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‘Using native plants in your landscaping design’ by Nellie Brown

Posted on Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 10:31 am

C132QP30001CA few weeks ago, Nellie Brown, owner of Nellie Brown Consulting, was invited to a friend’s family barbeque. Being polite, she brought the hostess a Ruellia plant, also known as wild petunia, as a birthday gift.

“I joined a number of the guests on the lawn and listened as the conversation turned to landscaping,” said Brown. “Many people have limited experience with horticulture and don’t know what to plant or where.”

There are always a variety of competing factors when choosing what plants to put on a person’s property, according to Brown. The amount of sun, drainage, soil type and other limiting environmental conditions are of primary importance. Other significant considerations include insect and disease resistance, hardiness and aesthetic beauty.

“Some people plant rose or other thorny bushes beneath house windows as a simple home protection measure,” explained Brown. “Others may want fruit trees to supplement their family groceries.”

Another factor to consider is whether the plants are native, or non-native. Native plants have grown locally for hundreds of years, while non-natives have been imported from other places. Non-native plants have been popular, since they generally have fewer problems with bugs and diseases. However, this has begun to have profound impacts in our ecology. Insects, which feed on native plants, and in turn provide food for birds, do not have as much to eat in areas populated by humans. According to Brown, people have replaced the native plants, which they depend on, with exotic plants they cannot eat.

“Last month, my father mentioned that he hadn’t seen many butterflies this year. I told him that there wasn’t as much food as there once was for them to eat,” said Brown. “Invasive, non-native species such as bush honeysuckle have taken over where native shrubs such as spicebush used to grow. Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars eat spicebush, not honeysuckle. Monarch butterfly caterpillars eat milkweed plants such as butterfly weed, not boxwood.”

Brown said suggests that people consider utilizing some native plants in their future landscaping plans.

“There may be a few caterpillars on them, but you will enjoy the benefits of seeing more butterflies later in the year,” said Brown.

Wild Ones ( is an organization dedicated to encouraging gardeners to plant native species in home landscapes.

“Our local nursery, Forrest Keeling, has an abundance of native species,” said Brown. “They are happy to provide guidance for homeowners wishing to improve their yard. And there are several local horticulture experts who can provide professional advice for landscaping dilemmas.”

Nellie Brown has worked in the green industry for over fifteen years, first as a nursery inspector for the Missouri Department of Agriculture, now as an independent consultant and certified arborist. She helps people solve their bug and disease problems with their trees, garden and home. Her website is:

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