By Alayne Blickle, Horses for Clean Water
More and more frequently now people are recognizing that people, wildlife and the environment all benefit from a landscape of native plants. To promote the use of native plants, Conservation Districts in Washington State hold native plant sales every winter. This is a great opportunity to purchase native plants and the price can’t be beat—plants are sold at wholesale cost. Read on to learn more about native plants and how they can be used to enhance your horse property.
Native plants, also called indigenous plants, are plants that have evolved over thousands of years in a particular region. They have adapted to the geography, hydrology, and climate of a particular region, co-evolving with animals, fungi, and microbes. These plants are the foundation of our natural ecosystems. As a result, a community of native plants provides habitat for a variety of native wildlife species such as songbirds and butterflies.
Logging, farming, and development have led to a tremendous loss of native vegetation and, as a result, a loss of critical wildlife habitat. However, farmers and landowners all over the country are making progress in becoming wildlife habitat managers. Enhancing the landscape with native plants not only promotes native wildlife, it also helps to control erosion, provide a visual buffer and filters pesticides, fertilizers, and nutrients.
Although Pacific Northwest native plants are extremely adaptable for use in this region, planting success still depends on choosing the right plants for the right place. Fortunately, in our region, we have a diverse palette of natives to choose from.
Here is a list of ways native plants can enhance your horse property:
Ø Plant hedgerows of native plants as an alternative to fencing. Hedgerows can act as wind barriers and provide an attractive visual boundary. (Species to consider for hedgerows: beaked hazelnut, nootka rose, red flowering currant as well as coniferous and deciduous trees such as Douglas fir, western red cedar, black hawthorn and pacific crabapple)
Ø Plant native plants as mud managers along side or upslope of confinement areas to reduce flows, absorb water and filter sediments and pollutants. (Species to consider for wet areas: red osier dogwood, pacific willow, black twinberry, salmonberry and pacific ninebark)
Ø Plant native buffers along streams and wetlands to protect riparian habitat by improving water quality and reducing erosion. (Species to consider for riparian areas: western red cedar, Oregon ash, black twinberry, pacific ninebark, salmonberry)
Ø Plant native plants as decorative landscape features near your house and along the driveway. Many native shrubs and groundcovers exhibit beautiful arrays of colors in flowers and leaves. Choose a variety of evergreen and deciduous plants for year round coverage. (Species to consider for ornamental value: red flowering currant, mock orange, salal, sword fern, kinnikinnick)
Ø Plant native plants instead of lawns to save time and money by reducing or even eliminating the need for fertilizers, pesticides, water and lawn maintenance equipment. (Species to consider for drier areas: Douglas fir, shore pine, nootka rose, big leaf maple, beaked hazelnut, thimbleberry, snowberry, Oregon grape)
Ø Plant native plants for wildlife enhancement. The types of plants you choose for food and cover will help determine the wildlife species attracted to your backyard. (Planting a variety of native species will ensure that plants will flower and fruit at different times throughout the year).
December ‘tis the season for tree sales pre-orders at conservation districts. Your conservation district can also help with things like selecting native plants for specific issues or problems on your horse property. To find your local conservation district do an Internet search with your county’s name, followed by the words “conservation district”.
Ideas for this article were taken from:
- US EPA fact sheet: Green Landscaping with Native Plants
- National Resources Conservation Service booklet: Backyard Conservation; Bringing Conservation from the Countryside to Your Backyard.