In selecting plants for your garden, it’s hard to avoid non-natives.  Most nurseries and home centers sell little else, which are grown in massive greenhouses under artificial lighting and soil conditions.  Planted in your Panhandle garden one of the following situations will result:  They (Russian Olive for example) will outgrow, suffocate, strangle, and eradicate their neighbors; they will sicken, weaken, yellow and wither as a result of soil and weather conditions to which they are unaccustomed; or they might manage to grow generally in tune with the native plants one hopes are already in place in your garden, the result one might expect, from natural circumstances.

The problem, however, with all alien plants (the name entomologist Douglas Tallamy uses to describe non-natives) is their general uselessness.  They do not provide food or shelter for birds or insects, they do not participate in the ancient biological ritual of symbiosis between plants and animals, whereby each contribute to the well being of others.  Alien plants in the garden are like free loaders at the company picnic.  They bring nothing to the dance—but themselves.

My wild garden gives me opportunity to watch this dance carried on by squirrels and acorns, anoles and all but invisible insects, butterflies and Beautyberry, Mocking birds and yaupon.  Yes, you can have a rose garden, complete with camellias and many hybrid forms of gardenia and azalea, and you can find infinite ways of killing all insect life that might threaten their petals (read the warning labels on those cans of poisonous spray) but don’t you think a native plant garden makes more sense, for you and for the Earth?

By Jere French