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Aug 102012

Native plants are receiving ever-increasing attention in the world of home and business landscaping. There are very good reasons for using native plants in our landscapes and gardens. These plants are adapted to local conditions. Consequently, they remain healthy and beautiful with less use of water, fertilizers, and pesticides. They can be used to create landscape themes that are in harmony with their surroundings. They also lessen the chance of importing invasive and destructive exotic species.

A scopulorum

But landscaping with native plants is not without problems. The main issues are identification of suitable native species for specific landscape uses and, maybe even more frustrating, finding source of native plants once a design is developed. The industries that market plants and designs for traditional landscapes have taken decades to meet customer demand and effectively supply myriad beautiful garden plants. It will likely take the native plant industry many years to become equally efficient. But, that is no reason for the native plant enthusiast to despair. There are beautiful plants for the landscape. There are also numerous small nurseries that can supply those plants. Lastly, there are designers that specialize in native plant landscape. You simply have to take the time to find the professionals that can supply what you need.

Sometimes, we think that using native plants in the landscape means adopting an unfamiliar palette of plants, or being limited to creating a front yard that looks like a sagebrush prairie (it should be said that elements of a desert ecosystem can make a very interesting and beautiful landscape). However, nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that many native plants are already common in many of our most beautiful yards. Some of the plants we are all familiar with include white fir, blue spruce, Engelmann spruce, limber pine, red-twig dogwood, common juniper, Oregon grape, cinquefoil, currant, elderberry, ornamental fescues, many hyssops, columbine, some asters and daisies, blanketflower, coral bells, and many types of penstemons. Most of these plants can withstand a heavily watered yard, making them useful in a traditional landscape. Many other native plants can be used to create very attractive water-conserving landscapes.

University of Idaho researchers have begun a process of domesticating and evaluating native plants for use in Idaho landscapes. Although this research is in its infancy, it has resulted in considerable new information about native plants with horticultural value that are adapted to the dry conditions and high pH soils of southern Idaho. Dr. Stephen Love, leader of the native plant domestication project, has created a document that contains a list of native plants suitable for landscape use. The document also lists nurseries that supply these plants in quantities consistently sufficient for a home landscape project and sometimes sufficient for much larger projects.

The document, entitled Dr. Love’s Favorite Native Plants and Where to Buy Them can be viewed and downloaded by clicking on the link attached to the title. Questions concerning the document can be directed to Dr. Stephen Love.

 August 10, 2012