Native plants are those species that are indigenous to a particular area. They are adapted to local temperature changes and local soils and therefore require far less fertilizer and supplemental water than alien (exotic) plants. They also provide a great deal of wildlife value. For example, the red fruit of Ilex verticillata (Winterberry) provides great nutrition for songbirds, waterfowl, and small mammals. On the other hand, the red fruit of Nandina domestica (Heavenly Bamboo), which is considered an invasive alien in much of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, provides little to no nutritional value for wildlife. At Dancing Grass Designs our goal is to include 70% natives in our planting plans. The remaining plants are non-invasive alien (exotic) species.
Dancing Grass Designs is located in the Piedmont physiographic province of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Cities in this province include, for example, York, Frederick, Fairfax, and Charlottesville. In addition to the Piedmont province, there is the Coastal Plain which includes cities such as Washington, DC, Norfolk, and Rehoboth Beach. The Mountain province is the western portion of the watershed and includes cities such as Scranton, Hagerstown, and Front Royal. Examples of plants native to all three provinces are: Quercus alba (White Oak), Liatris spicata (Blazing Star), and Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem).
Non-invasive Alien (Exotic) Plants
Non-invasive alien or exotic plants are abundant in our society. There’s nothing wrong with planting some exotic species as long as the entire landscape is not comprised of them. So often, our gardens are planted almost exclusively with exotic species. These plants often require more water, more fertilizer, and more effort to keep them disease-free. We can do better by consciously changing the ratio of natives to aliens. Examples of exotic plants that we use are Cryptomeria japonica (Japanese Cedar), Hydrangea macrophylla (Big Leaf Hydrangea), and Calamagrostis x acutiflora (Feather Reed Grass).
Invasive plants can spread rapidly and crowd out native plants. They can take over our garden or escape the planted landscape through bird- or wind-dispersed seed. Invasives are not effective in providing a quality habitat for our wildlife. People are often surprised to hear that their own gardens contain numerous invasive species. Following are very common examples of invasive species we spotted in the Washington, DC area: Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’ (Bradford Pear tree), Miscanthus sinensis (Maiden Grass), and Lonicera japonica (Japanese Honeysuckle). DGD does not use invasive plants in any design.