I appreciate Curt Fields' effort to list actions we all can take to soften our impact on the environment ("Going green at any price," Green Living Guide, April 13). However, I must take exception to his inclusion of planting native plants as an energy-saving tactic. The inputs required to grow native plants are very similar to the inputs required to grow any other plant. There is no inherent energy savings.
Once planted, native plants require an establishment period very similar to non-native species. During this time period, native and non-native species require water. As plants become established they generally do not need supplemental water except in periods of extreme drought. This is true for natives and non-natives.
Mr. Fields suggests we embrace our indigenous soils. I think this is a wonderful idea, unless you live in an urban setting where there is little indigenous soil. A current NCSU study has found that new home sites in urban settings have such a high degree of soil compaction that water percolation rates are 0 percent. It doesn't matter what kind of plant you use in this soil, it won't grow.
I have been in the nursery industry for more than 30 years and an avid gardener for longer than that. I have discovered many non-native plants that are well adapted to our Piedmont soils, require very little supplemental water and bloom from spring until frost. The horticulture industry has been selecting for drought tolerance for decades. The key is to amend the soil by adding organic matter and other materials, select the correct plant for the correct site and use proper cultural practices such as mulching after planting.
"Going green" is not a matter of what you plant as much as it is the behavior and expectation we have in exercising our daily choices subsequent to planting.