Now comes a prescription for native plants


Sure glad I went to see Jim Bray yesterday instead of today! How dark is it outside? Looks like it's 9 p.m.

Jim and his wife Jeanne live on about an acre in Lower Makefield Township. Jim's the gardener in the family, and he's done a fine job. But I visited not to tour his garden - more to talk about native plants. Jim's the author of the township's native plant ordinance, which requires new developments, both commercial and residential, to have native-plant-only landscapes. Passed in 2007, the ordinance was copied by Schuylkill Township, Chester County, in 2009.

Jim and Jerry O'Dell, his counterpart on the Environmental Advisory Council in Schuylkill Township, recently did a program on native plant ordinances for Audubon Pennsylvania at the Peace Valley Nature Center in Doylestown. Although turnout was small, Jim declares confidently that "native plants have gone mainstream."

I'm not as confident about that as Jim is. I think that for a certain audience, native plants are both appreciated and commonly incorporated into home landscapes. Among the masses, however, in my experience, native plants are an unknown. Too bad, because they offer many advantages and, despite the hard-to-shake rap, they can be very beautiful and colorful.

Garden centers could help here, with displays promoting natives, offering information about their qualities and uses, and by having knowledgeable employees. Sure, you can find native plants just about anywhere now, but if you don't know they're natives, or why you should pay attention to them, what good does it do?

More to come on this subject ...