Using Native Plants in Landscape Design: Is There A Moral Imperative?

I studied landscape design at Delaware Valley College in Bucks County Pa. My professor was the late Doug Kane. Professor Kane was a student of the pioneering ecological  landscape architect Ian Mcharg, and as a result professed the ecological approach with a passion and persuasion that was hard to resist, even if you were a die-hard traditionalist. At that time, it felt elitist to be a part of a movement that would help to “save our planet.” Looking back it is obvious that the philosophy was far overstated. And this is perhaps as much a sign of the times now as it was then; too many ideas are oversold and righteous conviction surrounds many viewpoints making it difficult to perceive objectivity. I still design with a strong vocabulary of what are considered native plants. I say considered because I am located in central Pennsylvania in the Piedmont region and most of the ‘natives’ I use are from the Coastal Plain about a hundred or so miles away. I do believe in the ecological benefits of using natives but stop far short of the underlying nationalistic viewpoint that can be found in so many trade articles and seminars. After all, the United States is the great melting pot.