There is an ongoing trend for communities to forego conventional landscaping methods and reintroduce plants that are indigenous to the area.
With conventional landscaping, we have removed the native plants and replaced them with “industrial plant." These are non-native perennials and ornamental shrubs that provide a functional value such as a border, hedge or ground cover. Conventional landscaping is based on aesthetics, certainly not for ecological reasons. These are the plants recommended by landscapers, designers and the garden industry. If the climate, soil and environment do not support the plants, then we make changes so they do support them. We remove the existing soil and bring in new soil. We add irrigation, pesticides, fertilizers, weed killer and ornamental mulch. Then there is the constant maintenance adding more chemicals to the lawns every year. This type of landscaping is costly and has little beneficial value to the wildlife that is indigenous to the area.
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Natural landscaping or “naturescaping” is a far better approach then the conventional methods. Rather then using industrial plants and shrubs, plants that are indigenous to the area are used. It is more economical, needs less maintenance, consumes less water and by eliminating chemicals it is healthier. They thrive in the environment that nature has provided. They also attract the songbirds that feed on the specialized plants that they have co-evolved with.
A benefit of native landscaping is that it defines one community from another, rather than having sterilized looking communities that all look alike. The natural flora of an area gives that community a particular sense of place, distinguishing it from other areas.
If you are curious about native plants and want to see how a native landscaping looks, visit the Margate Native Demonstration Garden located the Margate Municipal Building on the corner of Winchester and Vendome avenues. The Sustainable Margate green team set up the garden with the cooperation of the city to show what a native garden could look like and which plants are native to the area.
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For more information you can also visit web sites like the Native Plant Society of New Jersey Southeast Chapter, npsnj.org and Surfriders Ocean Friendly Gardens.
Sustainable Downbeach is working toward creating a healthier, friendlier community with an eye on protecting the environment. For information or to get involved see Sustainable Downbeach on Facebook.