1. I do not believe in 100% native plant gardens because I'm trying to re-establish some pre-colonial virginity. That can never happen.
2. I see so few native plants in ANY landscape, commercial or residential, that I know there's a crisis of imagination and connection to local environment.
3. I see so few native plants in local and big box nurseries that I know "...."
4. Without native plants we don't know our home ground, we aren't nearly as connected to place, and we won't see nearly the wildlife and support nearly the same number. It's called co-evolution. A sulphur doesn't lay eggs on hosta. Also, if you live in Arizona you can't have a cottage garden; if you want a cottage garden move to the PNW or the Northeast.
5. We MUST get away from a purely aesthetic value judgement of gardens. Often, we CAN have our cake and eat it too, but we need to accept and understand the benefit of plants going dormant, of a "messy" winter garden, of native grass lawns that don't green up in April, et cetera. Right now bee larvae are resting in the hollow stems of my "unkempt" joe pye weed, which also has birds perched atop it.
6. We need to stop gardening solely for ourselves and see the incredible, beautiful, soul-magnifying existence that happens when we open up our gardens to the rest of the local environment by using native plants. We believe in giving to the needy and poor of our own species, and to other causes near our hearts, why not the birds, insect pollinators, amphibians right out back in the gardens we supposedly cherish so much? Again, if monarchs are on the brink, what ELSE is on the brink? Planting an exotic plant is almost always a space waster.
But it's constraining to use plants native to your locale? Do you even know which plants are native to where you live? That's constraining -- short-sighted, too. Let's talk about good garden design in general for a moment -- or any art for that matter. It's the "constraint" that makes the art / artifice that much more powerful (I say this as a poet and writer). It's the coloring within the lines, and coloring in a new way, that makes the design pop and sing and move and hit us deep. If you have a garden palette awash in a plethora of plants you have visual chaos -- but even a prairie, so often seen as chaotic, is governed by rules; those rules make the display that much more emotionally impacting and able to teach us something about what's there. Native plants aren't limiting or constraining -- your willingness to embrace any exotic will, in the end, limit and constrain my health as ecosystems that have worked for thousands of years collapse (insects!). This is why we have invasive species lists. We know what we're doing. We do it anyway. Stop making excuses. Learn your world. Stop looking at your navel.
Native plants go to the heart of our moral and ethical alert systems that tell us when something is wrong or right -- but we work even harder to deny those alert systems, ignore them, in favor of personal and immediate gratification at the expense of the future. Our future. A more peaceful future with no wars over clean water and fossil fuels, a future with less cancer and birth defects and learning disorders caused my chemical elixirs in our food, water, and air. Native plants are the top of a much larger iceberg and represent more than aesthetic getaway value. And maybe that's the problem, too -- talking about gardens as not just a sublime refuge from trouble but the heart of trouble, a reflection of larger issues we CAN change, is uncomfortable, and it should be. We don't want our gardens to be statements for anything but personal pleasure. We don't want our gardens to be influenced by the world out there. Our gardens are not insular little worlds, though, especially in suburbia. Gardens and managed landscapes are not just for us, to assume they are is racism toward other species. And even genocide. Case in point -- corn and monarchs.
If you think I'm politicizing native plants then that's because the apparent debate over using them reflects issues of race, class, and even gender. Those who are poorest suffer the worst health and food options -- even in our own country. And one could say the poorest of the poor might be other species who have no defenders other than idealistic humans. We get sad when black rhinos vanish and polar bears drown looking for any ice drift to hunt from, but it's hard to look at the same things going on out the back door. But we need to look. It's all connected.