While meeting with a client who knows nothing about native plants and their benefits, I find myself recommending some great native plants for their landscape. As I rattle off names of possible plants, I notice the puzzled look I get from the client. Did I comb my hair this morning? Do I have spinach stuck in between my teeth? Am I speaking Latin again? Maybe it’s just the peculiarity of some of the common plant names that come spewing from my mouth. Milkweed, Joe Pye weed, Sneezeweed, Ironweed, and so on.
I imagine what this client is thinking about me: “is this woman” (that would be me) “out of her mind?” Is she really a horticulturist? Why on Earth would she be recommending weeds for my garden?” Therein lies the problem of promoting native plants with unfortunate names.
Then it gets worse. Yes, dear client, I want you to encourage leaf chewing by caterpillars and please, Mr. and Ms. Homeowner, leave your perennials standing (and eventually flopping) through winter. And by the way, those leaves that you have been meticulously cleaning off every inch of your landscape in fall – please leave those alone. The cherished Burning Bush and robust Japanese Barberry that your dead grandmother planted many years ago – they have to go.
And the green desert you have – the lawn that you so carefully mow, water, feed, and spray – I’d like you to get rid of most of that – even better, let’s totally eliminate the one landscape feature that your neighbors recognize. And when we are done, I want you to post a sign at the end of your driveway (perhaps a “Wildlife Habitat” sign) that announces your rebellion against conventional gardening practices and your return to the wild.
Is it any wonder that native landscapes are a tough sell to homeowners who just want to keep their heads down and keep on mowing? We’ve gotta start selling the sizzle, not just the steak! Promoting native plants isn’t enough. Get your sizzle on and promote environmental stewardship – the real sizzle of native landscapes (with the kicker of beautiful native plants to enjoy).
Increasing environmental health, stopping species loss, encouraging biodiversity and ramping up ecosystem services, means more than simply switching nonnative and invasive plants with native ones. We desperately need a cultural change, whereby each of us becomes an environmental steward of our own landscape. Get on board, before it’s too late – we can’t unring the bell of climate change, but we can wake up and act now.
From Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!
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