By planting native species, homeowners can provide a habitat for wildlife, birds and bees—and help save the planet
To save local ecosystems, experts say we also need to let go of misconceptions about native plants. “One of the things that can really discourage people is the idea that a native plant garden is a wild meadow that’s overgrown and looks disorderly,” says Edamarie Mattei, the owner of Backyard Bounty in Silver Spring, a landscaping firm that focuses on sustainability. “The truth is that you can create a habitat-rich native landscape that is incredibly formal or really modern looking.”
Espousing a sustainable aesthetic means viewing our yards and public green spaces as locations to nurture wildlife, rather than sources of eye candy, experts say. “We can be growing caterpillars and birds and butterflies and bees instead of growing grass,” says Alison Pearce, the Woodend Sanctuary restoration leader at Audubon’s headquarters.
“To me, a beautiful flowering bush is not one that is completely symmetrical or trimmed, but it’s one that when it’s flowering, those flowers are in constant motion because of the insects feeding on them,” says Rockville gardener Anne Goodman, a card-carrying “weed warrior.” Through the Montgomery Parks Weed Warriors program, she was trained to eradicate invasive species from local parks and lead others in doing the same. The invasives can then be replaced with fauna-nurturing native plants.
Master naturalist Ken Bawer, a former board member of the Maryland Native Plant Society and the incoming president of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association, removed the grass and invasive species from his 1-acre property in Rockville and installed native plants. “The thing I enjoy most,” he says, “is just the knowledge that I’m helping to save the world in my own yard, to the small extent that I can.”