One way to keep green in your yard—and keep costs down—is to landscape using native plants, trees and shrubs. Using plants that grow naturally in your area supports natural habitat for wildlife, and maintains the integrity and balance of the local ecosystem. We found some useful resources for native landscaping in several states.
One great program available through state forestry agencies is the inexpensive purchase of tree seedlings. For example, North Carolina offers a large selection of soft- and hardwoods with information on mature size, preferred growing conditions and potential for timber harvest. Many states encourage natural heritage program participation through seedling stores that offer a variety or native plants including grasses and other shrubs and flowers.
The state forestry service may also be able to provide an assessment of your woodlands, an essential review to understand how to maintain and nurture a healthy forest. In Maine we can contact a local state forester for the region, who will visit and assess tree stands in his or her area and provide a detailed assessment.
While non-native plants can provide additional color and interest in a landscape, the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension warns that some non-native plants have escaped residential beds and populated nearby areas, crowding out native species. One example in Maine is purple loosestrife, which has colonized many wetlands in Maine to the detriment of local species.
The Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program helps residents identify plants in two specific areas: Palustrine (wetlands, ponds and streams) and Terrestrial (forests and highlands). Residents can learn which plants are common in their particular area and develop a plan to maintain or reintroduce native species in their own backyard. Many other states participate in the Natural Heritage Program. Check for links on your state’s natural resources website for more information.
Your local landscape company can also help to identify both native and non-invasive non-native plants to add to your gardens. Some states also offer a list of nurseries that offer a wide selection of native plants and trees.
Finally, make note of any potential pest or disease issues that may affect native species in your state. For example, native ash trees in Maine are being closely monitored for an invasive pest called the emerald ash borer, which can severely damage and kill healthy trees. Again, a local forester can assist in identifying these threats to a healthy landscape and how to combat them.