The term Locavore, applying to eating local food is a movement that has gained a lot of attention these last few years. Farmer’s markets, and farm to table cooking are springing up everywhere for the health of it. The landscape industry uses this concept for purchase of plant material for the plant health of it. The bottom line…support your local garden centers instead of running to the big box store. I promise it will make a difference!
1. Plants are genetically better suited for our environment.
It makes sense that a plant grown in the soil it will be planted in would adapt better. I’ve actually seen a shrub come out of a pot to expose “red dirt”. You don’t really have to be a horticultural expert to realize that plant was not grown in Northern Illinois. It is more than just soil that determines a plants’ survivability. A Red Oak grown on one side of a large forest will be genetically different from a Red Oak on the other side. This is the main reason planting local plants will make a difference in how well they adapt. If you plant a Burning Bush that was grown in southern California, that shrub will grow slower, be more susceptible to disease and cold hardiness issues only because the genetics of that shrub are not as well suited for the freeze/thaw and clay soils of Chicagoland. We purchase our trees and shrubs from local nurseries from Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin to ensure they are either grown in similar situations or maybe even a little more cold tolerant than ours.
2. Planting native perennials ensures plant diversity
Native perennial gardens are becoming more common. They don’t provide the pop of color or length of bloom time that their more genetically altered, alter egos give a garden, but they do provide the most adaptable species that need the least amount of environmentally damaging fertilizers, pesticides, and supplemental water. The former Natural Garden in St. Charles, IL was one of the foremost caretakers of native plants in the area. Before going out of business in 2011, the Natural Garden kept files of dozens of types of native carex grasses, for example. There were so many types some were indistinguishable from one another. Normally, a garden center would not sell varieties with similar characteristics because of the redundancy. The Natural Garden, not only made sure to keep alive these various varieties of one species, but also was vigilant in keeping their seeds sources within a 90 mile radius of St. Charles to guarantee they were truly native to the area. Thankfully Midwest Groundcovers has taken over the task and carries the Natural Garden line of native perennials helping to ensure that no one species can be wiped out by disease or pest.
3. They know their plants
Purchasing local can also help ease frustration when you have questions. I know if I have a question about a new plant or a tree I don’t normally use, the nurseries will be full of useful information to aid in making the right choice. Many times, the box stores will have little more than a warm body taking care of the plant material and the plants can often look neglected after a few weeks on the shelf. A local garden center will usually employ professionals or garden enthusiasts who know a thing or two. They know how to water and deadhead potted plants to keep them looking their best even after an entire season. They can also make suggestions for types of plants given your specific requirements and desires.