Mar 14, 2007
Over at The Daily Dirt, Heleigh Bostwick advises gardeners that one way to get native plant species into your garden is to "take charge of your landscape. Instead of letting the contractor or designer decide which plants use, you be the one to decide what gets planted. Taking charge can be as simple as asking whether a plant is native or exotic and opting for the native plant, or as complex as researching and compiling your own list of native plants for the landscape designer or contractor to use."
Granted, I've got a bit of a bias here. But with all due respect, the whole reason to hire a designer is because our expertise and experience allows us to develop the plant palette that is uniquely suited to your unique wishes and site conditions. If the average homeowner just went to the nursery and grabbed a bunch of native plants because they're native, well, I doubt the results will be spectacular. Will your soil support a native community? Are the plants you've selected even members of the same community? As I've mentioned before, natives are native because they've evolved to a very specific set of conditions. Woe to the gardener who tries combining a Fremontodendron with a Sisyrinchium.
Heleigh is right: taking charge of creating the plant list is one solution. But it's not the best one. The best solution is to interview landscape designers (or contractors) extensively. Get references to projects that are comparable to yours. Ask to view sites first-hand. If you're afraid they might just be recycling the same plant palette over and over again, ask whether they have a "favorite set of plants" they like to use -- any answer other than "it depends on your unique situation" probably is not a good answer. If natives are important to you, make that one of your defining criteria for hiring a professional. But do hire a professional.
Sometimes the best way to take charge is to delegate.