Willowsford residents take pride in their lawns and gardens, and rightfully so! Some residents have even taken it upon themselves to incorporate native plants into their landscapes which we love to see here at the conservancy! In this article, we’ll focus on why native plants are a great option for everyone’s yards.

What many people don’t know is that a large percentage of the plants grown in landscaping nurseries are not native to our region and can even become invasive when planted in people’s yards. You may have heard the term invasive species or plant before, but what does that really mean? An invasive species is something not originally found in a region that has been introduced intentionally or accidentally, and typically invasive species will begin to take over. Invasive plants will spread well past where they were originally planted and choke out native plants, this process disrupts the food chain, decreases biodiversity, and can cause many negative rippling effects in an ecosystem. Invasive plants have evolved to be extremely hardy; they can grow in almost all environments. Some contain compounds that make them undesirable or even toxic to animals, so animals will avoid them and eat the native plants instead. They are also extremely difficult to get rid of, once you have them in your yard you could be treating them for years in order to eradicate them for good.

An alternative to invasive landscaping plants are native gardens! Native gardens offer many benefits, they will attract pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds, they’re low maintenance as natives are already adapted to the climate and environment, you won’t have to spend hundreds of dollars in fertilizer and lawn maintenance, and they also offer beautiful colors to add to your garden! Many yards in Willowsford contain non-native turf grasses, which can be extremely costly and require a lot of time and effort. Fertilizers and synthetic chemicals are typically recommended for these types of lawns and due to runoff, the chemicals end up in places they are not supposed to be, like our water supply! If you take care of your native plant garden, it won’t need any fertilizers or synthetic chemicals, thus making a healthier environment for yourself, your family, pets, and your community! After they’re established, native plants don’t require much water beyond what they receive from rainfall, which can save you lots of money on your water bill! Native plants are also known for their deep roots, which can reduce the effects of erosion during storms or flooding events. Pollinators aren’t the only wildlife that benefit from native gardens, native plants have a symbiotic relationship with native wildlife meaning that they have closely evolved together for many years and are able to coexist and in this case benefit from each other’s existence. Native plants provide shelter for birds, food for squirrels and other mammals, locations and sustenance for larvae for certain butterflies and moths, and nectar for pollinators!

Before starting your native plant garden, there are a few things to consider. Envision where you’d like to plant your natives and take note of what type of soil is present, how much sun exposure this spot receives, the moisture of the soil, how well the soil drains. There is a really good chance no matter what your yard looks like, we have a native plant for you! If you need guidance on what plants might be a good fit for your yard, please reach out! We would love to help guide you on how to build your dream native plant garden.

If this article has convinced you to try out some native plants in your yard, you may be wondering where can I get them? Luckily we have a native plant greenhouse right in Willowsford! Our assistant land stewardship director, Sam Adams, has made it his personal mission to reintroduce native plants into the landscape here at Willowsford. Many of his natives are handpicked and grown from seed, some seeds are even collected from natives already present in the open spaces and meadows around the community. Plants like Larkspur, Butterfly weed, Blue Lobelia, and Eastern Blue Star are just a few of the many natives that can add striking colors to your garden and attract certain species of butterflies and hummingbirds! You can check out a list of what is in stock on the Willowsford website at this link, Buy Native Plants | Willowsford Conservancy & Farm, and you can even order them online and pick them up on one of our pick up days! If you’d prefer to check out our native plants in person, which is a great opportunity to get suggestions from the native plant expert himself, you can browse the calendar to see when the in-person native plant sales will be at, Events | Willowsford Conservancy & Farm.

Do you have open space behind your house that contains lots of invasives or not much at all? Consider starting an open space project! The Land Stewardship team manages over 2,000 acres of land and would love your help conserving and enhancing its natural beauty. Open space projects can range from bird box installation to invasive species removal. One project idea could be planting native plants or trees! With approval from the Land Stewardship team, you could start a native garden right behind your home! If you’re unsure what would be best to plant, we can give you suggestions and recommendations! Follow this link to learn more about open space projects, Open Space Projects | Willowsford Conservancy & Farm.

If you have a great native plant garden or know someone who does, we’d love to see it and even highlight it on our social media or newsletter! Please send us pictures or reach out so we can come visit it for ourselves at info@willowsfordconservancy.org

Written by Emily Lawrence, Willowsford Ranger