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Benefits of landscaping with native species

SALISBURY — “It’s a love triangle.” That is how Judith Sullivan, a native plant specialist, described the relationship between people, plants and other organisms at the Lake Wononscopomuc Association spring meeting Saturday, June 4, at the Scoville Library in Salisbury. Sullivan, from Project Native in Housatonic, Mass., and Lauren Gaherty of the Berkshire Regional Planning Council presented a program on waterfront buffers and native plantings.“The most sophisticated people like native plants,” Sullivan said. “They grow in poor soil, hot sun and require little watering or attention.” Using a PowerPoint presentation, she showed examples of landscapes that are so over-planned, sprayed and pruned that they are sterile. “There are no birds, no bugs and no animal activity. Creating an ecosystem is more exciting than a soap opera,” she said. “With all the activity going on inside between bugs, birds and animals there is sex, murder, violence.”Gaherty explained the natural ecosystem of the area and how planting nonnative species affects the landscape.“New England wants to be a forest,” she said. “That’s what our landscape is supposed to be. When we take away trees, rain washes nutrients and pollutants directly into lakes and streams. Storm water is our enemy. It brings huge levels of phosphorus into the lake.” Gaherty showed examples of vegetative buffers that can slow down the rainwater runoff. Even a 10- or 20-foot barrier of low plants and shrubs can trap sediment without degrading the view from the house. She also recommended cutting grass high and leaving the grass clippings on the lawn to help soak up rainfall.“Canada geese love lawns because of all the nutrients they find there. They come to breed and once they become accustomed to that location they return again and again,” Gaherty said.“The geese want to be where they can see the water in case a predator comes after them,” she explained. “They do not want to go where the goslings can’t quickly run to the water. If you want to break their cycle of coming onto your lawn, plant vegetation higher than a goose.”Both women advised using native plants. Gaherty suggested fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, elderberries and strawberries. “Think differently,” she said. “Create more than a lawn.” Sullivan said you can create different habitats as close as 20 feet from each other. “For example, different plants attract different types of butterflies,” she said. “Many native plants are the golden arches for traveling birds. They recognize them as places where they like to eat.”They both warned the audience not to reject native plants because they seem so ordinary. “Asters and goldenrod are the two most maligned plants in our area,” Sullivan said. “They are hosts for birds and bees.” She said people in other countries import some of our native plants as exotic. Many of them are truly beautiful.— Bill Littauer, president, Lake Wononscopomuc Association

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