Native Landscaping Adds Beauty to New Habitat Homes

This fall, two Habitat communities — Alder Commons in Hillsboro and Denney Gardens in Beaverton— are focusing on native species in their landscaping plans.

“Portland has been in the forefront of this movement to plant native plants,” said Jane Hartline, owner of Sauvie Island Natives, who recently led a crew of volunteers planting hundreds of Oregon natives at Denney Gardens. “They provide much more of what birds and insects and all kinds of critters need to thrive.”

Animals, insects, and plants co-evolve over thousands of years, and learn to thrive off each other. Research has shown that compared to non-native species, native plant species are better equipped to provide the food and habitat needed to support nearby animals and insects.

“That’s why we’re doing it,” said Hartline. “Because we care about not just people but also other life forms.

There are other benefits as well. Because they are on their home turf, native plants generally require little maintenance once they are established. And they are often adapted to the local environment, soil conditions and insects, so less watering and pesticide use.

“One of the things that we’re looking at is increasing diversity,” Hartline said. “You don’t want to just plant one or two things, you want to figure out, like, what would that whole ecosystem have looked like?”

The ecosystem Hartline is working with is a half-acre stretch of land that’s part of Habitat’s Denney Garden’s affordable housing community, but also connected to Beaverton’s Fanno Creek Greenway and wetland area. The greenway is a protected natural area that will be accessible to the public, and in a land use agreement with the city of Beaverton, Habitat agreed to clear out invasive species and maintain the natural area.

With the formal landscaping still open for planning, Leigh Armstrong, Denney Garden’s project manager, called up Sauvie Island Natives. “If we’re starting from scratch,” Leigh said, “that means we can do the best possible thing.”

Hartline estimates she and a crew of volunteers from Wells Fargo planted about 900 plants at Denney Gardens, including the classic Oregon grape, whose bright yellow flowers attracts bees and hummingbirds. Snowberry, fringe cups, Douglas asters, goldenrod and an assortment of colorful wildflowers will also be installed to help support birds and pollinators.

Leigh said she envisions having the properties certified as a backyard habitat by the Portland Audubon Society. The Backyard Habitat Certification Program is open to all urban gardeners and provides technical assistance, financial incentives, and encouragement to people who want to create natural, low-maintenance gardens.

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