May 16, 2011

Go native

The dramatic shift toward native and sustainable gardening in the last decade is remarkable.  As images of giant plumes of oil spilling into the Gulf gave us all reason to despair, I drew deep comfort from seeing so many neighborhood gardeners join the green revolution by converting their plots into islands of biodiversity, or by plowing up their lawns and planting vegetable and drought tolerant gardens.  These small acts of resistance are reasons to hope.

Provenance matters. Right now the native plant movement still relies on horticultural approach to plants—one that focuses on ornamental characteristics of plants without concern for the plant’s provenance or community. By doing this, we lose not only the allelic diversity of local plants, but also the aesthetic appeal of plants that have been perfectly evolved to a specific region.

How can you truly plant locally?  Support nurseries that propagate natives from local populations.  If you’re not sure, ask your local nursery owner where he or she gets her plants. This strategy has been remarkably successful in supermarkets; it can work for the nursery trade as well.  Choose seed sources that you know are harvested from local populations.  Or even better, learn how to sustainably collect seed from wild populations. There’s nothing quite as grounding or satisfying as going into a wild landscape, gathering seed, and then raising that plant in your garden.  Go local with your garden.  You will love it.

Following are local resources for information and supplies:

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