Maine Gardener: A New Book Helping Gardeners Choose Plants to Benefit Wildlife, So Us

Among gardeners, interest in domestic plants is growing. Sales are up as much as 30 percent at regular nurseries, as well as those that specialize in native plants and through groups like Maine Audubon, which sell out to natives each year. The soon-to-be-published “Northeast Native Plant Primer” is designed to further this growing interest and provide gardeners with useful information.

Its author, Ole Lorimer, director of horticulture at the Massachusetts-based Native Plant Trust, discussed the book and the trend toward local gardening in a recent online meeting. What is behind this trend? People are increasingly realizing that pollinators are in trouble, the climate is changing and many species of wildlife are threatened, he said, and gardeners want help. Also, with new home development increasingly pushing what used to be a wildlife habitat, some homeowners are seeking to replace native plants that have been replaced through construction.

They should keep in mind that not all native plants are created equal. It is important to read labels carefully. If the plant you’re considering for your garden is marked “US Native,” or even native to east of the Mississippi, it may not thrive in your garden. “Our political boundaries aren’t really important in terms of plants,” Lorimer said.

Instead, when choosing native plants, people should consider ecological regions, he said. An EPA map shows that Maine is made up of parts of three ecoregions. The northeastern coastal region extends from Casco Bay to the southern tip of New York State. The Acadian hills and plains encompass the eastern half of the rest of the state and extend into New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The Northern Highlands include the rest of landlocked Maine and New Hampshire, most of Vermont, and parts of Quebec. Not all of Maine’s native plants grow in all three ecoregions.

Lorimer’s mention of these areas brought back Maine Audubon to mind The decision to sell plants last summer At the sale of native plants that are not actually native to Maine — or, in the case of the northern glowing star (Liatris scariosa) — only native to the southern tip of Maine. Others in this category are lanceleaf coreopsis and cochineal bee balm. They are natives right south of Maine, but as the climate warms, they are definitely getting comfortable in the state as well.

Plant biodiversity – meaning a large variety of native plants – is critical, Lorimer said. Even more important, he said, was biocompatibility, which he defined as having enough native species available to support native wildlife. Reaching a biocompatibility, he said, will take more than just a few environmentally conscious home gardeners. All homeowners should be encouraged to do so Reduce the size of their promoter And prioritize environmental benefits, not just the attractiveness of plants. Far from individual homes, he added, when solar farms punctuate native plants between solar panels, and when municipalities, colleges and parks like the Arnold Arboretum in Boston and state parks like Watkins Glen in New York turn native plants into native plants, their actions bring the world one step closer to bio-proportion.

Of course, not all native plants are suitable for every spot. Goldenrod, for example, is a very useful plant, but it is a kind of bully, which grows quickly and takes up space from other plants; Many home gardeners consider it a weed. Goldenrod lorimer is suggested mostly for fields, where it can spread without encroaching on other plants.


So the next time you’re in the market for new garden plants, don’t automatically reach for peonies (which originated in Asia), lavender (the Mediterranean), or any other equally beautiful foreigner who made themselves at home in our gardens. Instead, think of the indigenous people from your ecoregion. “Native plants have the power to heal the landscape and welcome wildlife into our gardens—and inspire us,” Lorimer said.

Tom Atwell is a freelance horticultural writer in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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