By Carl Johnson, Carl Johnson Real Estate
Featured Photo by Isaiah N Lilly/Shutterstock.com
The Triangle is literally in bloom this time of year! Surrounded by vibrant greens, the work in the garden is just getting started and the seemingly never ending battle of weeding and mowing has only just begun. But, what if there is a way to help beautiful natural gardens grow that could mean less fighting of the weeds for you, and supporting the natural growth of your neighborhood? Native gardens are not only a hot new trend, but are proving to be beneficial for the environment and animal life.
A Native garden promotes the growth of greenery that was originally native to the area. In growing indigenous plants, the native species of insects, birds, and other animals, benefit from the food and shelter these plants provide. Some quick research and planning can have a lasting positive impact on your surroundings. It doesn’t matter whether you plant one row of flowers, or reconstruct your full landscape, having native plants is a step forward to a healthier Earth.
What are the benefits to growing a native garden?
Native flora can be just as visually appealing as a non-native garden, but the main benefit to planting native is the ecological impact. Indigenous plants support and allow biodiversity to grow, which is essential to all life on Earth. From proper plant pollination to purifying the air and water, biodiversity is a constantly moving cycle supporting life through all of its stages. Over-manicured lawns and the planting of only “big-store bought flowers” decrease the diversity of available plant life. As areas like the Triangle continue to grow and develop, the natural landscape gets changed and it becomes even more important to replace the native plants that were there. Local insects and pollinators will see a decrease in population as our local plants get removed. A decrease in insects sets off a chain reaction that negatively impacts most other animal life.
Another benefit of native gardens is that they can be low maintenance. Since these plants are indigenous, they are typically more resistant to the diseases and pests of the area, and adapted to the local soil type. Once proper native perennials are planted, especially seasonal native plants, your garden will continue to grow and bloom on its own. Pollinators will thrive with these additions and will help your garden to grow and survive year after year.
A less impactful reason to plant native, but a rather interesting take, is that native plant life ties the area to its history and how the community originally looked and felt. For history-rich areas such as North Carolina, having native plants helps to tell the story of its many historic towns and homes.
What plants are local to the Triangle Area? And how to plant them!
Native plants are determined by your specific location known as an ecoregion. These ecoregions have different levels, Level I being the broadest, to Level III which gives specifics to smaller areas housed in the Level I and II ecoregions. The EPA gives detailed maps of the Ecoregions in North America which show that most of the Triangle falls under Level III 8.3.4 – Southeastern USA Plains – Piedmont. Though, it is best to use the EPA resources for your specific home when starting your native garden. Once you know your exact Ecoregion you can research which types of plant life are native to your home.
As specified by the EPA’s Ecoregions, the Triangle falls under the area Level III 8.3.4 – Southeastern USA Plains – Piedmont, but what does this mean to you as you start your native garden? It is important to first look at the area you are planting in and take into consideration size, soil type and drainage, and sunlight exposure. After all just because a plant is native does not mean it will thrive or be easy to tend to. NC State’s Gardener Handbook suggests planting in layers if you are able to. From tall canopy trees down to the lowest ground layer, you can find native plants throughout.
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is a fantastic resource where you can search by zip code for plants that are native to your area. They even offer a ranking that shows the number of butterflies and moths that use each specific plant for their caterpillars, helping to directly promote biodiversity. Below are a few of the native plants listed for the Raleigh zip codes found on the NWF website.
Flowers and Grasses: Atlantic Goldenrod (Solidago), Virginia Strawberry (Fragaria), Giant Sunflower (Helianthus), Arrowleaf Violet (Viola), Carolina Geranium (Geranium), Broadleaf Ironweed (Veronia), Beaked Panicgrass (Panicum)
Trees and Shrubs: Oak (Quercus), Chickasaw Plum (Prunus), Red Maple (Acer), Coastal Plain Willow (Salix), Crabapple (Malus), American Beech (Fagus), American Elm (Ulmus), Pond Pine (Pinus)
What is happening locally to support Native Plants? What Can You Do?
You may have heard of No-Shave November but what about No-Mow May? This event took place in May throughout the country and promotes no lawn mowing for the whole month of May. The end result is an increase in plant and flower growth giving the pollinator species the resources and food they need to survive as they come out of their hibernation. The town of Carrboro participated in No-Mow May as a part of their Bee City USA initiative. You can take the idea of mowing less often throughout the entire summer, not just May, to help promote native species growth.
There are also a variety of places to visit to learn more on native plants, specifically local botanical gardens. The North Carolina Botanical Garden located in Chapel Hill, Juniper Level Botanical Garden in Raleigh, and JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh are all breathtaking, relaxing, and educational gardens to visit where you can enjoy the outdoors while learning about native plants and how you can help promote them!
A smaller and simpler task than rebuilding your whole garden can be adding a rain barrel to your downspouts. A rain barrel can hold up to 55 gallons of water which you can in turn use to water your flowers and garden while decreasing your water bill. This simple way of going green aids the environment through natural water conservation, benefits you through money savings, and can be very aesthetically pleasing!
Another small impact you can have is to look into whether or not you have a green HOA. A green HOA is one who makes an active choice to use companies, materials, plants and landscaping designs that are both energy-efficient and eco-friendly. A simple letter asking your HOA to explore this route can have a beneficial long-term effect for your neighborhood.
A Native Garden: Helping Your Neighborhood and Your Neighborhood Wildlife
Native Gardens are a trend that is not going away and hopefully will become the way of gardening in the future. Building a whole garden around native plants can be a challenge, but for many, gardening is a passion and taking the time and care to give back to your land through your plant choice can be very rewarding. If you live somewhere without an area to garden, try putting some local Carolina geraniums in a hanging basket and watch the butterflies flock to it. No matter the size, one small step forward can have a lasting impact!
When looking to buy a home it is important to keep in mind those values that are of importance to you. That is why working with a local experienced buyer’s agent is the way to go. If going green and ideals such as a native garden are important to you, a buyer’s agent can help you research the area’s HOA to see if they support these same goals. Your agent can also help to direct you to an area of town that is rich in history and preserving the natural culture of the area. A buyer’s agent will protect your best interests as a buyer and make sure to keep your needs top of mind.
Carl Johnson, Realtor, Broker
I’ve lived in the Triangle area since 1986, and it has always been home in my heart. I attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for high school and college, where I studied voice. After graduating, I decided to enter the business world, where I worked in several marketing, publishing and advertising endeavors, one which took me across the United States prior to my real estate career. After years of local real estate experience, I am now the proud Founder of Carl Johnson Real Estate and lead my company of experienced agents, along with our in-house operations and marketing teams. We are a referral driven company putting our clients first while going above and beyond expectations with a focus on detail and client needs. Learn more about Carl Johnson and Carl Johnson Real Estate by visiting www.CarlJohnsonRealEstate.com.