US: N.C. area gardeners turn to native plants for landscaping
“It attracts a lot of wildlife — butterflies, mockingbirds, bluebirds,” said Glen, owner of Growing Wild Nursery in Burgaw, a specialized native-plant nursery. “It’s just a matter of finding the right plant for the right place.”
Glen is part of a growing movement of homeowners across the state dedicated to landscaping and gardening using only native plants. The native species provide habitat and food for local wildlife while helping prevent the spread of invasive species, according to proponents of the idea. And because the plants evolved in the heat and humidity of the coastal climate, they require less water, fertilizer and general upkeep than their non-native counterparts.
“You’re not going to have to worry about all of the additional care you might have to give to something that’s not native to this area,” said Melanie Doyle, conservation horticulturist with the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher. “They’re going to be tolerant to our temperature swings, the heat and humidity, to drought, and they’re at home in our nutrient-poor soils.”
Native landscaping isn’t a new idea, but the movement, like some of North Carolina’s endemic plants, has been slow-growing. The plants aren’t usually pricier than more traditional choices, but outside of specialty nurseries like Glen’s, native species have historically been somewhat difficult to locate. Mainstream nurseries and box stores are beginning to stock several varieties, but they’re rarely marked as native, making it difficult for the average shopper to locate on the shelves.
“If you were to buy a sweet pepper bush, it’s not going to be labeled as a native plant - but it is one,” said Cary Paynter, co-chair of the southeast coast chapter of the North Carolina Native Plant Society. “The more available they are, the more I think people will buy them, but it’s an education problem.”