Is There a Middle Ground?

Redthistle(8)February 20, 2004

We've talked about historical restoration, restoration after devastation, and we touched very lightly on the restoration of ecosystems.

Someone here recommended "Noah's Garden" which I'm in the middle of reading...I'm not through yet.

Unlike most gardeners, my husband & I started gardening with native plants. In our current location, which used to be a cow pasture, we planted all kinds of natives for our area--yaupon hollies, possumhaws, rusty blackhaw viburnums, Texas persimmon, etc. We also left alone the agarito, four-nerve daisies, coreopsis, stinging nettle, and native rain lilies that came with the land. We didn't put in sod, but kept the grasses that grew here, not all of which are native.

I understand the reason why people use natives, one of which is to restore the land to its original state for wildlife and to preserve the diverse native species...I obviously support the use of natives, but as a gardener of 10-plus years, I've grown weary of growing & seeing the same native plants again and again. While some of them are quite beautiful, other natives in my eyes are just plain ugly.--I let them grow anyway.

So, is there a middle ground? Is it so awful to take a small portion of our land--not even 1/3rd of it--and grow some non-natives in with the natives? What's your opinion? Aren't there some non-natives that are useful to birds and bugs?

Yucca is one native I could do without. (My husband says all of the yucca-lovers will come and egg our house after they read this post.) And speaking of yuccas, what special bird/bug do they support? Give me a reason to like this plant.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ginger_nh(z4 NH)

Moderation in all things, right? Not good do do "all" of anything . . .

    Bookmark   February 20, 2004 at 8:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
FranVAz7(Alexandria VA)

I must say, Redthistle, that this is a switch from what I usually see in the battle between the nativists and the horticulturists! The problem seems to be that the native plant movement indirectly equates non-native with invasive by saying things like, "don't plant invasives; plant natives instead." That's deceptive. But getting back to the original question: of course you can plant whatever you want that will thrive in your area, not get out of hand, and be aesthetically pleasing to you. After all, gardening is an art; the human touch should be visible. If you work and work and work and just end up with something that looks like the surrounding countryside that you didn't do anything to, it could start to seem pretty futile after a while!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2004 at 11:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
spectre(SZ 24, US 10b)

Hello Redthistle:

I'll get in trouble with the native plant police for this, but you plant whatever the heck plant you feel like if it's ecologically responsible (i.e., non-invasive). If the land were in pristine state, I'd say go native, but in your case, since it was former pasture, plant whatever type of palette you like.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2004 at 11:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ginger_nh(z4 NH)

What you say about "end(ing) up with something that looks like the surrounding countryside that you didn't do anything to . . .pretty futile" is an interesting comment.

I visited a show on the history of land use at the Museum of New Hampshire History on Wed. One of the points made was that the white settlers felt they were within their rights in taking much of the land the Indians (Native Americans)claimed because the Indians had not changed the land enough to make it theirs. Had not cut down the forests, farmed the land, made roads, and so on. Their European ethic was that to "own" the land, you must change it appreciably.

Not so different, on a deep level, from what we do today. Planting all natives may feel like we are not changing the land appreciably; it doesn't look enough like we have "done" enough to make it ours..

I remember seeing a slide show several years ago that accompanied a lecture by a developer who had designed suburban cluster homes leaving nearly all of the trees, dividing up the lots and laying out the driveways to maximize privacy and minimize damage to the land. I agreed with the design principles, but the outcome was unsettling; the road through the development looked like a lonely road thru the woods; the houses were dark and in deep shadows as they were surrounded by tall trees, small holes having been cut out of the forest to put the houses down on. It seemed rather gloomy and isolated.

I think a great many of us need to see evidence that the land has been changed by our hands in order to feel comfortable aesthetically.

I plant natives and encourage others to do so to for many reasons. Also plant and love introduced plants.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2004 at 11:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
egyptianonion(z5 central IL)

Or were the Indians actually farmers and large-scale ranchers, burning the vegetation periodically to suit their purposes of agriculture, forest-food foraging, and hunting? (Please check out the link.) In garden restoration, just as with any kind of restoration, you first have to decide to what period you're trying to restore it. On my farm, do I restore it back to when I was growing up, to my grandmother's time, to my great grandmother's, or to before White people came? As if the time of the Indians was all one long continuous sameness of non-intervention by humans--I think not. How about before the ancestors of the Indians came? Which glacial period? Before or after the continents drifted apart? Think of the enormous changes in both climate and DNA migration during each of the above periods of time. In the end, it all comes down to personal choice and the ability to carry it out. You get to choose: it's what you like, what you think is best, and what you can accomplish.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   February 21, 2004 at 1:52AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ginger_nh(z4 NH)

Good link, EO. The quote below taken from this site explains the land issues to which I was referring above. Land in Vt and NH was sold or taken from the Abenaki in tracts of 60.000-100,000 acres in the late 1700s and early 1800's. The forested land was referred to as "pathless wilderness." If it truly was, who knows? Forest succession, the many cuttings and regrowth make it difficult when trying to generalize.

"By the time European settlers began to push away from the coastal areas in the late 1700s and early 1800s, American Indian populations in the interior were a shadow of their former numbers. Forest regrowth was well advanced on many abandoned Indian village sites and croplands. It is likely that many European-American settlers did not even recognize them for what they were.

" In 1796, more than three centuries after the first European contact and a century and a half after the first English settlement at Jamestown, a French naturalist visiting the new American nation wrote that:

"The most striking feature (of the country) is an almost universal forest, starting at the Atlantic and thickening and enlarging to the heart of the country.

"He said that in his travels into America's interior that he "scarcely passed, for three miles together through a tract of unwooded or cleared land.

" It is quite likely that America was more heavily forested in 1800 than it had been in 1500. "

    Bookmark   February 21, 2004 at 10:09AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes there is a 'middle ground'. Do you have Bill (William C.) Welch's book "Perennial Garden Color"? which is devoted primarily to Texas gardening? A close reading of this book will lead you to understanding that there are beautiful TX. native perennials which can be combined together into lovely gardens. You have not begun to scratch the ground with possibilities.
Also, your state is the home of the infamous rose rustlers. There are so many old time roses with fascinating histories that are a part of Texas heritage. Welch discusses them throughly in his book. (He is an authority on old roses.) And, that is the answer to your question. Can one combine a natural landscape with gardens that also reflect the heritage gardening of Texas? Absolutely! It would be an interesting pursuit of garden history for you.
Sorry, I can't think of any reason to grow Yucca if you dislike it. The hardy Spineless Prickly Pear (Cataceae) might be a good substitute.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2004 at 1:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

I plant both natives and NON-invasive non-natives--though I still yearn for the porcelain berry vine I am denying myself...if my prunus mume succumbs to the combination of black-knot and wall building this summer (and there is a piece of me that is hoping it will--so difficult to cut down any lovely tree--even an ill one) I will probably replace it with a native. Perhaps a Fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus)--or a red bud.


    Bookmark   February 21, 2004 at 1:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've been out pruning trees all day and ate lunch at a cool Russian restaurant so I haven't had a chance to look at this post.

The city I live in pushes native and xeriscape plants heavily and for good reason, as do the local gardening radio programs. Further, for my region, I would say a large majority of books recommend natives. "Noah's Garden" is still another support for the use of native plants.

Planting natives is supposed to be the "right" thing to do along with recycling, water conservation, and green building. I feel guilty deviating from natives, but I'm tired of them and would like to try something different.--I think I'm savvy enough to avoid the invasive non-natives. I've never looked at plants outside of the local nurseries till this year, but I want to experiment.--I have my eye on Vigna caracalla and Poliantha howardii.

I do have Bill Welch's book, "Perennial Garden Color," which was my plant Bible for the longest, and I even went to a symposium he was part of last fall.--I wish the man lived nextdoor to me, but I'd probably drive him nuts ;-)

Egyptianonion, you make a good point about the time period one picks to restore.--My point of reference until now has been the age of my house, but it doesn't have to be.--I hadn't thought of that until you brought it up.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2004 at 8:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
FranVAz7(Alexandria VA)

Melanie, I understand your feeling about porcelain berry. Those berries are incredibly beautiful, and unfortunately very tasty to birds. Given that it's the berries that are its best feature, there are alternatives to consider. They are shrubs not vines, but at least the berries would be where you can see them! How about one of the beauty berry species (Callicarpa sp.), with their clusters of violet berries, or the harlequin glorybower (Cleodendrum trichototum), which, after it has its white bleeding-heart style blooms, has bright blue fruits surrounded by red calyxes. If you still want vines as well, then you can try some non-invasive honeysuckles, or Carolina jessamine, or unusual clematis to complement the shrubs.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2004 at 3:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
robyn_tx(8 Dallas)

Hi - don't even get me going on yuccas! The only redeeming qualities I've found is that they are a great home to hatchling and young lizards, which I like to encourage in my yard to eat pests (and because they're great fun for the kitty!) Yuccas also make a nice home for spiders to build their webs. Outside that, I'm sick of them!

Don't know where in Texas you live, but by your description and zone, I'm assuming Austin-ish area. (I'm in S.A.) I wouldn't personally let the native flora of the region dictate my choices. My small urban lot has both native and non-native plantings, and I have no shortage of birds, critters and bugs. For example, I purposely plant some things just for their beautiful fall/winter berries and leaf color, since we don't get much seasonal change here in S.Texas - as you know. Nandina is one genus that comes to mind. I love them, many birds like the berries, they grow well here, they're not invasive and they add loads to the visual interest of my space.

If you have enough land, you may want to consider the area closest to your house for some non-natives that you can enjoy from your kitchen window, deck or front porch ... and leave the further reaches of your space to blend in more naturally with native choices.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2004 at 6:20PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Clearing a sloping garden area
OK, so here is my problem. I just moved into a new...
Clay Problem
Hi Everybody Newby and desperate for a solution to...
How to eliminate perennial wildflowers without chemicals
I moved into a home that along one side of the driveway...
Ding Yew
My parents have some old yew foundation hedges that...
Time to re-examine the front borders
Zone 6, nj, northern exposure, strong afternoon sun. Overview:...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™