Green Towson Alliance urges planting of native species; Native Garden Competition Opens June 13 – Baltimore Sun

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Spring is here and Green Towson Alliance wants to encourage the community to choose indigenous and natural when sprucing up our outdoor living spaces.

Native plants and trees grew in our region long before European colonization. Most insects can only ingest plants they have co-evolved with for thousands of years. Most butterflies and moths can only lay eggs on specific plants. Caterpillars and other insects are vital foods for songbirds, and nearly all birds feed their chicks insects. Our courtyards and gardens have a role in the circle of life.

Green Towson Alliance is launching its second annual Indigenous Garden Competition (nativegardencontest.com), and any gardener who lives in a Towson neighborhood and incorporates native plants, trees and shrubs into their yard is welcome. An entrance can be a specific garden bed or the whole yard. Do you have a rain garden designed to reduce runoff from the lawn? Or a garden with mature or recently planted native trees? Have you replaced grass patches with native plants? Start taking photos to share!

Entrants will be invited to upload photos of their garden when the competition opens on June 13. The Green Towson Alliance Homegrown National Park Working Group will visit the applications and announce the finalists on July 16.

“Being a judge for the competition last year was an amazing experience,” said Laura Stranahan, task force member and Knollwood resident. “It gave me the opportunity to see the spaces that other people in the Towson area have been working on for, in some cases, decades.

“Knowing that there are others with the same goals has given me hope for the future. Our goal is to celebrate those who are already gardening with native plants and trees while educating people about the importance of these species to our local ecosystems and encouraging them to also plant native species.

Once entries are received, the public will be invited to vote online for their favorite garden. Last year, there were 27 contest entries and over 440 online votes. The 2021 winners were homeowners in Rodgers Forge, Greenbrier and Loch Raven Village. Burkleigh Square has won a special award for its community garden.

“For me personally, gardening with native plants is the small thing I can do to impact the planet,” Stranahan said. “We are living through a mass extinction that seems overwhelming, and I think people often feel helpless in the face of something so huge and scary. I may not personally be able to bring back ancient forests or heal coral reefs, but I can support local species like the Baltimore Checkerspot, our state butterfly, by planting a white turtle head.

Since 2015, the dedicated members of the Green Towson Alliance have worked tirelessly to restore our ecosystems. They’ve planted hundreds of trees, removed tons of trash from local streams, removed invasive vines strangling mature trees in our parks and woods, and advocated for good environmental policy in Baltimore County. Learn more about them at greentowsonalliance.org.

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