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Excellent! But I think "native v. nonnative" or a similar phrase would avoid the confusion that's caused by "native v. invasive". I hear from people who literally think the opposite of native is invasive.

It seems to me that this is a battle that has already been lost, and what we need to concentrate on is creating healthy landscapes free of poisons, whatever their composition.

The more people who are into gardening, the more interest there will be in all plants. Going native is the road less traveled but one that will continue to have appeal. Thank you for the highly educational post!

Our yard is full of Japanese honeysuckle, and you'll never see a nesting bird use them to feed her fledglings. That a biologist from Penn State publishes something that doesn't make sense is no longer surprising. The backlash against native plants is foolhardy. If only a small percentage of urban homeowners would follow what professor Tallamy preaches, it would make a huge difference in our country, both biologically and aesthetically.

I'm a big Doug Tallemy fan, but when I took the list of native plants in his book for Michigan I could not find a nursery that grew those trees and shrubs. I learned that virtually all the "native plant" nurseries grow native wildflowers and native water plants. So while his story makes absolute sense, the industry does not.

Elizabeth,what an excellent rebuttal article suggested by Tallamy.
Sunday morning was spent watching a dozen or so Cedar Waxwing (a bird that migrates through our city) raid the Juniper berries from our garden. The birds would sit high up in the still bare branches of a Maple tree while people or cars passed by, then during quite moments fly into the lower Junipers to snatch the small bluish berries.
My garden is filled with creatures year round as a result of the diversity and richness of planting even here in a major city.

Gardening with many plants native to this area has been productive and personally rewarding.

What always strikes me as odd about the native plant debate is that it is so artificially two-sided. As if there were only two landscape options, native or non-native, and anything in between was beyond our imaginations to comprehend and ponder.

One more point, the fundamental goal of restoration, conservation and preservation is not to restore to some point in history,but to restore the biodiversity of an area. This includes the genetic diversity within individual species and the number of species in a given community. The knowledge base for a functioning ecosystem is pretty extensive for many habitats, but learning more is an ongoing field of study.

A cool little video that puts a simple spin on the idea can be found at the following link.

A longer more complex video.

Jeff, I don't know if it would work in your area, but try contacting your closest agricultural extension service and explain what you're looking for; they might be able to put you in touch with a local group that grows natives for your area. These kind of groups are all over, but often don't do much advertising, but they often have sales of plant starts in the Spring. Our local watershed group raises money and awareness by contracting with a local nursery to grow native plants and tree seedlings for an annual sale, and the plants sell for incredibly reasonable prices.

I'm lucky enough to be in an area with a really good botanical garden that has native plant sales daily, as well as an awesome local independant nursery that carries a lot of natives. It's made it easy for me to go mostly native in my gardening...and frankly, I've taken up collecting native plants the way that I used to collect Magic cards. "Oooh, Appalachian mock-orange! I don't have any of that yet!" "Rattlesnake Master! Awesome!" My garden'll probably never win any awards for design, what with the plant-collection-style going on, but now that I've gone down the native road, I can't imagine returning to big-box store shrubs.

(Also, Jeff--mail order is your friend! You'll have to check native status, of course, but I know Niche Gardens does a lot of native shrubs and has great plants. And have you checked the Michigan Native Plant Producers Association website?)

I saw Doug Tallamy speak last year at our State's native plant symposium and really enjoyed it. I don't think all hope is lost, it does take education though. Our master gardener group is at the local farmers markets most weekends, and I spend a lot of time talking to people about alternatives to things like Bradford Pear (bleck!) Most people are fairly receptive and really have no idea- they just want their house to look nice and comply with HOA restrictions.

Jeff, my local Lowe's has native plants. They even mark them as native. Last weekend, I saw silver maples, viburum dentatum, highbush blueberry, moutain laurel, and native azaleas. (Not to mention all the native perennials they routinely sell.)

Birds eat berries. Some are nutritious, some are not and are merely "bird doritos". One of the flaws of the Penn State study.

To counter - the correlation of (the exotic invasive) Lonicera maackii and tick born disease:

Finally, I don't know that there is a native plant backlash. The NY Times published my op-ed on biodiversity loss due to urbanization the week prior: "When New York City Bloomed":


The only way we can go about "creating healthy landscapes" is through the inclusion of more indigenous plants.

The battle is not "lost" because it is not over: as long as people continue to make choices about what to plant, there is always the possibility that some of the people can make a better choice some of the time.

Welcome to the discussion Marielle Anzelone. I have been very happy to see your increased voice for native plantings,especially in the city.

If I had a larger property, I would have at least one redwood tree, if not more--I love the smell of them and their fallen-bits mulch.

