Go native a species at a time

Posted: August 03, 2007

Steve Saffier, who does backyard environmental audits, knows the advice he's about to give may sound un-American to some ears. But he says it anyway:

"Be patient." You don't have to turn your yard upside down all at once. Redo one section at a time, and "think of this as a long-term project," he says.

Converting grass to native plants, or even ripping out and replacing aggressive plants bit by bit, also gives your neighbors time to adjust to your new look.

David Soskis, who now has native plants in parts of his lawn, was advised to add some colorful annuals along the front walkway, too. "It's sort of a sensory psychological transition" from the conventional to the new, he says.

Don't feel guilty about having a lawn, Saffier says, "but if you can tolerate some violets, dandelions and clover in the grass, so much the better."

These things won't take over the world. They will, however, provide a diverse, healthy underground environment that eliminates the need for pesticides. That's especially beneficial if you're close to the Wissahickon Creek or another water source.

Fran Lawn, from the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, offers these ideas for native plantings:

Spring bloomers. Wild ginger, geranium and columbine, foamflower, trillium, bloodroot, jack-in-the-pulpit; dogwood, redbud and chokeberry, and serviceberry trees.

Summer. Butterfly weed, summer phlox, joe-pye weed, monarda, mountain mint, hibiscus.

Fall. Woodland and New York aster, woodland goldenrod, warm-season grasses such as big or little bluestem, switchgrass, and purple love grass.

Native-plant sellers in this area include:

Redbud Native Plant Nursery, Glen Mills; 610-358-4300 or www.redbudnativeplantnursery.com.

Yellow Springs Farm, Chester Springs; 610-827-2014 or www.yellowspringsfarm. com.

Edge of the Woods Native Plant Nursery, Orefield (near Allentown); 610-395-2570 orĀ 

www.edgeofthewoodsnursery.com

A Wild Bird Oasis, Medford; 609-654-6777 or www.awildbirdoasis.com.

Fairweather Gardens, Greenwich, N.J.; 856-451- 6261 or www.fairweathergardens.com.

In addition, area arboretums and public gardens sell native plants in season.

For native-plant information, go to the Pennsylvania Native Plant Society's Web site (www.pawildflower.org) or the Native Plant Society of New Jersey's site (www. npsnj.org).

- Virginia A. Smith

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