Interested in adding more native plants to your garden?
Whether you define “native” narrowly (your few square miles) or more broadly (eastern North America, perhaps), it’s a wonderful thing to add plants to our gardens that might be losing habitat in the wild.
Here are a few sources to consider:
Are you familiar with other resources? Drop them right here in the comments!
When we think of native plants, our minds often turn toward those flowers beloved by butterflies.
But have you considered planting a tree native to your area?
Where I live, white oaks are an especially important (and majestic) tree, but they struggle to survive marauding deer. They can also be difficult to transplant because of their long taproot. Planting an acorn or carefully moving a seedling when it pops up in a flower bed are great options. More and more tree growers are learning how to offer white oaks for transplanting, and I love to shop for trees at Bower&Branch.
Every area is different, but taking the time to ask around and observe the wilder parts of your local area can tell you a lot about the trees native to you.
Of course, there is a lot of debate about what makes a native a native. If a tree is native to mountains a few hundred miles from your non-mountain home, can it really be considered native for you? Perhaps the answer is properly no, but don’t let that stop you or discourage you. Planting trees is almost without exception a great idea, and while it’s worth doing the research to choose the right tree for the right spot, trees can offer so much to us no matter if they are growing miles from their natural habitat.
Here are some native trees (loosely defined!) that I love growing at Maplehurst:
- White Fringetree (chionanthus virginicus): A small, multi-stemmed tree with beautiful, scented white feathery blossoms in spring
- Carolina Silverbell (Halesia carolina): An elegant, medium-sized tree with spring blossoms just like delicate “silver bells”
- Eastern Red Cedar (juniperus virginiana): Not a true cedar, females of this evergreen have lovely pale-blue fruits
- Northern Red Oak (quercus rubra): Like the white oak, this is an excellent tree to shelter and feed wildlife
For too many years, I resisted learning about native plants because I associated that topic with grumpy, finger-wagging experts and uninteresting science. I longed for colorful, ornamental plants, and I didn’t want anyone to tell me I couldn’t have them.
It turns out, I had it all wrong.
I began to understand what I’d been missing when I visited the garden of a friend from church. She’s a bird watcher and a bird lover, and sitting on her patio while she named the birds whose trills and melodies we could hear as we sipped our tea was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
“Why are there so many birds in your garden?” I asked.
“Because I made this garden for them,” she answered.
That day I could only dimly perceive what she meant, but as she walked me around her suburban yard, and later as I read some of the books she recommended, I realized that native plants don’t place a burden or a limit on our gardening practice, rather, they offer an invitation.
I had been so sure that the study of native plants would force me to identify some of the plants I loved as “bad,” that I had never really learned just how good a native plant can be. Native plants are our opportunity to restore habitats lost to development or other changes in the environment. Native plants allow us to feed insects, which means we are also feeding birds.
To fill our yards with native plants, is to enact a project of return and restoration. It is a way of reclaiming wonders that have been lost. And, assuming it isn’t a greedy invader, there’s no reason why we can’t plant natives and an ornamental exotic or two (or more!). Like so many complex subjects, this doesn’t have to be an either / or equation.
Give me peonies.
And give me the beautiful, spring flowering fringe tree chionanthus virginicus.