Native plants should have a place in your landscape
By Lloyd Thompson
WSU Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener
April 28, 2022
If you live in the Wenatchee Valley or nearby areas, chances are you have seen some stunning displays of native plants.
The surrounding hills are usually a brilliant yellow in the spring when the arrowleaf balsamroot blooms; it is one of my favorite times of the year. If you are in a riparian area near a stream, the smell of mock orange will greet your olfactory receptors during the late spring. During the winter, the crimson branches of red twig dogwood are visually set off nicely by a fresh snowfall. My personal favorite is the smell of sagebrush after a rainfall. Each of these plants are natives and do well in their own niches but not just anywhere.
Lately, I have been reading a lot about the use of native plants in landscape. Most of the discussion centers on how well native plants do, and the fact that they need less water and labor to survive. In our shrub-steppe environment, most non-native plants require lots of extra water during our hot dry summers; natives, which evolved over thousands of years, are able to thrive in the hot and dry conditions.
To be honest, I’m not the type of person to plant something that takes a lot of extra time and energy for it to survive. The right plant in the right soil and light conditions, as well as a proper location for its mature size, makes for a happier plant and a less frazzled gardener. I give serious thought about what I plant and where I plant it. This takes me a little longer to make sure it’s the right plant in the correct spot, but helps with the overall planting success rate.
From a landscape perspective, if I choose only native plants adapted to the dry climate of East Wenatchee, my selection would include primarily bunch grasses, sagebrush, rabbit brush, arrowleaf balsamroot, yarrow, lupines, penstemons and buckwheats. These are all well adapted for the summer heat and limited moisture, as well as providing critical habitats for other species native to the area.
Our native pollinators — bees, moths, animals and birds — would love to see the use of more native plants. It would not only help them be more successful by bridging the distance gaps between native habitats and local landscapes, but also allow them to move more readily from area to area in search of food and habitat.
Native plants can be supplemented by using non-natives that also evolved in similar climates and are often used in xeriscape-type gardens. While not native, these plants can still thrive in our hot, dry climate and not require as much water as other plants would.
If you are interested in using more natives in your landscapes, there are examples planted in the Natives ‘N More Garden at the WSU Chelan-Douglas County Master Gardeners Community Education Garden along Western Avenue in Wenatchee. You can find information, including plant lists, on our website, wwrld.us/mgprogram.
Washington Native Plant Society, wnps.org, is another great group of people to get information from about native plants. Their mission statement: To promote the appreciation and conservation of Washington’s native plants and their habitats through study, education, and advocacy.
Derby Canyon Nursery is primarily a wholesale native plant nursery in Peshastin; however, they have retail sales on the following dates this spring and fall: May 6-7, June 3-4, Sept. 2-3, Oct. 7-8. You can get more information at derbycanyonnatives.com. You can also email new owner Mel Asher at email@example.com to place email orders for pick-up on the Fridays outside of the dates listed above.
Natives plants have not gotten the recognition they deserve as landscape plants over the years. With the current trend toward hotter and drier summers and less water available for irrigation, perhaps native plants need a closer look to see if they could find a place in your landscapes. They tend to be more suitable for the local environment and take less work and resources once established.
Maybe Mother Nature had a good idea with selecting plants that not only could survive in our local ecosystem, but also could provide food and habitat for a host of other insects and animals. Now, if only we could get Mother Nature to do something about our April snow showers.
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