Native plants in the neighborhoods

Recently I was perusing through some of the land use and planning codes for the City of Vancouver.  I was reading up on adding street trees and vegetation to the street side of one’s property and I saw that the inclusion of native plants was advocated in the body of the codes. (Section 20.925.010 paragraph B and Section 20.925.090 on Re-vegetation).  I have observed native plants in many of the new commercial developments here. I see lots of Mahonia and Vine Maples used, as well as a variety of grasses which I’m glad of as vine maples are my old friends and they seem to do so well where ever they grow. Native plantings are also beneficial for our native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

I wonder when this inclusion will trickle down to planting in the older neighborhoods, especially those with dry sunny exposures.  As property values go up in Vancouver the older neighborhoods will go through a renaissance. For example, I was driving around the west-side Rose Village neighborhood.  Much of the neighborhood was platted in the early 1900s. It is flat and the lots are typically in the 5,000 s.f. range, many with a south and west exposure, meaning lots of sun and dead lawns.

California poppies

In my mind’s eye I began to see weary parking strips and browned out ‘street’ side yards filled with plants that can take our July – September heat, not strictly native plants but xeric as well.  Recently I saw a manzanita planted in a wide Portland parking strip. It was healthy and quite lovely and I realized it could do well here.

In my garden the natives are swishing through this extended dry heat. The Golden Current (Ribes aurea), the elderberries, and Pacific Wax Myrtle are thriving as are the annual wildflowers.

Imagine manzanitas with poppies, salvias, and ornamental grasses or for a shady spot vine maples, ferns, wild ginger, and our native columbine, gracing urban gardens.

Contractors working on a large project can obtain these plants through a wholesale nursery but where is the average DIY home gardener to source these plants locally?  Portland Nursery has a limited native plant selection. Watershed Gardens in Longview carries a large selection of native plants as well. The conservation districts have an annual bare-root sale of native plants. I buy a lot from Xera, Cistus, Garden Fever, and Joy Creek, in Portland and Sauvie Island areas.

Canada Goldenrod

Here in Vancouver we have some fine nurseries but I do not see much in the way of native plants offered in their inventory.  I’d like to see that change.  I’d like to see our nurseries partner with the City,  the County, our Water Resources Center, PUD, our WSU Master Gardener extension, Backyard Habitat, and the neighborhood associations to make climate-friendly native plants available to those who want to water less, provide for our native pollinators, and have attractive curb appeal in the summer.

We have successful campaigns for tree planting and for community clean-ups, how about a combined effort for enhancing our neighborhoods with native plants?

If you agree consider asking the buyers at your local nursery and garden center to offer more native plant options. If the demand is there they will respond.

Further reading:
Gardening for Our Friends. 
Gardening with Native Plants poster
City of Vancouver Native Trees and Shrubs list
Clark County Green Neighbors
Habitat List for Residential Landscapes
Landscape Design for Wildlife




One thought on “Native plants in the neighborhoods

  1. I love this idea AND the article! It would make a good article for the winter issue of The Garden News. Just sayin’…. 😉


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