For many years, I worked as a wetland biologist at an ecological firm and spent a lot of time in the field observing native plants and the wildlife that rely on these ecosystems. I saw the devastating effects of invasive plants, some of which had escaped from residential gardens. It is important to understand that not all plants support wildlife equally.
Native plants support native birds, insects and wildlife. When invasive plants take over our gardens, natural areas, and parks, they decrease biodiversity and threaten habitats. Invasive vines twist themselves around trees and overtake the canopy ultimately killing trees that provide storm water benefits, shade, habitat and minimize erosion.
When I was home in the city, I saw urban gardens full of non-native and invasive plants. I wondered, why aren’t more people growing native plants and edibles in their gardens? I saw a lot of potential for these urban garden spaces to be filled with native plants, pollinators, and wildlife. That is what compelled me to put my plant knowledge to good use and start Purple Garden, a garden design business.
Native plants are also adapted to the climate they evolved in, which makes them less likely to require irrigation. Some of my favorite easy to grow Northwest natives include: Douglas hawthorn, blue blossom, vine maple, mock orange, highbush cranberry, Indian plum, salal, vine maple, evergreen huckleberry, red flowering current, black twinberry, snowberry, evergreen huckleberry, Oregon grape, alumroot, Cardwell’s penstemmon, piggy-back plant, wild ginger, white yarrow, deer fern, checker mallow, sword fern, and trillium.
To learn more about native plants, check local web sites for information on native plant sales in your area. You can typically buy plants for much less than retail prices. In the Portland Metro area, contact the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, Backyard Habitat Program for information on their spring/fall native plant sales.