Plan Now for a Greener Native Plant Garden
WITH THE FIRST SNOWFALL OF WINTER barely behind us, it would seem that now is hardly the time to think of new plantings for spring. However, as Protectors, we know the value of being proactive and thinking ahead. Below are some tips that I invite you to ponder about the coming spring (hopefully while sipping on some hot cocoa).
1. You can make a difference, no matter how small your plot of land.
Every plant makes a difference. No matter how big or small your yard, migrating birds depend on plants throughout their journey to help them make their often long, arduous trips. While it is wonderful and essential to have our big City, State and Federal parks, our animal friends cannot make their trips without pit stops along the way—and that is where you come in! One plant can contribute to helping a migrating bird or butterfly or bee on their journey. Even if your yard is all cement or pavers, it is nothing one big pot cannot fix!
2. Speaking of all cemented and paved yards...
Besides benefiting nature, it benefits homeowners to have natural flooring (ground, grass, plants) that can soak up water that comes when it rains or snows. One of the big causes of increased flooding on Staten Island is the fact that more and more homes are popping up, wiping away the forests, meadows and bodies of waters that used to soak up precipitation.
3. Think Native!
As you start to think about flowers and bushes that you want to plant, keep in mind that native is always better—period! Just because you buy something at your local nursery, does not mean it is endemic to the area. Native plantings are important because they benefit our native fauna and will help our unique ecosystem thrive. Native plants are just as beautiful as more “exotic” plants. For example, burning bushes are popular on Staten Island for how hardy and easy they are to grow. However, being native to Asia, they do nothing for our native creatures, besides maybe serve as perches for birds and bugs. Instead of a burning bush, think about getting an Eastern Wahoo which, besides having an awesome name, is native to eastern North America and will provide a food source for our birds to survive the winter.
While I hope everyone is enjoying the winter (the ilex verticillata berries are gorgeous!) now is the time to start planning our spring gardens—and it is up to every one of us to make a difference.
This winter, think spring!
There are resources to turn to as you think and plan about introducing native species into your garden or landscape this spring. You can find beautiful photographs and relevant information at these websites:
Enter your zip code for a list of native plants that are suitable for our growing zone. There is also a list of companies where you can purchase native plants.
This is a pdf document describing a selection of native plants.
Select REGION and enter NY-Mainland or NY-Long Island for good native choices.
—Madeline Buchanan, Winter 2019