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Sustainability Learning Lab at Bellevue University

Native plants have formed symbiotic relationships with native wildlife over thousands of years, and therefore offer the most sustainable habitat. A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction.

Exotic plants that evolved in other parts of the world or were cultivated by humans into forms that don’t exist in nature do not support wildlife as well as native plants. Occasionally, they can even escape into the wild and become invasive exotics that destroy natural habitat.

Native plants help the environment the most when planted in places that match their growing requirements. They will thrive in the soils, moisture and weather of your region. That means less supplemental watering, which can be wasteful, and pest problems that require toxic chemicals. Native plants also assist in managing rain water runoff and maintain healthy soil as their root systems are deep and keep soil from being
compacted.                                                                                                                                                                 The National Wildlife Federation                                                                                                                                                              

How to Design a Native Plants Garden

One of the biggest criticisms of native plants is that they often look too wild, unkempt and messy.  Grasses dominate while wildflowers struggle to provide the visual impact desired in a landscape.  Wild is as wild does.

So how do we tame the wildness of the prairie? How do we design a native plant garden that doesn’t look so wild?  Is it even possible?  I believe it can be done.  You can have the beauty of the prairie and all the benefits of a native ecosystem with a properly designed native garden.

  1. Match plants to your site. Look at your landscape.  Is it sunny or in the shade?  Is the soil clay or sand?  Evaluate these elements and choose plants that will thrive in the microclimate of your yard.
  2. Design for succession of bloom. There are no Wave Petunias in the prairie or plants that bloom all season, so choose plants that will bloom in spring, summer and fall.  If you go to the prairie throughout the year, you will observe wildflowers coming into or out of bloom. The prairie is constantly changing.  Design with those changes in mind.
  3. Group similar plants together. Fifteen blazing stars blooming in the summer create a focal point in the landscape.  Place them next to a spring blooming wildflower and a fall blooming wildflower and you have organized the display for year round interest.  Use grasses sparingly to frame the garden or as a backdrop for some of your wildflowers.
  4. Keep your plants in scale. Choose plants that don’t grow taller than half the bed width.  So if your display bed is six feet wide choose plants that are no more than three feet tall. 
  5. Define the space. A well-designed native garden can be enhanced with a border.  It can be edged with limestone, brick or some other natural material. 
  6. Control Perennial Weeds. You will save yourself many headaches by eradicating problem weeds like bindweed and Bermuda grass before you plant.                                                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                                                                              Dyck Arboretum Blog

Look what's blooming!    

May 8, 2020                           

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July 1, 2020

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June 2021 - Back for another year, better than ever

                       

 

Planted in October 2019, the native plants garden came through a challenging winter to bloom throughout the Spring and Summer. All plants are native to North America and most are native to eastern Nebraska. Plants are not the only living things the garden supports. Insects are also an important part of the picture, serving as pollinators, decomposers, and food for birds and other organisms.  Soil samples and other data were recorded throughout the Spring and Summer.

Species of plants spotted i 2020 include:

Zizea aurea - a native member of the carrot family

Aquilegia canadenss - a native Nebraska columbine

Geranium masculatium - a wild geranium native to the Midwest

Bracketed Spiderwort


Echinacea pallida - pale purple coneflower, in the Aster family

Silphium integrifolium - Rosen weed, in the Aster family

Liatris punctata - Dotted Blazing Star, in the Aster family

and many more.

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Photos by Tyler Moore

2021

Now in its second year, the native bees have been spotted enjoying the garde on flowers such as the bright yellow zizia aurea blooms.

 

Native Plants Resources