Gardening with American Beauties

Gardening is about trial and error. For many years most of my trials ended in errors. I planted good plants in bad places, or bad plants in good places, or did everything wrong at once. Lately, we’ve had much more success, and we’ve been using fewer chemicals, fertilizers, and much, much less water, by using native plants. And we’ve found some great resources for getting the right plants in the right place…

Native plants are ideally suited for low-maintenance, low-cost, low-toxicity gardens. After all, God lets them flourish in their current habitats by endowing them with built-in insect and disease resistance, with an ability to grow on nothing but rainfall, and a with a natural proclivity to support native birds, butterflies, and other wildlife that depend on them for shelter and food. One way to tend God’s garden is to find good uses for the plants he designed for your particular region.

Some native plants are easier to find than others, and some look especially good in home gardens. We like the website American Beauties ( which was put together by garden centers, plant nurseries, and the National Wildlife Federation. I love the landscape plans (very helpful for finding creative combinations), and the guides for attracting birds, butterflies, and frogs are very useful. You can even search by your zipcode to find local nurseries that carry American Beauty certified plant materials (although I didn’t find any in my area, you might have better luck).

A good article on backyard native gardening appeared July 14 in the Washington Post; it featured the work of David Mizejewski, naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation and host of Animal Planet’s series "Backyard Habitat."

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