Creating Welcoming Shared Spaces

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Natural order is hospitable

Planting Yesterday For Tomorrow

As I wander about on my daily walks, I often find myself dreaming into the past. Within living memory, often not long ago at all, our Maritime Northwestern back yards looked much like the magnificent forests that draw zillions of visitors to our region. Tall firs and bushy cedars rose above thickets of flower-and-fruit bearing shrubs; huckleberry and snowberry, salmon berry and thimbleberry, currants and wild cranberry, wild apple and wild cherry. Foamy ocean spray frothed above wild roses and hazelnuts, teaberry and salal, mock orange and honeysuckle. Rhododendrons and maples throve under the high canopy, interlaced with annuals and perennials, ferns and mosses. The woodlands supported huge numbers of birds and other wild creatures, including several hundred species of native bees and other pollinators. They also supported Tribal people who knew how to coexist with the natural environment that provided everything they needed.

Today, these same places often look pretty much like a yard in Anywhere, USA; some lawn (often mossy), a few classic (ie non-native) shrubs, maybe some perennials. Oh, and lots of bare earth (so tidy!). How did this rather bleak model become a standard of “proper” landscaping? There are many factors, including conformity, the urge to control and tame nature, and favoring a simple yardscape that doesn’t require much thought to maintain, all understandable. For people moving here from other regions, whether a century or a year ago, those wild woods may have seemed intimidating. If so, then and now, it might feel comforting to be surrounded by the same kind of yard they knew back wherever.

Inhospitable Or Welcoming

Unfortunately, such bare bones simple landscapes are not hospitable places for wildlife or people. As the world is changing, fewer places are hospitable and most are getting less so each year. Though we can’t control corporate destruction-for-profit or half hearted pollution solutions, everyone with a patch of land (or even a patio) can make a home for the living things we share space with. Many native pollinators have a very limited range and even a small patch of native plants can become a haven for them, and for birds and frogs and other critters as well. I’m often asked if we have to give up all our beloved garden plants and grow only natives. Not at all, as many non-invasive garden plants, from kale to crepe myrtles, provide food and shelter for wildlife. However, one practical way to make our landscapes more hospitable is to remove any plants on weed watch lists and replace them with natives. Like what? The Kitsap County noxious weed list includes butterfly bush (buddleia, aka lilac, though it is not related), ivy, purple loosetrife, and tansy ragwort. Since these plants are sadly common, many people don’t realize that they can outcompete natives and infiltrate wild areas.

Among the most invasive are English laurel, English holly, Scotch broom, Scotch thistle, European daphne, European hawthorne, European mountain ash, European viburnum, Norway maple. Do you detect a theme? Plants brought by early colonists came across country with them, seeding themselves freely along the way. When invasives are removed, we can replace them with a native version; vine maple, Western hawthorne, Western mountain ash, Western viburnum, and many more. This isn’t a site-specific solution: wherever you live, you can use this same strategy, exchanging local take-over weeds and unhappy exotics for displaced natives along with non-invasive, people and pollinator-pleasing plants.

Learning The Territory

That’s a fairly straight forward approach for those who are already familiar with native plants. If you aren’t, this is a wonderful moment on time to begin that study by observing the plants and critters you see when hiking in meadows or mountains or along inland lakes or coastal beaches. Take pictures and make notes of plants that catch your eye and seek them out in nurseries when you get back home. If you’ve started a pollinator patch in your yard, you may not recognize plants that appear there as youngsters. To learn whether seedlings are native or not, check out a wonderful guide, Plants Of The Pacific Northwest Coast by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon. This illustrated handbook also includes lore about how native plants have been used by Native people for millennia, making for fascinating reading. As we ease into a more natural way of landscaping, we may be tickled to learn that native plants need less water, no pruning or shaping and no fertilizers or pesticides. Talk about easy care! Onward, right?


This entry was posted in Birds In The Garden, Butterfly Gardens, Climate Change, Easy Care Perennials, Garden Books, Garden Design, Gardening With Children, Health & Wellbeing, Native Plants, Plant Diversity, Pollination Gardens, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Creating Welcoming Shared Spaces

  1. Kat says:

    So delighted to have reconnected with your WISE COMMONSENSE practical ADVICE and teaching I enjoyed since first moving from CA to WA in the late 90s .
    Kindred spirits like you /I connect us better to our own spirit and to our best self. Your writing has always revealed that in your case your name perfectly matches your true nature! LOVE JOY.❤️💐🙏
    Following you for many years,.because…
    It was as if my imaginary gardening, loving nature FRIEND I’d wished for had turned into a real person!
    My garden and I have evolved too. Being a gramma meant I flew to CA to start a drip& potted plant garden for my busy daughter, and new grandson & cooking daddy to enjoy. Plants for all of the senses to enjoy, herbs for the cook and for the little guy to plant, tend,pinch prune and smell, all types of mints for grandson to name to teach grown ups!
    Adding camellias & Sweet peas, to honor great great grand parents favorites,, jasmine and clematis and collection of succulents just like I grew, Meyers lemons
    and tiny roses to honor and remember my mom. We grewTomatoes From Seed
    Honoring my Stockton tomato rancher grandfather and his parents all the way back to the first California doctor who founded the California Academy of Science!
    That man is Lil Jay’s seven greats grandfather!

    Their gardening legacy connected all these generations to connect to the LOVE and JOY WE feel when we connect to the earth and changing seasons !
    Also ties us back to them and ancestors , now to each other, then on forward to connect us all to the next generations ..and all of us connected together with our global family of ALL ONE PEOPLE & to this our home, the SACRED earth.

    • Ann Lovejoy says:

      Welcome and thank you for your kind words 💜 Lots of past posts about gardening with my grandkids you might enjoy, poke around the archives and see what catches your fancy!

  2. Kat Donald says:

    Part TWO of comment. Forgot my last name.
    Forgot to say that for first 7 years since grandson Jays birth I few many times a year to nurture him and their garden.
    During that time, my own garden was free from my bothering it. a family of wonderful bunnies came in.
    And were delighted to eat and eradicate any dandelions! More Bees than ever loved the blackberry flowers and so more apple blossoms made more apples these years.
    More and more birds began to nest and visit the Nestaurant here because of the blackberries.
    providing delicious Fruity meals in spring … And then seeds as they Tried to push aside my rhodies.
    My lawn prefers the glorious reseeding and displays of daisies and purply marjoram flowers and tall and short buttercups, teeny blue flowers.
    So do U
    Our job in our short life is to LOVE FULLY, FEEL JOY,Aand to LET GO with GRACE. WITH
    NATURE as our best teacher.

  3. Kim Smith says:

    Hi Ms. Lovejoy, thank you for your posts. I just moved to BI and will be heeding your advice on the removal of invasives. Could you recommend nurserys nearby that stock a good assortment of NW Natives? I have all your books and they were formative in my early gardening days and I plan to spend the winter reading them all again for planning. So glad to have access to your advice again!

  4. Martha PAGE says:

    Beautiful article, Ann…many thanks!

  5. Diane says:

    Hi Ann,
    Happy Thanksgiving…can see you in your kitchen whipping up a few pies! 😉
    Thank you for this informative column about native plants. Great to be reminded about the good, the bad and the ugly!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *