Native plants are gaining in popularity among gardeners, who find them beautiful, hardy and easy to grow.
Many native plants that are sold as ornamentals can be found in the wild, growing in fields, on hillsides and slopes, in ditches, along ponds, streams and lakes. The orange butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), a showy member of the milkweed family, is one of the best examples. Another example is the cardinal lower (Lobelia cardinalis), which has red, hummingbird-attracting flowers. In nature, it can be found in damp meadows or along stream or pond edges, often in association with its cousin, the Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia syphilitica).
The movement to “bring nature home” has inspired many gardeners to use these easy-care plants in their ornamental gardens, or to create whole gardens of native plants. Native plants also can serve as a buffer between cultivated landscaping and wild areas.
Here at Specialty Growers, our native garden is located at the edge of a small pond. In the higher ground, we’re growing plants that prefer dry soil to medium soil. The garden gradually slopes down to the water level where the plants prefer damp or wet soil. This small garden helps our customers see how native plants can be used to create an attractive natural space in areas not typically suited for traditional perennial gardens.
Wild gardens, composed of native plants, require little or no maintenance. If the plants are chosen to match the soil type and level of sunlight, they pretty much take care of themselves.
Wildlife, particularly the beneficial insects, often prefer native plants, which provide food in the form of nectar and pollen, or leaves offering food for caterpillars. Many gardeners plant Asclepias (all members of the Milkweed family) to attract monarch butterflies and caterpillars. Other good choices include both wild and cultivated forms of anemone, aster beebalm, coneflower, false indigo, ironweed, Joe-pye weed, rudbeckia, mountain mint, sedum and turtlehead.
Gardeners can attract goldfinches, cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees and nuthatches by planting native perennials for seed-eating songbirds, such as columbine, coneflower, coreopsis, cup plant (Silphium), gaillardia, gayfeather, phlox, rudbeckia, sunflower, and many species of grasses. Some annuals, including marigolds, zinnias and amaranths, are also favored by songbirds.
Occasionally, one individual in a wild population of native plants has brighter colored flowers, larger flowers, more attractive foliage, shorter or taller stature or some other ornamental quality that makes it preferable for garden use. These native selections, or “nativars,” provide the same benefits to wildlife and are worth seeking out for their more decorative attributes.
At Specialty Growers, we aim to provide a wide variety of native plants to satisfy both gardeners and nature lovers!