For many years now I choose to put native plants over non-native plants in my garden. No I am not a fanatic, nor a purist. I have read many articles and books on native and natural gardening (just check the sidebar on my favorite gardening books)and came to the realization that it was the right choice for me. When you educate yourself about a topic near to your heart some difficult decisions become easier to make. And when you really try to understand the nitty gritty of it all it becomes clear that being fanatical or a purist just doesn't make sense. I shall try to explain.
When we moved into this house 10 years ago, we found ourselves with an existing garden in poor shape and numerous neglected trees and shrubs. We hired an arborist to check out the health of the trees and inquired about their origins. Apart from the walnut trees and the silver maple everything else was an exotic or non-native. OK, that's not so bad we thought. That first year we didn't plant anything, waiting to see what would come up. After a while it struck me that we did not see many butterflies, bees or types of birds out of the ordinary. The animals had shelter and water but for the most part our plot of land offered very little in food. So I studied.
Plants native to your area are well accustomed to the soil and the weather conditions. They have evolved with the wildlife big and small for millennia. When exotic plants are brought into an area they may be benign or they may turn into garden thugs. They may bully themselves into unwanted places and kill or force out the native ones. This upsets the natural balance of the ecosystem. Most of the exotic plants do not provide any nourishment to our wildlife. Wildlife that is hungry moves elsewhere in search of that food.
Now that is a simplified explanation, but it was and continues to be why I plant native. At one time I decided that I would focus on eastern Canadian plants. Then eastern North America plants, then anything across Canada. The problem is that I am a gardener. I fell in love with roses, then peonies, orchids and who knows what else - oh yeah, I just planted a Japanese maple last fall. So I am definitely not a fanatic nor a purist. It's just too hard. Besides when you have read about natives as I have you also pick up along the way how plant seeds move around the globe through the stomach of birds and mammmals, or carried along the water or wind until they find a resting place that might just be suitable for them to thrive.
How do you argue with that?