From bell castings to barn paintings, Ohios Bicentennial has given rise to a variety of ways to express Buckeye pride. And, as you go about reviving your winter-worn landscape and lawn, why not consider celebrating the states 200th birthday by gardening with native Ohio plants?
Growing native in your garden means less time spent watering, fertilizing and working in the yard - thats good for the environment and good for you!
How about recreating an Ohio habitat thats truly historical in nature by planting a prairie garden? More than 5,000 years ago, our region experienced a warm, dry period, enabling a variety of drought resistant plants to thrive and give rise to large stretches of prairie. While climate changes eventually converted much of the state to woodland, and virtually all of the remaining prairie land was plowed under for farming, patches of prairie can still be found across Ohio.
Prairie gardens need lots of sunshine, but can grow in areas of poor drainage or fluctuating moisture levels. And, once established they require little maintenance, leaving you to enjoy colorful blooms and swaying grasses from spring into early fall.
Greg Schneider, a botanist for the State of Ohio, said some prairie flowers you might want to consider are spiked blazing-star, butterfly milkweed, white and pink rose mallow, and bee balm. He said popular prairie grasses include big bluestem, little bluestem and Indian grass.
Plants native to the Buckeye State are well adapted to our climate, allowing them to more successfully handle fluctuating seasonal temperatures - from our not so infrequently hot, dry summers to our sporadically icy cold winters.
Did you know that many of the most common landscape plants in Ohio are actually strangers to this part of the world - originating from Europe and Asia?
Understanding which plants are native literally means knowing their roots. Generally speaking, any plant that was around before the arrival of European colonists is considered to be a native. For example, as the first settlers arrived in Ohio, they undoubtedly came across the once medicinally prized sassafras tree. What they didnt find was the teasel, a plant brought over from their homeland and used to prepare wool for spinning. Today, the teasel is found throughout Ohio along roadsides, fields and railways.
For every landscape-challenged spot in your yard there is a homegrown solution to fill the niche. With that said, you still need to be aware of a plants growing needs. Dont expect a sun-loving tree or shrub to thrive under a shady canopy of maples.
If shade is your concern, consider planting an eastern redbud tree or spicebush - both Ohio natives. Shade-hardy redbuds are drought tolerant and in addition to providing great spring color, theyre a food source for birds and other wildlife. Spicebush, with its late summer red berries, is also a popular wildlife food source and birds favor nesting among its velvety green leaves.
While some non-native plants require an almost inexhaustible amount of attention in order to succeed, others are known as invasive species
and should be avoided altogether. Invasives grow aggressively, spreading and displacing plants native to the ecosystem. Such displacements negatively impact wildlife that depends upon these plants for food and shelter.
The trouble with invasives such as purple loosestrife or amur honeysuckle, said Schneider, is that when they take over an area we lose an ecosystem that once supported a diversity of native plants and animals. Another helpful way to celebrate our natural heritage, he suggested, is to eliminate the invasive species growing in our own backyards. Those species might include garlic mustard or Japanese honeysuckle.
Remember, as you go about choosing plants for your native garden, any reputable plant nursery will help you distinguish between native and non-native plants. Regional plant information can also be found at local libraries or through one of the 88 Ohio State University county extension
Growing native Ohio plants in your garden makes good sense and its fun. Youll have a low-maintenance landscape that reflects the colors and textures of Ohios countryside, while helping preserve our states native natural heritage. And, with the right mix of plants youll also have the satisfaction of knowing your yard is a harmonious habitat for birds, butterflies and other Ohio wildlife.