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Inner Southeast public garden: 'Why native yard plants are best'

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Jen Aron shows a native lupine plant; she says it was protected because it was surrounded by other native plants. Learning about natural gardening techniques is easy – and free – for Southeast Portland residents, when they visit Metro’s “Demonstration Garden” in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood.

During a BEE visit not too long ago, Jen Aron – a certified Master Gardener, and an instructor for Oregon State University – presented a class called “Native Plants for Bees, Birds, and Butterflies”.

“Native plants are attractive to our native birds and insects,” Aron explained. “They’re much more drawn to native species than to the ornamental species. Native pollinators and beneficial insects, in particular, can be four times more prevalent amongst our native species than among the ornamentals.”

This is important, Aron said, because native wildlife sometimes struggles to survive in our urban neighborhoods. “To plant native species supports native wildlife. This, in turn, plays a major role in naturally helping to keep pests in check. And it also helps pollinate our gardens.”

One secret she shared about planting a landscape attractive to native birds and bees and butterflies was, “Diversity – diversity – diversity! Having diverse plant species is the most important thing.”

And, by clustering, or “creating drifts” of native species – that is, planting in groups of threes or fives – you encourage wildlife to graze, and to stay in your yard.