Think about the natives

Gardening by Osmosis

It may be time to think about incorporating new plants in your shrub border. If those uniform little plants you purchased years ago from the nursery and planted have become overgrown specimens more closely resembling ‘Uncle Remus’s’ Briar Patch than delightful landscapes plants, you may wish to consider replacements. This may be an opportunity to investigate using native plants.

Some candidates available include 3-5 foot shrubs, Symphoricarpus albus (snowberry), and Mahonia (Oregon grape).

Taller species such as Douglas spirea, Cornus stolonifera (red osier dogwood), Holodiscus discolor (oceanspray), Philadelphus lewisii (mock orange), Ribes aureum (golden current) and Amelanchier (serviceberry) offer welcome accents along with being pollinator friendly.

Splashes of color from native bloomers, spring through fall, include allium varieties, lupine, Arrowroot balsam, Douglas aster, wild geranium (crane’s bill), Geum triflorum, (prairie smoke), also known as Old Man’s Whiskers, Gaillardia (blanket flower), and Linum lewisii (wild blue flax). A more complete list of native plants is available through Plants of the Wild, native plant specialists in Tekoa, Washington. Blue Moon Nursery at 1732 S. Inland Empire Way in Spokane is a retail distributor for Plants of the Wild and will open for the 2024 season in mid March. Spokane County Master Gardeners also have helpful information available to assist with your native plant selections.

Advantages of incorporating native plants include less use of fertilizers (or even none), limited water usage, and welcome nectar and pollen resources for native beneficial insects.

Once the butterflies find your new expression of gardening your efforts will be rewarded with species you never even knew existed. It is surprising how quickly the “butterfly scouts” let their friends know about your garden.

Another resource, the Spokane Conservation District at the Quarry, offers educational opportunities through classes and lectures at 4422 E. Eighth Ave., Spokane Valley.

The Spokane Conservation District online tree sale (and shrub and seedlings) is taking orders now through March, 11.

What we gardeners are trying to achieve is balance. What better way to accomplish this than to incorporate the species of plants that thrive in our environment?

Many of our ‘natural landscapes’ have been altered and or totally annihilated by the eruption of seemingly instant communities.

By reintroducing native plants in our landscapes and encouraging our neighbors to do the same, we can add our names to proponents of water conservation, less contamination of chemicals to our soils, and maybe even to the plight of pollinator species.

It is a fact that native plants attract native species of insects which brings the landscape back into balance.

Just because the bugs have more legs than we do and often nibble on some of our plants, we need many of them to help maintain the order of the universe.

— Margaret A. Swenson is a Washington State University Master Gardener.


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