As a child of the 70's, one of my favorite songs was Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” with her infamous line, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
When my husband and I were looking at homes several years ago, that line popped into my head when I first saw a house that the homeowners had paved over almost the entire driveway and backyard, leaving little room for grass or plants.
For many other reasons, we loved and ended up buying the home, thinking that someday we would do something about all of the concrete. But other priorities always seemed to eat up our budget, until this spring when I realized that “paving paradise” was popping into my head every time I pulled into my driveway. Someday is now, I told my husband.
After agreeing on our first step, taking out the old paver stones along our driveway, we had to choose what to put there instead. Native plants were an easy choice. Native plants are plants that occur naturally in a particular region.
In Minnesota, plants are considered native if they were here at the time of the Public Land Survey (1847-1907), which was conducted prior to and during the early stages of European settlement. Because they easily adapt to our weather and climate, native plants use less water than turf grass and exotic plants, and they don’t need pesticides or other toxic chemicals to keep pests away.
I was even more inspired to make this choice when I learned that a 250-townhome association in Denver saved 15 million gallons of water in the first year after they replaced much of their turf grass with native plants and switched to higher efficiency sprinklers. In addition to benefitting water, native plants provide nectar for pollinators, produce native nuts and seeds for wildlife, and help the climate by storing greenhouse gases. Once planted and established, native plants require less maintenance, saving time and money.
For these reasons, Audubon Minnesota is encouraging homeowners, building managers, cities, schools and businesses throughout Minnesota to consider using native plants in their yards and parks. Our goal is 60 communities and their residents throughout the state taking significant actions like this to protect our treasured lakes and rivers, and conserve our dwindling fresh groundwater supply.
With your support, we can soon be singing another one of Joni Mitchell’s iconic lines as we drive through Minnesota: “Bring me the birds and the bees!”
Join us in transforming Minnesota’s landscape! Your donation to Audubon Minnesota remains in Minnesota to support local conservation efforts.