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Native Plants Restore Maryland Habitats
Have you ever looked at your garden, the growing array of black-eyed Susans, petunias, and geraniums and wondered, are these from here? Maybe not. But one of the ways you can “green” your garden is by planting species native to Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
Desiree Shelley and Mary Hardcastle of the Parks & People Foundation discussed the importance of native plants this spring at a UMB Go Green-sponsored sustainability workshop in the SMC Campus Center Green Room.
“By planting natives, you are restoring the habitat,” Shelley said. They provide a habitat for wildlife and help preserve the balance and beauty of the ecosystem, she said.
Our region is in need of habitat restoration because as immigrants arrived from Europe, Hardcastle said, they wanted to replicate what they had in their former countries, but the plants they introduced were not necessarily well-adapted to Maryland’s climate.
Shelley and Hardcastle provided a list of benefits garnered from planting native species. They are:
- More nutritional and medicinal.
- More resistant to insects.
- More economical — perennials do not need to be replanted every year.
- Naturally hardy and require less maintenance with natural resistance to insects and disease.
- Adapted to annual cycles of rain.
When designing your garden, Hardcastle reminded attendees to look at site conditions such as soil quality, sun exposure, and water quantity. She also urged attendees to refrain from using insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides because they kill butterflies, birds, and earthworms, who among other things act as pollinators and natural soil aerators.
“Everything provides a niche for something else,” Shelley said.
For pest problems, Shelley suggested planting asters and rhododendrons for deer and mint to ward off rats.
People’s attitudes are beginning to change, Hardcastle said. She is starting to see more native gardens in bloom.
For more information on plants native to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, check out the following resources:
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education
- Herring Run Nursery
— Tracy Gnadinger