Ask a dozen homeowners, or 20 or even 50, if they would like a garden of native plants, and you get a vast array of answers; “Yes I love having pollinators visit!” “Oh, I don’t have the right setting for that…” “My neighbors would never approve.” “What do you mean, like weeds?” It seems that when talking native, plants are automatically relegated to certain predispositions, too bad, because there’s more to native plants than meets the stereotype!
Here to shatter the myth that native plants are just a bunch of weeds loved only by tree huggers and liberal fruitcakes, are some beautiful stars of the garden. Plants that work well in many settings, doing the double duty of feeding the native pollinators, and winning over even the primmest of taste buds.
You may recognize many of these, but did you know they are native plants?
Very few trees can rival the amazing bark of Heritage River Birch. Able to tolerate wet soils, but widely adaptable, this moderate tree will garner many stares when placed near a walk or patio. Fall brings a wonderful yellow glow to the foliage, and the winter silhouette it very striking.
Heritage River Birch (Betula nigra ‘Cully’)
Does anybody not like the cheery aura of Black-eyed Susan. One of the most recognizable flowers of late summer, this native works well in both formal and informal settings, and is a long bloomer!
Black-eyed Susan (Rubeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’)
Another very recognizable native, is White Flowering Dogwood. It’s clean white bracts will brighten up a shadowy woodland edge, or star in the frame created by window pane. Later in the season bright red berries appear, enticing robins to bring their rhythmic call to the garden.
White Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Can you imagine a lovelier face staring at you from the middle of the perennial border? Rose Mallow, standing near five feet tall, does just that. At five inches across, the blossoms are visible from great distances in the garden, and are often filled with pollinators.
Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos)
There isn’t much color in the garden as autumn turns to winter, unless of course you have a plant that berries like Winterberry Holly. As leaves fall from tree and shrub, it’s just beginning it colorful display. Prized by both birds and floral arrangers alike, Winterberry Holly will put a smile on your face, when the rest of the garden has turned brown.
Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata)
The next three photos, are from the parking lot of Cabella’s Outfitters in East Hartford, Connecticut. Outdoor stores, have long been the place to find native plants. Seems natural to use native plants to recreate the atmosphere their customers prize most, the wild back country. I wonder how many explorers see the great beauty in these plants and include them in their gardens.
Little Bluestem is a grass found throughout the country. It’s upright habit and bluish-green blades add a wonderful architectural element to the garden. In fall the foliage turns red-orange, echoing the color high in the canopy.
Little Bluestem Grass (Schyizachyrium sscoparium cv.)
You might recognize Eastern Redcedar, from the highway median, or from a hike through a meadow transitioning to forest, but have you ever considered it as a specimen in the garden. These cultivars rival the most handsome specimens of Hinoki Cypress, but will tolerate a wider range of conditions. Not bad for a plant whose berries are used to make Gin!
Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana cv.)
Here you can see three of our plants in the same shot.
Little Bluestem Grass (foreground), Eastern Redcedar and Heritage River Birch (Betula nigra ‘Cully”), in the background.
The picture was taken at “The Holy Land”… Dunkin Doughnuts. Switch Grass is another species found throughout the U.S., and lately has been rising in popularity thanks to new cultivars that produce beautiful foliage. This specimen, which I think is ‘Ruby Ribbons’, is the reddest of the Panicums. It seems to pull the red right from the ordering kiosk, doesn’t it?
Red Switchgrass (Panicum virginianum cv.)
So, there you have it. Several examples of native plants, and not a weedy sot in the whole bunch. It’s time to consider native pants in your garden, yes for their value to pollinators, yes to preserve native species as global economies bring in more and more exotics, but perhaps more importantly, because they are beautiful!
What do you think, have I convinced you to try more native plants in your garden?
After leaving a comment to tell me your thoughts on native plants, please visit my fellow Roundtable members, to see what they think of “Designing with Native Plants”.
Thomas Rainer : Grounded Design : Washington, D.C.
David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque, NM
Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA
Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX
Mary Gallagher Gray : Black Walnut Dispatch : Washington, D.C.
Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK
Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA
Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN
Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT