In the late 1980s, Lory Duralia decided it was time to grow her dream of having a native plant nursery at her West Linn, Oregon home. Today, the lush backyard sanctuary, which she named Bosky Dell Natives, is home to 3 acres of more than 300 native plant species she sells to customers throughout Oregon.
Duralia says native plants were difficult to find when she started the nursery, but today, business is blossoming.
“It’s really nurturing to just hang out in my backyard, which is all native, and have an abundance of beautiful plants and an array of wildlife, such as dragonflies, frogs, and birds,” she says.
Labor of Love
Of the many plant varieties for at-home planting, one favorite she recommends is the evergreen huckleberry, a flowering shrub.
“They’re a labor of love to pick because they’re tiny but absolutely delicious,” she says about the plant’s berries, adding that it’s favored by bees and hummingbirds. “In our family, if you didn’t help pick berries for the huckleberry pie, then you didn’t get a piece of it. It’s just really fun to walk into your own garden and pick huckleberries and eat them.”
Another favorite is the trillium, a beloved wildflower in Oregon. “It takes seven years for a young trillium to be mature enough to produce its very first blossom,” Duralia says about the beautiful yet fragile wildflower. “If you pick it, you’ve depleted your bulb of next year’s blossom, and it takes a few years to recover.”
Promoting a philosophy about the importance of being a good steward of the earth, Duralia says using native plants is important because the act promotes local sustainability.
“As we continue to build homes and develop land, we displace wildlife,” she says. “So it’s increasingly important for all of us as homeowners and business owners to give back some of which we’ve taken away. As we become more populated, it will become more and more important to help bees, birds and all of our wildlife.”
Additionally, gardens offer certain emotional health benefits by creating a personal sanctuary. “It creates both a sanctuary for the wildlife and the gardener,” Duralia says.
When choosing what native plants to use, Duralia says, “Gardeners should look at their land and go with the flow of pre-existing conditions for a successful garden. For instance, if you have a spot that’s dry and sunny, use plants that like dry, sunny locations.”
Bosky Dell Natives helps customers pick and choose what native plants to populate their personal gardens, providing tips and guidance about how to go native online at boskydellnatives.com.
According to Heather Stoven, extension horticulturalist at Oregon State University, native plants are defined as those found in an area before colonization. For the U.S., that means before European settlement. She says native plants are great to use in gardens because they are well adapted to the area.
“This means that they will require less inputs such as water and fertilizers,” she adds. “There are many beautiful native plants in all shapes and sizes to fit your specific site and gardening style.”
Overall, there are 3,500 native plants in Oregon, with many to choose from in hundreds of nurseries, conservation districts and flora organizations across the state. The Oregon Flora Project provides botanical information and a list of native plant nurseries and plants they sell on its website, oregonflora.org.
“Some common native plants to western Oregon include sword ferns, snowberry and Oregon grape, which is our state flower,” Stoven says. “One great thing about using these plants in the landscape is that they really give you a ‘sense of place’ and bring a unique feel to a garden located in your region.”
Like Duralia, she stresses the importance of choosing appropriate native plants when forming a garden.
“A plant native to western Oregon may not do well in central Oregon, so it is important to pay attention to the particular region a plant is native to,” she says. “That being said, in western Oregon, commonly available native plants in landscapes include Oregon grape, currants, Lewis’ mock orange, manzanitas, vine maple and various ferns such as sword fern and deer fern, however, there are many more attractive plants available for every eco-region.”
Native plants have numerous environmental benefits; for example, they are adapted to Oregon’s unique climate and do well without supplementary water, reducing water usage on property.
“Native plants are also adapted to our soils, need less fertilizing and often experience less pest pressure from insects and diseases. These plants provide food and protection to local wildlife. Lastly, native plants are established in our ecosystems and will not become invasive in our wild spaces,” Stoven says. “This does not mean, however, that some will not spread in garden settings; pay attention to the habit of the plants you are purchasing to be sure they will do well in the space you have available.”
And although native plant usage has been booming in recent years, the use of native plants in gardens has a rich history, Stoven says.
“Thomas Jefferson played a large role in the use of native plants and their introduction into horticulture. In Oregon, we also have a long history conserving and studying natural vegetation and native plants. Although each of the 50 states has a native plant society or similar organization, the Native Plant Society of Oregon has been in existence longer than most, being founded back in 1961.”