus sinensis): Zebra-striped blades with coppery plumes that appear in fall and supply birds with seed in winter. Full sun. Zone 5 to 9.

2. Japanese silver grass
(Miscanthus sinensis): Hardy with huge showy plumes that appear in fall, adding interest all winter long. Full sun. Zone 4 to 9.

3. Feather reed grass
(Calamagrostis acutiflora): Selected perennial plant of the year in 2001 by the Perennial Plant Association. A hardy, non-invasive clumping grass. Full sun. Zone 3 to 9.

4. Blue fescue
(Festuca glauca): My top pick, 'Elijah Blue,' is extremely hardy with vibrant blue blades. Full sun. Zone 3 to 9.

5. Tall switch grass (Panicum virgatum): The easiest of all ornamental grasses to maintain and grow. Full sun. Zone 4 to 9.

This story was originally titled "Home Grown" in the July 2011 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!  

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Should you plant a native garden?