Why do we Landscape & Garden with plants from Europe, Asia & Africa?
The quick answer is because that’s what nurseries sell and landscapers design with. I remember when I first learned that the plants sold in most nurseries were not from here. It was a rude awakening – and we threw away our landscaping plan (not the design but the plant list) and replaced the plant selections with native ones. You can do this too.
Need some advice on your landscaping? Contact us for a visit by an Audubon at Home Ambassador. We also know a few local native plant landscape designers and can give you those contacts as well.
Here’s a great write-up by Dr. Leah Knapp that talks about how we got into this non-native fix. An excerpt is below:
Let’s take a look at a little history of the garden in America.
When Europeans first came to the New World, they were too concerned with growing food crops (and, ironically, tobacco, for sale back to Europe) to worry about gardening. When they did grow plants for pleasure, they preferred what was familiar from their homes back in Europe – tulips, foxgloves, hollyhocks, daisies and the like. As a species we tend to feel suspicion or discomfort from what is unfamiliar, and the sheer wildness of this “untamed” continent was sometimes disturbing or even frightening to the settlers after the intensely human-controlled Europe they’d left behind. Planting what was familiar provided a comfort and a sense of control.
As European settlement of America grew, Colonial gardeners favored the formal geometric gardens that were popular in Europe at the time, such as we can now see in historic sites such as Williamsburg. Following the Revolutionary War to the mid 1800’s, the preferred garden style became the “natural look”, which sometimes incorporated some native plants. Thomas Jefferson was a fan of natives, planting many at Monticello. As trade with other parts of the world expanded, plants were imported to the US and Europe, creating a thirst for more color and large exotic flowers, particularly tropical and subtropical plants from South America, Africa and Asia.
The development of greenhouses allowed for easy propagation and sale of these plants, and the interest in what were, in America, annuals, meant even more profits for growers as people had to replace many of the plants each year. The Victorian craze for “bedding out” with blankets of petunias, begonias, geraniums and other such profusely blooming tropicals spread from Europe to the US, displacing the use of native plants that had previously gained some popularity.
Now it’s up to us to turn that tide – be proud of our native natural ecosystems and fear not the plants that were here before our founding fathers. Native plants are basic elements in a healthy environment. Pull out those non-native invaders and replace with landscaping that knows our soils, our climate and our wildlife.
Ask your local nursery where they have their native plant section — and ask if they are pesticide free. Native plants are our best friends!