Iris cristata, aka dwarf crested iris.

Iris cristata, aka dwarf crested iris. 

Last month, the Wildflower Bunch hosted a members-only luncheon featuring Night Song Native Nursery owner and operator Katy Ross, who enlightened dozens of members about landscaping with native plants that contribute to the local ecosystem. Katy is a Georgia Certified Plant Professional with an associate degree in environmental horticulture and a master’s degree in education. She believes in promoting ecologically friendly landscapes with native plants. Together with her husband Edward, she is building a sustainable native plant nursery in nearby Canton.

Asclepias tuberosa, aka butterfly weed.

Asclepias tuberosa, aka butterfly weed.

Iris fulva, aka copper iris.

Iris fulva, aka copper iris.

Katy shared many interesting facts about the importance of ensuring the future of restoring biodiversity by planting native plants (plants indigenous to a particular geographic region) and removing invasive plants. Native plant species support local wildlife, including insects such as bees, butterflies, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. From the bottom of the food web to the next ring of the web, native plants feed all kinds of creatures that visit our yards.

With Katy’s permission, the WFB is proud to share a few highlights of her presentation, as well as some wisdom from Douglas W. Tallamy’s book, “Bringing Nature Home,” a must-read for anyone interested in growing and nurturing native plant gardens.

“Native plants and insect species have co-evolved for thousands, if not millions, of years on this continent, and 90% of herbivorous insects are specialists requiring a specific genus of plants on which to feed,” explained Katy.

Native perennials like coneflowers and milkweed attract a range of pollinators, including beautiful monarch butterflies. “Songbirds need protein from caterpillars and insects, not seed and berries, to fledge their young (96% of birds rear their young exclusively on insects). Lepidoptera—moths and butterflies—that evolved on this continent need the plants they evolved with to host their caterpillars,” she said.

Native Garden

A beautiful, native plant garden acts as a backdrop for the sign at Night Song Nursery. 

“Through accidental introduction or perhaps planted for ornamental, livestock or land use purposes, invasive plants are taking over and destroying urban, suburban and rural areas. Privet, kudzu, bamboo, English ivy, mimosa, Bradford pear and Japanese honeysuckle are well known invaders,” Katy continued.

There are many trees and shrubs that are native alternatives for developers to consider utilizing in landscape plans including: oak, willow, cherry and blueberries, to name a few. In addition, the financial benefits of native landscapes include less maintenance and chemicals, as well as their ability to withstand local weather fluctuations and harsh conditions.

There are beautiful native alternatives to exotics for every corner of your landscape; by supporting biodiversity, your choices in the garden can make a beneficial impact on our ecology.

According to Douglas Tallamy, there is no time to waste. “We are at a critical point of losing so many species from local ecosystems that their ability to produce the oxygen, clean water, flood control, pollination, pest control, carbon storage, etc., that is, the ecosystem services that sustain us, will become seriously compromised.”

Echinacea purpurea, aka purple coneflower.

Echinacea purpurea, aka purple coneflower.

On a final note, Katy encouraged gardeners to buy from growers who can guarantee they do not use synthetic pesticides. “The gold standard in plant production for native plants is locally sourced, open-pollinated, seed-grown plant material to capture local ecotypes and genetic diversity.”

Below are some links and references Katy provided for more information.

- www.nps.gov or www.invasive.org: Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, UGA

-www.gaeppc.org: Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council

- www.sustainablesites.org: Sustainable Sites Initiative, GBCI

- www.bringingnaturehome.net: Douglas Tallamy, Ph.D.

- www.appliedeco.com: Applied Ecological Services, Inc.

- www.nightsongnatives.com: Night Song Native Plant Nursery, LLC

We appreciate Katy sharing her words of wisdom and instilling a desire to perpetuate ecological diversity while providing wildlife habitats in Georgia as a living legacy to our children and future generations.