From Heather Schmidt’s perspective, native plantings are a win-win-win.
For starters, flowers and plants that thrive in the KC metro help keep area streams and rivers from being flooded with too much rainwater, said Schmidt, a water quality specialist for the Johnson County Stormwater Management Program. Natives also contribute to water quality.
That’s Schmidt’s professional take. But there are other benefits — like helping species that face depopulation.
“They help pollinators,” she said. “Bees and monarch butterflies are in trouble. They can use native plantings for food and a place to lay their eggs.”
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Then there’s the human element. While black-eyed susans, milkweed, coneflowers, bee balm and other native plants take similar amounts of time and elbow grease in the early stages of planting, once they’re established, they tend to require less maintenance than non-natives, she said.
And because they have deeper roots, they survive dry spells better than non-natives. Natives also can be magnets for hummingbirds and other birds, Schmidt said.
For the first time ever, the Stormwater Management Program is hosting an event to spread the word about the virtues of native plantings with area gardeners. From 6 to 8 p.m. on May 17, the agency will hold a workshop on the topic at Johnson County Central Resource Library.
In addition to sharing information about plants, rain gardens, butterflies and pollinators, the event will educate gardeners about residential cost share programs available in many Johnson County cities for water quality-friendly landscaping, said David Dods, an environmental scientist and engineer in the Kansas City-based office of AECOM who will lead the workshop.
A native plant sale, sponsored by the county and the Kansas City Native Plant Initiative, will follow from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 3 at the Theater in the Park Pavilion at Shawnee Mission Park.
Regulations in recent years have gone a long way toward mitigating stormwater runoff problems, Schmidt said, but there’s still plenty of pre-regulation development in the area that could benefit from native plantings.
Fortunately, she said, Johnson County residents seem to agree.
“We’re seeing more and more interest from the public on native plants,” Schmidt said. “We partner with Lenexa, Overland Park and Shawnee on healthy plant expos, which include native plants, and every year attendance goes up.”
To learn more:
Workshop on native plants: 6 to 8 p.m. May 17 at Johnson County Central Resource Library.
A native plant sale, sponsored by the county and the Kansas City Native Plant Initiative: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 3 at the Theater in the Park Pavilion at Shawnee Mission Park.