What do you picture when you think of a beautiful residential landscape? Do you see a perfectly manicured lawn that is dotted with shrubs cut into circles and squares? A yard with exotic plants? A yard with native plants? Maybe you picture a wildflower meadow, a coastal scene with Dune Sunflowers, or a beautiful Longleaf Pine forest. If you ask me, the first scenario of lawn grass and shrubs cut into bizarre shapes is best suited for Disneyworld. While this “type” of landscape might seem appealing some, sustainable gardeners know that life does not live in a fertilized lawn or in shrubs that are cropped weekly to maintain their perfect shape. Birds will not take up residence in these manhandled bushes or use them for shelter. Every time I go visit a friend at her condo, I look at the landscaping. Some of the plants are native to Florida while some are not, but they all have one thing in common. They are all cut into strange forms or something else that looks like it came from outer-space. When I leave, I am always greeted by a rather sad Walter’s Viburnum that has been sliced and diced into a giant globe. Mr. Viburnum
will never flower for pollinating insects or support our feathered friends that would otherwise use his twiggy branches for landing. On the other hand, there are too many landscapes with only exotic plants. Imagine that you have a crush on someone you find very attractive, but after the first dinner date, you are put off by their dull personality. One might say that a lot of exotic plants are one-dimensional in the same way. They look good on the outside, but that’s it. Unfortunately, exotics are the scene in most Florida neighborhoods. Taking a walk through your urban hood might leave you feeling like you are in Africa or Asia without the cost of a plane ticket. Of course, not all non-native exotic plants should get an immediate sandle-kick back to their homeland. Some of them have a place in our gardens, such as homegrown fruits and veggies, herbs or a select few “Florida friendly” plants like those Old Fashioned Pentas.
Ideally, a well thought out landscape should consist of mostly native plants. This includes trees, shrubs, vines and wildflowers. As more land is clear-cut for development at an astounding rate, more folks are beginning to look at their own landscapes as a sanctuary for wildlife. Native trees, shrubs and wildflowers have coevolved with our birds, insects, mammals and amphibians. It is by nature’s design that native trees and shrubs begin to put on berries right when the birds need them for
nourishment. Spring wildflowers show up just in time for pollinating insects. Beetles and flies nectar from these wildflowers and become a vital food source for spring songbirds. Plants that are native to Florida are what make our region so unique and give us a sense of belonging. You wouldn’t want to visit Colorado and find exoti
c trees from China. No, you came to see Blue Spruce and Quaking Aspen trees that are representative of that part of the region and the wildlife that uses them.
Luckily, there is a growing demand among Florida gardeners for native plants. People are really beginning to see that Florida native plants are what make a landscape beautiful inside and out. To see what native plants grow in your neck of the w
oods and to find a Florida native plants nursery in your area, visit Florida Association of Native Nurseries HERE. Also, visit Florida Native Plant Society for a list of natives for your area and so much more HERE.