http://www.delmarvanow.com/apps/pbcs.dl ... 50307/1002
Horticulturists push native plants
Milkweed emphasized to help butterfly population, as well as trees and shrubs
By Laura D'Alessandro • Staff Writer • May 25, 2008
SALISBURY -- Plush green lawns are the junk food of gardening, said Maryland Coastal Bays Program Executive Director Dave Wilson.
"Native trees and plants are much better than grass and turf," he said. "They're not even close. It's like eating a Twinkie for dinner compared to having prime rib."
Horticulturists, environmentalists and gardening enthusiasts agree that the benefits of native plants, not to mention their beauty, greatly outweighs the appeal of a typical grass lawn.
"Native plants are a wonderful food source for all of the native butterflies and humming birds; they need less fertilizer when you think about it and, as long as you plant them correctly, they take a little less care," said Ginny Rosenkranz, a master gardener with the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension.
Wilson said lawns in contrast do not provide any environmental benefits.
"Lawns do not do a very good job of slowing the flow of water, which ultimately makes it to the bays," he said. "Native plants do a much better job of number one, using water to grow and slowing that flow, and number two, taking up nutrients."
A blade of grass in size alone suggests a much lower demand for nutrients compared to a tree or shrub, thus Wilson said native plants absorb more nutrients and prevent them from making it into waterways.
Many people might associate native shrubs and trees with plain or unattractive plants, but the truth is to the contrary.
"There are a lot of beautiful flowers," Rosenkranz said. "There are so many really good ones and you can put together a beautiful butterfly garden, bird garden, pond garden or wooded garden."
The native swamp milkweed, a small pink flower, provides a food source for Monarch butterflies and caterpillars, unlike the more commonly planted and nonindigenous butterfly bush, which Rosenkranz said only feeds adults.
"There is not one single butterfly that will come to full term on a butterfly bush because it does not support the caterpillar, whereas you can't say that about the milkweed," Rosenkranz said. "(Monarchs) will actually lay their eggs on the milkweed."
She said when the caterpillars eat the milkweed they become poisonous to birds.
"We need to have more people planting these native plant materials so our native butterflies will continue to be viable," she said.
Small and large property owners alike can plant native shrubs and trees to reduce their runoff and feed other native species. Rosenkranz said many landscaping companies are skilled in creating native plant gardens.
She also suggested www.abnativeplants.com
for guidance in building native plant gardens. Rosenkranz will be giving a workshop on drought resistant plants at the Wicomico County Library on June 3.