Gary Cocke

Written by: 
Jennifer Pache
Photography by: 
Gary Payne
Gary Cocke
Gary Cocke

How can you grow a garden using native plants?

A beautiful garden is a must-have for many, but few fully understand the benefits of creating a space full of native plants. Gary Cocke ('10), who served as UNT sustainability coordinator and We Mean Green Fund advisor, offers tips on how to create a sustainable, low-maintenance garden full of plants that can easily adapt to the local environment.

"Enjoy planting your garden and have fun," Cocke says. "If you go with native plants, you generally can't go wrong."

Plan your garden

  • Gardens aren't one-size-fits-all. Before planting, determine the plants you want. Winter-blooming or spring-blooming? Shrubs or flowers?
  • Consider what works best where. Native plants supply fantastic color and use less water.

Take advantage of resources

  • Use your library. Libraries have a wealth of resources on gardening and the use of native plants. Be sure you are looking at the right zone so you don't accidentally use non-native plants.
  • Use botanical research institutes for help and resources on gardening with native plants. Some of the most popular in Texas are the Botanical Research Institute of Texas in Fort Worth and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.
  • The internet is your friend. One site that is especially useful for native plants is Hosted by the North Central Texas Council of Governments, it provides a search feature for choosing the perfect plants for your garden.

Why use native plants?

  • They are suited for the environment. While they take the same amount of effort to plant as non-native varieties, they will require less effort to maintain and will thrive in their home conditions.
  • Your garden will be abuzz with life. Native plants help reinforce the local ecosystem by attracting native butterflies, bees and birds.

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