1 – Think of your garden as a seasonal sculpture. You can chisel a little here and there, take a few steps back and see if you need to take more off at one end, or put more on. A native garden is a very personal work of art that must be both pleasing to you aesthetically and pleasing to the wildlife it supports. With a little bit of know-how and effort, you can accomplish this easily. Keep in mind that it does take time to see what works and what doesn’t, so be patient, and remember to choose your locations for plants based on their likes (sun-loving plants go in places where there is a lot of sun for a good part of the day).
2 – Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure will happen. Use your failure as a learning tool. With every failure, you’re gaining knowledge.
3 – Don’t fertilize. Native plants are well adapted for the type of soil you already have. If a plant doesn’t do well, the reason is more likely to be the wrong plant in the right location (possibly the amount of light or degree of moisture.)
4 – Some may disagree, but I think it’s okay to leave some non-native plants if they aren’t invasive and add to the look you are going for. You can think of them as equivalent to plastic stand-in’s if you want, as they probably won’t have much benefit to the local wildlife. Just be sure they are also not harmful to wildlife (such as “heavenly bamboo” where birds can die from eating the berries). I do plan to add a small list of lesser-evil non-native plants (just kidding – plants aren’t evil – they all have a home somewhere on this planet where they are contributing members of the ecosystem – just remember that that ecosystem may not be your yard, region, or continent).
Here’s a couple of websites that can help you find what might work best for your landscape: