Maintaining a garden in your yard can be challenging for those who don’t possess a green thumb, but one way gardeners and homeowners can improve their odds is to carefully consider what plants to choose when planning that garden.
The Cape May County Herald reports that this consideration was the topic of a lecture presented on February 11th at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension by Christine Clemenson. Gardeners, landscapers, homeowners, and educators of all skill levels were invited to find out more about the native plant life in Cape May County and how that figures into local gardening.
Clemenson and her husband own the Clemenson Farms Native Nursery, a garden that specializes in plants native to the county. The plants are sold wholesale, usually to landscapers and municipalities. Three times a year, however, the garden becomes a retail market, opening up the plants to the public at large. In addition to selling the plants, the garden hosts lectures and demonstrations on everything from garden trains to butterfly gardening.
“Trying to educate people — that’s one of our goals,” Clemenson said.
In her lecture, which was titled “Growing Native: The Beauty and Ecology of Native Plants in the Landscape,” Clemenson explained that planting native plants, as opposed to plants foreign to the area, is advantageous for both the gardener and the garden itself. Because native plants adapt to the soil better than foreign plants, they present less work for a gardener to do. Among other things, the plants do not have to be watered or groomed that often.
Native plants also happen to be good for the environment, both in and outside the garden. Mentioning the fact that 60 to 70 million birds are poisoned every year by pesticides, herbicides, and pollution, Clemenson noted that native plants help prevent runoff of these pollutants to nearby lakes, rivers, and streams due to their deep roots.
She also claimed that native plants are even better for tourism. Native plants attract birds and insects that need to pollinate; they also attract wildlife in need of food. Fishing, hunting, and bird-watching are all major tourism industries in New Jersey. Having ample native plants ensures that there are enough birds, wildlife, and fish to keep the industry going.
Finally, Clemenson stressed that not all New Jersey plants are considered “native” to Cape May County. Because the county is part of the outer coastal plains, its soil is different from, for example, the soil found in Newark or Trenton. Soil characteristics are instrumental to the health and growth of any plant.
“Plant selection is key to creating every garden plan,” says Michael Garrett, Sales Consultant at Borsello Landscaping. “There is an inherent risk associated with introducing any plants to a new habitat. The use of native species is a great way to limit that risk.”
During the second half of the presentation, local gardener Evelyn Lovitz focused on “invasive plants,” which are foreign plants that are actually harmful to the local ecosystem. These plants can ward off birds, insects, and wildlife needed for pollination. They also take up space, sun, and water that would have gone to the native plants. Invasive plants are typically stronger than native plants and are harder to eradicate.
Lovitz also discussed invasive species, which are foreign organisms accidentally or intentionally introduced to a native area. Though invasive species can damage the local ecosystem, they are also helpful with tasks such as soil erosion control.