Why Buy Native Plants?

Photo of Aquilegia vulgaris by Peter Rühr from Wikimedia Commons.

By Chris Mendel
HGNC Landscaping and Maintenance Chair

As we consider what to do with our yards, flower baskets and vegetable gardens this year the question of native species versus exotic may come up. Native species are among those featured at Hansberry Garden and Nature Center’s spring plant sale each year. So what is so important about native plants?

I’ve got a garden in front of my row house on Pulaski Avenue. I use almost exclusively native perennials on my 18’x18’ patch of earth because I don’t have to mow it. I don’t have to fertilize it. “Weeding” in my garden is usually done with a beer in my hand, not a weed-killer.

Now that my garden is established, I don’t have to water it except in the dog days of July and August between storms. I usually do that with a beer in my hand, too.

Whether or not you want native plants to be your new excuse to drink beer, they do play a critical role in keeping our ecosystem and even our agricultural systems up and running. It’s sometimes heartbreaking to consider the extent to which we’ve converted the fertile riverbanks of the Delaware and the Schuylkill into our teeming city.

Consider the wildlife that must have lived here among the Lenape tribes: puma, elk, forest bison (extinct), wolves, to name just a few. Our city, like so many others, has effectively capped some of the most precious terrain on the continent like a landfill.

Regardless of Philadelphia’s current land cover, we’re still at the confluence of those major rivers, still at the bio-diverse boundary between mountains and coastal shores, still a source of food and nutrients to insects, birds, and other wildlife who are just passing through.

Native plants in your little back yard, surrounded by alleys, sidewalks, and cars, are still vital fuel-supply lines to the larger world. Your native plants will help bolster insects that pollinate our crops, which will fuel birds, which will migrate to wild areas or farmlands, which will fuel everyone from house cats to bobcats and more.

Most non-native plants can’t serve as nearly so valuable an energy source.

So, why plant with native plants? Because you’ll save money (Hansberry’s prices are lowest for blocks around), you’ll save time on mowing (we’ll help you chose the right perennials for your sunny or shady space), you’ll like the way they look (aquilegia is more romantic than rose and will also inspire you to design space ships in your free time), you’ll save water, and you’ll contribute to a world that’s way more important than the Internet in a way that really matters to us and other species.

We hope to see you at the corner of Hansberry and Wayne on the Saturday before Mothers’ Day.

Its amazing to be a part of a this Germantown neighborhood that banded together more than 10 years ago to raise a blighted corner to an award winning garden.

Cash or credit card accepted.

We also have organic herbs, veggies and flowers for Mom. Proceeds will help us continue to grow food for local pantries and keep us eating locally.