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Gardening with Nature in Mind: Native Plant Pop-Up Garden

Our Community feature by Sheila Turner-Hilliard

With warmer weather finally here, many homeowners are busy planting a wide variety of flowers, shrubs and trees to improve their home’s curb appeal. But did you know that landscaping with native plants can benefit your garden, the environment and our wildlife?

What are native plants and why are they so important?

Native plants are the foundation of our region’s ecosystem. Not only are they adapted to local conditions, thus requiring little to no maintenance, native plants provide nutritious seeds, berries, nectar and foliage to animals and pollinators — butterflies, moths and bees. They are also hosts to many insects that our birds rely on for food for their chicks.

You may have noticed signs on West Chester Pike that name Newtown Square an official “Bird Town” as designated by Audubon Pennsylvania. Our township is recognized as one that works to promote conservation and community-based actions, to create a healthy, more sustainable environment for birds and people. Because of the hard work of our township’s Environmental Advisory Council (EAC), Newtown Township received grant funding from Valley Forge Audubon Society and Audubon Pennsylvania, to create a Pop-Up Garden for residents to explore and learn how native plants are vital in supporting nature and wildlife.

Photo by Lisa Jacobs, Fiber Tree Designs

Photo by Lisa Jacobs, Fiber Tree Designs

The Pop-Up Garden will initially be located at the corner of Bishop Hollow Rd and Ellis Ave. From May 8–15, visitors will have the opportunity to explore the garden, learn about native plants and take home helpful information about how to create and build their own gardens. Because all the plants and trees will be in pots, the garden will then be moved to St. Albans Circle, as part of Newtown Square’s Gather in the Circle initiative. Once complete, the native plants, flowers, grasses and trees will be permanently planted around our community.

This project, coordinated by EAC member Janet Krevenas, has also been partnered with Newtown Square in Bloom, to help with installing the garden in both locations. “We are always happy to teach our residents the importance of a healthy bird population,” said Janet, “and to help residents understand the importance of choosing the correct plants to make their properties more bird-friendly.”

Janet explained that the goal of the EAC and Newtown Square in Bloom (www. NewtownSquareInBloom.com) is to educate and encourage residents to create their own “pocket meadows” in a corner of their yard. She said that it is important to plant a three-season garden, to support our bird and pollinators and leave seeds for the winter months.

If you’re looking to get a head start on your very own pocket meadow, consider native trees like American beech and holly, which attract cardinals, sparrows and chickadees. A single oak tree will support over 500 different species of caterpillars, and planting an ornamental grass like Little Bluestem will bring butterflies, finches and wrens.

If you’re looking for colorful, fragrant flowers, plant some Sweet Goldenrod and Milkweed, to give Monarch Butterflies something to lay their eggs on. Then, all through the year, enjoy the oasis you created.

You can learn more about native plants for your backyard by visiting www.Audubon.org/nativeplants and entering your ZIP code. Other helpful resources can be found at www. ValleyForgeAudubon.org and www.HomeGrownNationalPark.org.