Going Native in the Front Yard

Bringing Nature Home book cover

If you live in the suburbs, like I do, the yard around your home is the closest you come to the natural environment on a day to day basis. This begs the question - Is your yard a natural environment? Author Douglas Tallamy suggests that the average suburban yard is an artificial collection of exotic plants which creates an unnatural zone unsuitable to native wildlife. In his book Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens Mr. Tallamy makes a case for replacing alien invasives in the home landscape with native plants specific to the area.

Douglas Tallamy is an entomologist and professor at the University of Delaware, so his focus begins with insects. While it might seem strange to start a discussion of landscaping and plants with bugs, they are vital to the ecology of an area. The wildlife food chain depends on insects and bugs which eat plants and are then eaten by birds, lizards and snakes and other animals. The catch is that insects have co-evolved with plants they live with. Simply, native bugs need native plants or they have almost nothing to eat.

I'm sure that every gardener reading this is now wondering why would they should be worried about providing habitat for native insects. The answer is - to supplement the native habitats that have been displaced by development. Development has displaced and fragmented habitats worldwide. In the United States alone over 95% of the land area has been disturbed and/or developed. This leaves less than 5% of the total land area of the U.S.A. as undisturbed native habitat. Without native habitat, our native animal species from butterflies to Bison will eventually become extinct. Restoring native grasses, flowers, shrubs and trees to our surburban yards is a simple step to take to help mend the wildlife food chain.

I won't go into every point of the argument Douglas Tallamy makes for native plants as there are scores. I can say that Bringing Nature Home is well researched and thoroughly footnoted and documented. I highly recommend Bringing Nature Home to every gardener, landscaper, architect, developer and homeowner. I've been planting natives around my home and this book has educated and reinforced my decision to do so. Check out and read Bringing Nature Home before you start spring planting. You might just reconsider which plants you'll be buying at the nursery.

More Info:

Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens

Native Plant Society of New Mexico