New signs on garden walks, plus why you should try native plants

sign for landscapes with native plants on garden walks 2020
Image courtesy WNY Native Plants Collaborative

If you are going to share your landscape on any of our local garden walks, you can pick up a free sign to let visitors know that you use native plants in your landscape.

And if you don’t use native plants, read on to see why you might want to add a few.

Signs for gardens with native plants

Native plants will be highlighted on garden walks this summer in a project organized by Gardens Buffalo Niagara and the WNY Native Plants Collaborative. It is sponsored by PLANT WNY.

The idea is to show that native plants are welcome in gardens, and to educate gardeners on how they can play a role in supporting our local ecosystem.

Gardening has helped our region in so many ways. Gardens can bring neighbors together. Garden walks (in a non-pandemic year) draw tens of thousands of visitors to our area. And gardeners can help with conservation in our region as well.

“Conservation doesn’t happen just in parks,” said Laurie Ousley, who is on the board of Gardens Buffalo Niagara, one of the organizers for Garden Walk Buffalo and a member of the WNY Native Plants Collaborative. We’ll talk more about that below as we discuss how a network of gardens can help our ecosystem.

Find guidelines here on creating a “Native Plant Garden” or “Native Plant Habitat” as part of this project.

The WNY Native Plants Collaborative encourages using true native species rather than cultivars or nativars wherever possible. See a list of native plants here.

Some places where you can buy native plants and/or nativars are:

How to get your sign

Signs can be picked up from noon – 3 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays in the yard at Urban Roots Cooperative Garden Market, 428 Rhode Island St., Buffalo.

Entrance to Urban Roots’ yard is currently by appointment only. Make an appointment online. (If you show up without an appointment, they may have room for you.)

Please note that you must have on a mask to visit the yard. 

Go to the gate and make a request where a staff member will greet you. You will just need to provide your name and contact information so they know who you are. The sign is free and yours to keep.

monarch on milkweed
If you want to help butterflies, provide plants that they need as caterpillars, such as these milkweed. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

5 reasons to try native plants

One reason to use native plants is that they are so easy to grow. Native plants are usually defined as plants that were here before Europeans arrived. They have adapted to our conditions here and don’t need to be fussed over. If you want a low-maintenance garden, native plants are for you.

Do you like to be trendy? Tuck some native plants into your yard. I used to tell people that if they wanted a plant none of their neighbors had, they should try native plants. Now the idea of using native plants is catching on.

Here are even more reasons to try native plants.

Attract butterflies to your garden

If you want to see pretty butterflies in your garden, you need to provide not only food for the adults, but food for the caterpillars, too.

Some caterpillars, such as monarchs, are quite particular. Monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed.

Gardeners have been adding various types of milkweed to their landscape with good results. And the plants are attractive!

Milkweed plants include:

  • Butterfly weed, also called butterfly flower or Asclepias tuberosa
  • Swamp milkweed or Asclepias incarnata
  • Common milkweed or Asclepias syriaca

See a list of plants, trees and shrubs for caterpillars here.

Attract birds to your garden

You could set out a birdfeeder, which pose problems because they can attract rats and other pests.

Or you could plant native plants.

First, many birds feed caterpillars to their young. If you have a butterfly garden full of caterpillars, you’ll attract more birds.

Doug Tallamy, author of the new book Nature’s Best Hope, was able to increase the number of moth, butterfly and bird species at his 10-acre home in Pennsylvania.

But the best part of his online talk sponsored by the WNY Land Conservancy. in May was when he showed how it was done in a typical suburban yard of about a half acre.

The Missouri gardeners pulled out invasive species and planted native plants. They also put in a water feature they called their bubbler. They then recorded 149 bird species in their yard.

You can do this in a small urban yard, too. A Chicago gardener pulled out invasives, planted 60 species of native species and put in a water feature. Although she has only 1/10 of an acre, which is three times smaller than the average U.S. lot, 103 species of birds used her yard.

Be part of a homegrown national park

“We have carved up the natural world into small tiny remnants of its former self,” Tallamy said. We have tilled the land and paved it, dammed rivers, polluted the skies and introduced invasive plants.

But there is a solution.

“Small efforts from a lot of people are going to deliver enormous physical, psychological and environmental benefits to all people,” he said.

If you can make a difference with a tiny urban garden, what would happen if lots of gardeners across the country planted native plants to sustain wildlife?

Tallamy noted that we have 40 million acres of lawn in the United States. If we all shrank our lawns, cutting them in half, and planted important native plants, we would have 20 million acres of land to help our ecosystem.

That’s an area of land that is as large as the Adirondacks, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Tetons, Canyonlands, Mt. Ranier, North Cascades, Badlands National Park, Olympic National Park, Sequoia National Park, the Grand Canyon, Denali, Great Smoky Mountains– combined.

You can be part of a homegrown national park by planting native plants to support our ecosystem.

2 Comments on “New signs on garden walks, plus why you should try native plants

  1. Thanks for the excellent and informative article on using native plants! Some additional places to purchase natives are: Lockwood’s, Murray Brothers, Johnson’s, and Masterson’s. Masterson’s carries plants propagated at Knox Farm State Park from local seeds. Also Amanda’s Gardens in Dansville does mail order and has an excellent website.

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