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Native Plants To St. Louis Are Front And Center In New, Free Garden Plan

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Susan Van de Riet
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St. Louis Native Plants
A swallowtail butterfly sipping nectar from butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa).

After Susan Van de Riet bought a house in 2009, she fumbled to figure out what to do with its landscaping, which then consisted mostly of weeds and shrubs. People offered advice, but ultimately Van de Riet started her horticulture journey with a Google search.

She knew she wanted to prioritize environmentally friendly plants. But it wasn’t until she became involved with local resources such as the St. Louis Audubon Society’s “Bring Conservation Home” program that she learned about the wildlife benefits of plants that are native to the area.

“When I got involved with them, I started to understand the wildlife connection to native plants, because wildlife has evolved with our native plant palette. And they basically coexist very well with each other and have for many, many years,” she told St. Louis on the Air.

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Susan Van de Riet is the owner, designer and consultant at St. Louis Native Plants.

Now Van de Riet owns St. Louis Native Plants, a landscape consulting and design company that helps locals figure out the ideal way to grow a garden in their yard. She’s also a member of the local chapter of Wild Ones Natural Landscapers.

With them, she recently created a native garden plan that’s specific to St. Louis. It’s time and budget friendly and free to download.

Van de Riet explained that she approaches garden designs almost like “being a composer of a symphony.”

“You know, when you go to St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at Powell Hall, you can hone in on individuals who are playing their piece on a violin or drum or flute or something like that,” she said. “But they're a part of a greater whole. There's a lot of moving parts and a lot of different players bringing that together to one purpose and one big sound. And so, I look at my efforts as a designer the same way, that I'm bringing together all of these different moving parts.”

She said she developed the plan to include several common landscape conditions, so people can use various parts of it depending on what their yard is like.

“Some basic design principles [include] color blocking and putting large clusters of plants together,” she explained. The result is a more organized yard that’s easier to maintain, and one that makes it easier for bees to pollinate, for example.

“We want to make sure that we have some sort of interest throughout the whole year,” she added. “There are so many plants [in] Missouri that are native that we can select from that carry across the summer and well into the fall. So it gives us a lot to work with, and a lot to support our pollinators and beneficial insects, so that they have something throughout the whole growing season.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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