Your views on 'native' cultivars?
What a great idea for a forum! My pulse speeds up any time I'm in the vicinity of a good debate, even if it's only as a spectator.
This is mostly intended for natural habitat gardeners, I guess. I recently debated with a natural habitat advocate the use of cultivars of otherwise native species of forbs and shrubs. She runs a biannual native plant sale at my church, and I recently helped out with the fall sale. She surprised my by ordering mostly cultivars of the various species we offered for sale. (If anyone is interested, you can email me for the plant list.)
I'm not a native habitat gardener, mostly because my own city property is really quite small and I haven't got the space, and also because there are too many ornamentals I wish to plant. (I do plant as many natives as I can, though, and I've never used any chemical controls, so I do get a wonderful array of unusual birds and bugs, and a few mammals like chipmunks, bats, and a skunk that arrives precisely at the same time every night as if she's carrying a pocket watch.) The native habitat lady has her own partially wooded, largish property planted almost exclusively with "natives," but many of these are in fact cultivars. Her philosophy, based on her discussions with an ecologist she knows, is that critters will feed and breed on native cultivars the same as they would on the more "native" natives, so in most cases they're fine. She's an especially avid fan of the butterflies they draw, it seems.
All this leaves an unresolved issue, though: even if the cultivars have little or no impact on fauna, aren't they potential or even likely invasives to the native flora realm? Her apparent lack of concern about this possibility puzzles me, as she is constantly complaining about having to rip out acres of vinca and driving truckloads of burning bush debris to the local public composting facility, so she is quite sensitive to the concept of invasiveness. I'm planning to resume the debate with her at our next work party, tomorrow, while we limb up some more of the church's yews.
It would be great to learn which side you debaters come in on, and what you have to say.