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Native plants for frugal landscaping

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Native plants are a frugal choice for landscaping. Although the initial cost may rank with that of a typical perennial, native plants are adapted to our climate and soil. For homeowners, native landscaping means a hardy plant that can survive Iowa winters and hot spells as well as resist pest damage and drought. Over time, the cost to keep native plants diminishes, while that of many non-natives stays high with feedings, mowing, and prevention of pests and disease.

Once established, native plants can pretty much be ignored while keeping a pleasant appearance and growing in size. Jen Fletcher, Des Moines Park and Recreation Marketing Supervisor, says that "once established, (native plants) require less maintenance" than traditional, non-native plants. Many cities throughout the nation purposely choose native plants over grass for this reason – less irrigation, mowing, and weeding for prairie areas, and less erosion and slower runoff for rain garden areas. Native plants will also encourage local fauna such as grasshoppers, butterflies, and birds, which in turn bring enjoyment to children and adults.

To buy native plants while supporting a local public entity, this weekend's Perennial Sale will occur at Gray's Lake. Available plants are listed on the Park and Rec front webpage, and they are grouped by type (rain garden, short landscaping, short showy, etc.) and within that type by sun exposure (full sun or dappled sun) or scientific or common names (Aquilegia canadensis or Columbine). The supplier, Prairie Landscapes, is operated by a well-respected name in the Iowa native plant community.

The sale opens on Friday, May 17, 2013, at 2:00 p.m. at Gray's Lake Park and continues on Sat., May 18 at 10 a.m. See the slideshow for examples of sale plants and how they might fit into a home landscape.

If you liked this article, hop over to this article on plant exchanges.

Columbine Julia McGuire, Des Moines Frugal Family Examiner


Spring color can begin with columbine. While not a true perennial, it seeds itself every year and supplies hummingbirds with food. It is tolerant of many growing conditions -- wet, dry, sunny, and partly shady. Its foliage is toxic to most mammals, so rabbits and deer will usually leave it alone.

Coneflower Julia McGuire, Des Moines Frugal Family Examiner


Coneflowers will bloom all summer, and as seen in the photo, will attract butterflies. It will resist drought when given part to full sun and reasonable soil.

New England Aster
New England Aster Julia McGuire, Des Moines Frugal Family Examiner

New England Aster

Forming tall bushy clumps, the aster provides fall color and attracts honeybees and butterflies and the caterpillars of many moths. It comes in many colors and blooms for about two months.