For a long time, indigenous plants were considered weeds and were rarely welcome in garden landscapes. Today, they hold a special place in gardeners’ hearts, not only because they are beautiful and easy to grow, but also because they play several important roles in the garden.
A garden for biodiversity
Ancolie du Canada © Espace pour la vie (Gilles Murray)
Native plant species play an essential role in maintaining local biodiversity. For instance, by serving as sources of food, shelter and sites for reproduction for our indigenous animal species, they ensure the survival of future generations. What a joy to have a garden in which to observe plants such as milkweed, wild bergamot, swamp verbena or creeping dogwood (to name just a few) flourishing and attracting butterflies and other useful insects—not to mention birds! Choosing to use plants native to Québec rather than another country, another continent or another part of Canada (i.e. exotic species) also helps prevent the introduction of potentially invasive species (e.g. Japanese knotweed, water chestnut, common reed)—the greatest threat to biodiversity after the destruction of habitat. The My Space for Life Garden program offers tips to create your own Biodiversity Garden at home and the chance to get it certified. Please visit our website for more details.
Plants that are a snap to care for
Indigenous species are part of Québec’s floral heritage. For proof, look no further than the province’s floral emblem, the harlequin blue flag—a beautiful native plant that is equally happy in a flowerbed as it is in natural wetlands. Furthermore, indigenous plants are well adapted to our weather conditions. Many are easy to grow and generally resist pests and disease well. By placing the right native plant in the right spot (based primarily on sunlight levels and soil characteristics in your garden), you will ensure vigorous growth while using less water, fertilizers and pesticides (which are now banned on the Island of Montréal anyway).
Where can these local beauties be found?
Bermudienne à feuilles étroites © Jardin botanique de Montréal (Gilles Murray)
Don’t remove indigenous plants from the wild! Instead, you can get them from nurseries specialized in native species. There are a number of producers in Québec, who distribute via various outlets across the province. This is the case, for instance, of Horticulture Indigo, whose products can be found in the shop at the Montréal Botanical Garden.
If you enjoy swapping or are looking for economical options for creating your garden, the site Plantcatching can help you find plants, seeds and surplus produce near you and offered free of charge by fellow keen gardeners. By signing up, you can donate plants to other members of the network in turn. It’s a great way to have a beautiful garden on a small budget while getting to know the neighbours, too! This article was written in cooperation with the Montréal Botanical Garden’s horticultural information team.