When it comes to choosing plants, Mark Micek urges gardeners to go native.
“Short-lived annuals tend to require large quantities of water to survive our often dry summers in the Midwest,” says the project ecologist with Tallgrass Restoration in Schaumburg, IL. “This can lead to large water consumption bills, as well as put unnecessary strain on local aquifers.”
In contrast, “native plants historically found in this region are adapted to our unique climate, so they can survive the range of moisture conditions that typically stress ornamental plantings,” he explains. “Additionally, most native plants are perennials and do not need to be replanted each season."
According to Appleton, WI-based Wild Ones:
Native plants have evolved and adapted to local conditions over thousands of years. They are vigorous and hardy, so can survive winter cold and summer heat. Once established, they require no irrigation or fertilization. They are resistant to most pests and diseases. Thus, native plants suit today's interest in "low-maintenance" gardening and landscaping.
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Southwest Austin, TX, offers a searchable database of more than 7,000 native plants—a great source of inspiration for our green-thumbed readers.
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