Going native can be a smart choice for Michigan landscapes: Giving native plants a chance

posted on February 4, 2013 10:59am

CONTACT: Eileen Gianiodis, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
517-432-1555, ext. 230

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State University Extension horticulture educators are embarking on a new campaign to help Michigan residents become smart gardeners. To launch this effort, they will be presenting smart gardening in a variety of ways at two public shows in Michigan this spring. The Novi Cottage and Lakefront Living Show Feb. 21-24 and the West Michigan Home and Garden Show Feb. 28-March 3 will host a variety of free seminars and informational booths and give visitors a chance to “ask the experts” from MSU Extension about gardening questions.

For more information on a wide variety of smart gardening articles or to find out about smart gardening classes and events, visit www.migarden.msu.edu.

Getting smart around your home

What if you could create a beautiful landscape in your yard with plants that came well-adapted to your soil and climate? Using native plants reduces the need for fertilizing and watering, saving time and energy as well as water. When fall sets in, you’d need fewer protective barriers to prepare your landscape for winter cold. These hardy plants would be perennials with incredible root systems that rebuild the soil, help filter water and resist pests. When you purchase the plants, buying local would be a natural thing to do.

Home landscaping and flower gardens can be designed with native perennial, shrub and tree species. Native plants offer a variety of choices in plant size, flower color and bloom period. Native ground covers are an ideal choice for those interested in cutting back on the amount of turf in their yards.

If you’re not sure where to start with selecting plants, visit MSU’s new website Native Plants and Ecosystem Services. Look under the Regional Plant Lists section for recommendations for the southern and northern halves of the Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula. The handy tables for wildflowers, ferns, trees/shrubs/vines and grasses/sedges/rushes identify how much sun and moisture each needs and indicates the flower color and average plant height. In the “Plant Facts” section of the website are fact sheets with pictures and notes from MSU researchers about how attractive each plant is to pollinators and to natural enemies that help control pests.

For any new planting, Michigan State University Extension recommends testing the soil in the area you want to plant, and retesting every three years. The results from your initial test can help plant suppliers guide you through selecting plants that fit your garden’s conditions.

When you’re ready to shop, you’ll find that many nurseries have recently expanded to include native plants in their inventory. Some plant producers specialize in seeds and plants that are grown in Michigan and originate from Michigan genotypes. These growers are members of the Michigan Native Plant Producers Association, and you can find them listed at their website.

Take it up a notch with a Certified Wildlife Habitat

If you have a soft spot for wildlife, and many of us in Michigan do, you can be intentional about choosing plants that appeal to the birds and other wildlife you’d like to support. The National Wildlife Federation says you can create a Certified Wildlife Habitat in any size space from an apartment balcony to a 20-acre farm. It offers extensive information on its website.

Smart shorelines

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says Michigan has more than 36,000 miles of streams, and more than 11,000 lakes and ponds. You can have a beautiful lakefront protected against erosion with a careful planting of upland plants along with native shoreline and shallow-water plants. MSU Extension has two publications on landscaping along a lake or other body of water. The four-page “Natural Shoreline Landscape” offers advice for creating landscapes that restore and preserve the shoreline. The more comprehensive “Natural Shoreline Landscapes on Michigan’s Inland Lakes” is 70 pages with images, diagrams and thorough descriptions. Visit the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership website for resources at bit.ly/miShoreline.

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