Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 4.16.2009


Earth Day 2009

Carpets of Wildflowers, Canopy of Oaks Restoring native plants across the city

Just Say No to the Butterfly Bush

The Camas Among Us A common spring flower invokes Kalapuya heritage

Students, Volunteers and the Land Seven years of restoration efforts with Walama

Livin’ Green, Even in Winter Nature, raw and processed


At Home with Native Plants
Garden tour on Mother’s Day
by Krista Harper

While some gardeners worry about keeping their grass green, others are working to make their yards greener in an entirely different sense ­ by purposefully gardening with native plants.

Photo Bruce Newhouse

Mieko Aoki, the chair of Eugene’s Native Gardening Awareness Program (NGAP), says that native plants require less watering, fertilizer and pesticides than non-native plants, making them more environmentally friendly. Non-native plants, some of which were introduced for gardening, require more care and can disrupt the natural ecosystem. Some of these non-native plants rapidly spread outside their gardens, becoming invasive species that endanger native plants by taking over what would normally be the native plants’ terrain. Gardening with native plants avoids these issues.Though the benefits of gardening with native plants are many, Aoki says, the increase in local wildlife prompted by native plant gardening is the main motivation for most gardeners.

“There are certain relationships between plants and insects that can’t be replicated,” she says.

Aoki adds that native plants encourage butterflies and other insects to settle, which in turn provide food for native birds and other local species (see the sidebar for a list of native plants that attract butterflies). Animals and insects that have struggled for survival in traditional yards flourish in yards filled with native plants, she says.

Intrigued? You’re in luck. On Mother’s Day, May 10, NGAP is offering free tours of 12 native plant gardens in Eugene ­ eight private and four public. Participants will have the opportunity to ask NGAP volunteers questions about the animals and plants on site and about the how-tos of native plant gardening.The gardens on the tour feature mixtures of local annuals and perennials, shrubs and trees, Aoki says. Some of the yards are planted almost entirely with native species, while others demonstrate successful mixes of native and non-native flora.

Some local plants popular in the gardens include Oregon Sunshine, Red Flowering Currant and Checker Mallow. Hummingbirds, butterflies and other wildlife may be visible as well.The private gardens will be open between noon and 5 pm on May 10, and tours of all the gardens will only be offered during those hours. Visitors can tour as few or as many gardens as they would like within that time. Participants are encouraged to walk, bike or carpool. 

Interested gardeners can also check out NGAP’s wildflower sale at Mt. Pisgah the following weekend. Private gardens on the tour: 2525 Potter St.; 2755 Potter St.; 270 E. 36th Ave; 875 W. 26th Ave.; 2261 Jefferson St.; 2160 Lawrence St.; 952 W. 4th Ave; 1491 W. 5th Ave.

Public gardens offering NGAP tours: West University Park, 14th Ave. and Hilyard St.; UO Natural and Cultural History Museum, 1680 E. 15th Ave.; Hendricks Park Native Plant Garden. top of Summit Ave.; Butterfly Garden at Amazon Community Gardens. 28th Ave. and High St. For more information, visit