The awful rumors you've heard are true. Not everything in my yard is a native plant. I know. I've just lost all credibility!
Seriously, most people who love their yards love plants. All kinds of plants. And sometimes the texture, color or shape of a particular plant is just too hard to resist. I would hate to think I was discouraging anyone from their trips to the nursery. I'd rather just encourage the discussion so we all have a better idea of what our decisions mean in terms of the "end game."
We have several versions of juniper in our yard, as well as some "false cypress." One of the reasons for this is an enormous
tree in the backyard. Black walnuts (and a number of other similar plants) give off a chemical through their roots called juglone that stunts or kills off lots of its competition. Many hollies, one of our native alternatives for evergreen shrubs, are susceptible to juglone, so I had to find something that could provide evergreen cover without getting killed. It's difficult to find good sources of information on juglone susceptibility, so some of the planting has been trial and error. One member of the buckeye family is resistant--but when I planted our native
under the walnut I nearly lost the plant. It is currently in a pot recovering, about to be planted under some pines where it will be much happier.
Another non-native we have is a vitex. It has bloom spires very similar to butterfly bush. For me, it has two advantages over the butterfly bush, even though it attracts pollinators just as well. One, it has not escaped into the wild and landed itself on an invasive species list. The other is the ability to prune it into a very elegant tree--it can even be appropriate in form for a Japanese garden, and would probably make a nice bonsai specimen. I wouldn't have known this about the vitex if it were not for an old specimen I saw in Tifton, GA. I am using the vitex to anchor the raised bed in the front yard because I can prune it into a tree shape, raising the lower branches, leaving me room to plant perennials and herbs beneath those branches.
Speaking of herbs, bunches of these aren't natives. I have multiple rosemary and lavender shrubs because I love the smell of them. These traditional Mediterranean herbs serve as pollinator plants and culinary plants. Your yard, after all, is for your use as well! Herbs that DO serve as butterfly hosts are parsley (a great companion plant for tomatoes--deters pests), dill or fennel. With dill or fennel, plant one or the other but not both--they serve the same butterfly species but cross-pollinate. If separated by enough space they might work out ok.
A number of Norway Spruce trees ring the perimeter of the back of our yard. (See photo above with non-native forsythia, too.) There is no good reason to cut all these down. Without good cover, I'd have few if any birds. The spruces may not be native hemlocks, but they are serving an important purpose that I would not be able to duplicate--because the Norway spruce happens to be resistant to black walnut trees. Another non-native I planted was Asian beautyberry. It will get yanked out this year because the birds ignored it. I have since planted
, which can be a gangly thing, but at least my birds won't turn up their noses at it!
Hostas are another popular but non-native plant we have a bunch of--they are occasionally used by hummers for nectar, but I can't pretend better alternatives aren't available. Fortunately, they aren't invasive. And finally, there are the jillions of crocus and grape hyacinth bulbs now planted. I console myself that they are not on any invasives list. And they're so cute... how could I resist?
Thanks for reading!