The only thing good I can say about ewwwcalyptus is that tencel is one of my favorite fabrics. It's a good use for that huge hulking allergen. I've never been able to tolerate the smell of them, acacia (there is a native variety in the Bay Area that makes me ill), or carob/St. John's Bread trees. I do rather like the stuff *called* ice plant that may actually be something else, but using it for erosion control on canyon hillsides and sand dunes is a good place for it.

If Bradford Pears are the "ornamental pear" trees that were in front of the International dorm (Oldenborg) at Pomona College, then you couldn't pay me to have them--the scent made, and probably still makes, me gag.

The people who owned this house before us (don't know how many owners back) planted "generica" all over, instead of planting named plants that one could admire, smell, and be happy to look at. I know you'll know what I did after moving in...At least they left the two magnolias and the lovely spruce that may have been planted late in the 50s.

I'm glad he's coming out with another book because I was really disappointed with his first. I understood the point he was trying to make, and agree with it wholeheartedly, but I just couldn't understand why everyone's been swooning over the book. His landscaping information was really vague and uninformed, he resorted to 'emotional argument' oftentimes (i.e. blaming cats for bird population declines, etc.), and made huge generalizations applied nationwide based on his experiences in a small mid-Atlantic area. Heck, he even left out a huge part of the west in his regional recommendations as if it just wasn't there. I kept asking myself, 'This is the work of a scientist?' Great bug pictures, however. He is returning to my state to give a public talk (fourth one in three years) and this time I'm going in the hope I become a fan.

BTW, I tried reading that Thompson piece (thank you for posting the link) and it rambled all over the place. No wonder you couldn't summarize it.

Tallamy's book is not really a landscaping book, but that doesn't make it "uninformed". The point of the book is that the plants we use matter, ecologically speaking. Tallamy makes that point clearly, convincingly, and without emotion.

His book is really the first book that does that, which is why people are "swooning".

And free-range cats really ARE a problem. I like cats (that's emotion) but they kill a lot of birds (that's fact).

Yes, let's also work on NOT thinking we need Miracle Grow or TruGreen. We do not NEED fertilizer and chemicals as soon as things green up and it hits 70. MY GOD! All the damn commercials this time of year--I tossed my coffee able into the TV!!!

I love plants...native, non native and I think having gardens that help support wildlife are wonderful...I get tons of birds, lizards, squirrels and butterflies!
BUT this video made me think about plant migration if you will : )
The PBS series is called the Botany of Desire

GardenRant - thanks for finally lending the floor to someone who has given this area of information thorough scientific research.

Tallamy's book, and podcast on Timber Press' website, gave me the first inkling of understanding that people advocating for use of native plants are not merely trying to re-create a museum of only-natives, but are instead trying for enough biodiversity to feed the insects (and therefore birds) that rely exclusively on certain types of plant to procreate and eat.

Michelle, your comment about how we've already lost this battle shows such a woeful misunderstanding of natives that I am thoroughly dismayed. Obviously we have not already lost the battle, if there are still insects and birds alive who rely on these plants.

I don't think the native plant movement is saying you can't enjoy other plants, too. I certainly use non-natives. As a landscaper and maintenance gardener I use primarily non-natives. But I keep natives in mind and use them whenever possible/ appropriate to help support our wildlife and ecosystems.

As Tallamy aptly pointed out - sometimes we have areas that need a plant, any plant, just to fill the space. If you're not yet a big enough fan of your local native plants to put them in the most visible areas of your garden, why not slot them into the backdrop? Doesn't hurt you, and it helps these birds and bugs survive.

Thanks,Gloria! I appreciate that. And Vincent - hi and you are spot on. Genevieve - you are exactly right. It's not about *only* natives. It's being ecologically thoughtful when we create our landscapes.

Hi GardenRant. I love you! Best blog ever.

You should know this about the NY Times changes - you don't get "charged" for coming to their site from a link on a blog. See this: "Readers who come to Times articles through links from search engines, blogs and social media will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit. This allows new and casual readers to continue to discover our content on the open Web. On all major search engines, users will have a daily limit on free links to Times articles."

Its from the editor's letter, linked here:

So link away and we can read more for free!!

I'm using more and more natives and certainly seeing a lot more local critters and birds in my yard now. It's nice to go outside and hear all the birds. I can go just a few houses over and hear none and see no life in their yard, while mine is full of local insects, lizards, spiders, etc.

I think we have to garden for all the creatures around us, and to suit our environment, not just for ourselves.

I live in the woods, there are poplars, maples, beech, oak, dogwoods, cherry, laurels and even a huge walnut on my property. I've tried hard to introduce not only native perennials but vines and shrubs as well. Guess what happens, the deer find the natives to be far more appetizing then anything else. They are happy to by pass my hosta and azalea to dine on sweetspires, fringe trees, witch hazel and bittersweet. So while it sounds romantic to have a garden full of natives the fact is that in doing so you will also have to deal with the 'natives' that have somewhere in the dna a memory of eating those yummy, long lost natives!

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