Biodiveristy & Beauty: Ornamental Gardening with Nature in Mind
Many yards and gardens are filled with ornamental plants, grown to create a beautiful space for all to enjoy. Often these plants are well tended and require the help of the gardeners caring for them to stay healthy. Some of these species however can do quite well on their own, and unfortunately if they are being grown outside of their natural range, this can present a problem for the surrounding ecosystems. These species that can do well on their own and even start to outcompete the native species are considered invasive and once they are planted they will likely begin to take over not only your yard but also the surrounding area if they are not very carefully managed. The management of invasive species is now a full-time job for many people as the issue continues to become a larger environmental concern.
The best way to keep the issue of invasive species from getting worse, without having to get your tools out, is by changing what we plant in our green spaces. The species that exist in our yards, gardens, and other cultivated green spaces are not seperate from the plants that grow in more wild, natural settings. Since the ecosystem includes all those areas of green space and plants, the more "wild" areas are directly impacted through seed dispersal, disease, and pollination. This close relationship means that we do need to be mindful of what we are putting in our gardens and how it will impact the surrounding environment. There are many ornamental plants that are not invasive and do not pose a threat to the surrounding ecosystem, often these are plants that require specific conditions and are higher maintenance so they likely would not survive without constant care. Invasive plants however will be able to move into the local ecosystem and change it if given enough time. In many cases the draw of invasive plants for ornamental purposes is that they both look nice in a yard and are low maintenance because they are able to survive in the local conditions with few inputs. If you do find yourself drawn to these sorts of plants, there are often alternatives that are either non-invasive or native species that can be planted instead.
Though many people don’t often think of native plants as traditional garden plants, they are just as lovely to look at as many ornamentals and offer a great way to beautify your space while also creating native habitat. By planting native species in place of invasive species we can help to keep the existing invasives under control and stop them from spreading while simultaneously supporting wild populations of native species. The following are some examples of common invasive species that were brought in as garden plants followed by options for native plants that have a similar look and purpose.
Replace invasive English Holly (Ilex aquifolium) with native Tall Oregon Grape (Berberis aquifolium)
Replace invasive English Ivy (Hedera helix) with native Western Honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa)
Replace invasive Common Periwinkle (Vinca minor) with native Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora)
Replace invasive Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii) with Red Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum)
Replace invasive Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) with native Large-leaved Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus)
Replace invasive Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) with native Wooly Sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum)
Replace invasive Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) with invasive Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
All of the native species mentioned can be purchased from local native plant nurseries in and around Southern Vancouver Island. Many local garden centres have native plants and other non-invasive plants available as well. For more resources on invasive species, how to identify them, and what to plant instead, you can check out the Invasive Species Council of BC and their many resources for gardeners, plant people, and nature lovers alike. If you have questions about how you can shift your space away from invasives please check out the ecological restoration section of our website or contact us, and together we can bring nature back into your space!