A recent trend in gardening that’s gaining momentum is the concept of naturescaping — basically sticking to plants that are native to your state or region, and allowing said plants to grow as they would naturally.
While not a new concept by any means, the proliferation of garden clubs and a better collective understanding of our impact on the environment have contributed to the rising popularity of naturescaping.
Locally, the Center for the Inland Bays (CIB) has pushed hard to promote the use of native plants when gardening in the inland bays watershed. The CIB has organized a series of local presentations to focus on the benefits of using native plants in the community. The next one will be held Thursday, May 14, at Good Earth Market in Millville at 7 p.m. That presentation will be led by Chantal Bouchard of Nature Design Landscape and Rick Gentile of Bethany Beach Gardens, and is titled, “Designing Your Garden with Native Plants.”
Bouchard, who is a trained horticulturist, will discuss her part in creating the native plant demonstration garden at the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce building outside Fenwick Island. Gentile will speak primarily about the use of native plants when designing your garden.
And on Saturday, May 16, the popular Gardening for the Bays Native Plant Sale will take place at James Farm Ecological Preserve from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be food provided by Good Earth Market, a guided bird walk, a native plant walk, information booths and, of course, native plants for sale.
So, why all the buzz about naturescaping?
• Well, for one, it’s very low maintenance. “Compared to lawns, manicured shrubbery or bark-mulch covered beds, naturescapes are tremendously low in maintenance,” according to Plantnative.org. “Native plants grow well together (they evolved growing alongside one another) and to predictable sizes.”
The native plants also do not need watering or chemical fertilizers, and are adapted to local conditions and bugs.
• Plantnative.org also suggests that naturescaping is a positive regarding public health. The lack of insecticides and pesticides in naturescaping quite frankly prevents those chemicals from running off into our drinking water or in fish or plants that we consume.
• Money, money, money. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests that the cost of maintaining a lawn in the United States is approximately $700 a year on average. With naturescaping, there is little to no cost in yearly maintenance.
• It saves a great deal on water. U.S. News and World Report said that a 1,000-square-foot lawn requires 10,000 gallons of water per summer to keep a “green” appearance.
• It can keep things chirping. Native plants will, quite obviously, attract birds — particularly songbirds, like warblers, thrushes, hummingbirds and more.
One could also argue that naturescaping provides another important element — it continues a tradition of what is local. We all harken back to the roots of our communities, and naturescaping with native plants honors the natural traditions of a region, and ensures that the native plants will continue to grow locally for years to come.
A little, hokey, sure. But still cool.
According to the Delaware Natural Heritage Program, which falls under the Division of Fish and Wildlife and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), “there are 610 species and varieties of non-native vascular plants known to occur in Delaware, which represents 28 percent of the state’s known flora (there are 1,565 native vascular plants known to occur in Delaware).”