PHYLLIS ODESSEY

forever wild

“Our success is up to each of us individually.  We can each make a measurable difference almost immediately by planting a native nearby.  As gardeners and stewards of our land, we have never been so empowered – and the ecological stakes have never been so high.”  – Douglas Tallamy, Bring Nature Home:  How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens.  New York City has 10,000 acres of natural areas – forests, wetlands and grasslands.  For those of us who live among the concrete and the never ending building of taller and taller skyscrapers; 10,000 acres of natural areas is an astonishing fact.

The Greenbelt Native Plant Center Seed Collection Room

Yesterday, Heather Liljengren, field botanist and seed collector for the Greenbelt Native Plant Nursery spoke at the NYBG on “Harnessing The Resilience of Native Plants.”  Talking to an audience of landscape designers, Liljengren argued for using native plants for two obvious reasons:  increasing biodiversity and the adaptability of natives to the built environment.

She talked about the old paradigm of looking at hardiness maps to choose species vs. the new paradigm of looking at a map of eco-regions which indicate temperature, soil and elevation.

The above guide is available as a PDF and contains information for tolerance, preferences and value of 430 native species.  It’s a great reference.

Seeds are coaxed out of dormancy in the nursery at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center on Staten Island. The center considers its seed bank the “Library of Congress” for the region’s native plants.

Carex vulpinoidea (Brown Fox Sedge)

Carex scoparia (Pointed Broom Sedge)

Carex lurida (Sallow Sedge)

Carex stipata (Awl-Fruited Sedge)

Liljengren showed all of the above sedges as part of her power point presentation.  The point:  why do designers over-use non-native sedges and many other common species,  when there are so many native plants that are better adapted to our environment.
I have written about Claudia West and Thomas Rainer’s book, Planting in a Post–Wild World, in this blog.  It’s become the bible for how to design plant communities.  Heather Liljengren framed the idea of plant communities in this way: “We need to look to mother nature for answers.”   If Liljengrern and others like Doug Tallamy are right, we need to re-imagine what our gardens are all about.

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