Native planting | Explore Big Sky

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Local organizations are working to put native plants back into Big Sky’s soil

By Gabrielle Gasser

BIG SKY – The Gallatin Invasive Species Alliance and the Gallatin River Task Force both work to educate the Big Sky community about the benefits of native plants and to encourage the use of these plants in landscaping.

The alliance currently hosts its online native plant sale and the working group, in partnership with the alliance, offers educational resources and a pledging opportunity through its Trout Friendly Landscaping program. In July, the two organizations are also joining forces to offer a gardening workshop.

“Native plants are the foundation of our ecosystems,” said Jen Mohler, executive director of the alliance. The main goal of GISA, she says, is to have more native plants in the landscape because of the many benefits they provide.

“Montana has 35 state-listed noxious weeds, and these noxious weeds are essentially like a silent cancer on our landscape,” Mohler said. “They settle, they displace native plants, they are competitive, adaptive and persistent. They harm our economy, our environment and have profound ecological consequences.

Native plants in landscaping use less water and create a patchwork of vibrant colors in gardens.
PHOTO BY MARK CASTANENDA

Unlike these harmful non-native species, native plants, according to Mohler, require less water, form the base of the food pyramid, provide important habitat for wildlife, and have deep roots that prevent erosion and promote health. of the ground.

Jessica Olson, conservation associate with the task force, broadened the argument for promoting native plants to include impacts on water systems. When non-native species are used in landscaping, she says, they require a lot more water, which decreases the supply of clean water. Olson added that water use at Big Sky is estimated to be seven times higher in summer than in winter, mostly due to irrigation.

“If we can reduce water use by using native plants, we can save a lot of water leaving the Gallatin,” Olson said.

The task force seeks to educate people on the benefits of these plants and hopefully conserve more water in a drought-prone region.

Likewise, Mohler hopes to educate people about the benefits of native plants and empower them to take that small step in protecting the natural resources that make Big Sky such a beautiful place to live.

“Consciously choosing plants that require less water is a really important thing that we can all do and take action and be proactive as these droughts continue,” Mohler said.

This year, 29 different species are available through the alliance’s Native Plant Sale, including hyssop, showy fleabane and penstemon, which Mohler says are great for bees. There will be two pick-up days, the first on June 2 from 4-6 p.m. at Crail Gardens in Big Sky and the second on June 5 from 4:30-6 p.m. at the Simms parking lot.

“Nature is messy,” Mohler said. “It’s meant to be messy. And your garden isn’t part of the ecosystem unless something eats it.

Blanket flowers are one of the native species planted in Crail Gardens. COURTESY PHOTO
BY JEN MOHLER
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