In Defense of California Native Plants
Early explorers and settlers were awed by the variety and profusion of wildflowers throughout the state of California. Hillsides were painted in gold, red, yellow, blue and white flowers. Shrubs like California lilac decorated the landscape in blue and white. In the heat of the summer, the wonderful smells of the soft gray salvias and sagebrushes spiced the air. The landscape was abuzz with bees.
Yet as immigrants arrived, homesick for eastern woods and English gardens, they created landscapes of familiar plants. Developers, trying to entice newcomers, created landscapes reflecting a tropical paradise, rather than our own California paradise. With the ready availability of water for irrigation, gardeners tried their hands at plants from all over the globe, with remarkable success. The result of all of this is that today gardens and landscapes across the country exhibit the same kind of conformity as shopping malls. Thirsty impatiens color our gardens, just as they do those in the wet, semi-tropical climate of Florida.
Welcome Birds and Butterflies Into Your Garden
Landscaping with native plants not only gives us a sense of place, it welcomes native birds, insects and butterflies to our yards and parks by creating useful habitat. Consult the National Wildlife Federation website (www.nwf.org ) for more information on creating backyard habitat.
Many non-native plants, particularly those from wet, tropical areas, only thrive in our mild, Mediterranean and desert climates with the constant addition of water. Although the cost and wisdom of using water in this way may be questioned, the inconvenience of this dependence on water is a significant consideration. Put simply, you can go away in August without worrying that all of your plants will be dead if the sprinkler system fails. Check out the Be Water Wise website created by Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for more water conservation tips (www.bewaterwise.com ).
Create a Beautiful Outdoor Space
Landscaped spaces, like gardens and parks, are made primarily for people. Taking into account environmental concerns certainly makes sense, but the beauty of California native plants makes a compelling argument for their presence in our gardens. The wonderful smells of our Mediterranean-type plants, the soft colors of the foliage, the variety of flowers, and the welcome presence of butterflies and birds makes the California native garden the perfect garden.