I perennially have thoughts about flowers. In terms of sustainability I am not sure the native ones are always best. Many of the natives are simply weeds with attractive flowers or characteristics we like. I have a deep respect for Black Eyed Susan from a previous experience – as in being nearly overrun by them. I used to live in their native habitat and had bought some “improved” Goldstrum Variety and they bolted back to their native selves and then ran amok on a well drained sunny hill. A recipe for landscape disaster. As beautiful as they were in full bloom, it took a long time to get rid of the Black Eyed Susans. I could not cope with their joyful abundance anymore. So easy on the natives and seek those that do well in your climate without too much water and too much abundance. Easier to take care of and maintain.
In South Florida irrigation is a big deal. We have a rainy season and a dry season. While there are many native plants this is a tropical climate and some of them can go wild. I have found some escaped houseplants in my yard going wild. Mother in Laws tongues is an invasive species. Many plants commonly grown here will not survive without irrigation. I chose not to irrigate my entire yard to save water and to save my sanity. The areas in lawn and vegetables are irrigated; areas with lower water perennials are drip irrigated and I have some unirrigated low maintenance areas that I still want to plant with beautiful perennials. I am just looking at things a bit differently. So, I am paying close attention to who I am inviting to live in my garden.
The Beach Sunflower from Wikipedia
I am about to plant some Beach Sunflower in an unirrigated portion of my garden, I live on a sand hill and these are native to our area – I believe if I planted them in an irrigated area I would be overrun in short order. So, it is time for some more garden experimentation. The Beach Sunflower is going to look great with the existing Blue Agave, Red Martin Bromeliad and Painted Fingernail Bromeliad. Eventually providing shade is a native Gumbo Limbo tree; if that doesn’t get you in the mood for a Margarita nothing will. All these plants are extremely drought tolerant and will survive without regular irrigation. The Gumbo Limbo and Beach Sunflower are native, the Blue Agave is from Mexico, and the Martin and Painted Fingernail Bromeliads are Neoregelia type Bromeliads that originated in South America.
It seems strange to me that Bromeliads, in my mind a rainforest plant, would thrive in the sun with little supplemental water, but they do. The Painted Fingernail Bromeliad is a passalong plant around here and I have seen large masses of it planted around mailboxes on the side of the road. A great example of a not native plant working in a sustainable way. The result of my selection of plant material is an evergreen perennial bed that blooms or provides year round color while being very drought tolerant and using very little fertilizer or maintenance.
Sustainability is about more than native plants – it is about selecting the right plants.